The Story of Dan


I was planning on writing this blog about New Years resolutions. The usual, be a better person, use an oven for more than just frozen pizza, finally learn how to speak spanish (fluently, not spanglish). But a strange thing happened in response to my last blog. Friends, family and acquaintances started to focus in on a single detail I breezed past. Specifically, who is this Dan person? Sorry for not introducing him, but he has his own website for that. You should check it out. The bigger question floating around was what exactly is the nature of your relationship? We are dating and running a barn together, and I can understand the confusion. In the age of digital oversharing, I am woefully behind the curve. This relationship is not ‘Facebook official,’ and I’ve never participated in #mcm (partially because I only just learned what that meant… ‘man crush monday’ to those as ill informed as myself). We have taken no selfies, and I have no instagram to fill with pictures of my ‘bae’. I fully expect a member of the Kardashian family to show up and revoke my membership to the exclusive 20-something-female club. No hard feelings, guys. I’m pretty bad at it. So, in case you haven’t gotten the picture, I’m not one to share my personal life. But it seems the personal has merged with the professional and at the strong suggestion of some friends and family, here is the story of Dan. Because I do love to tell stories.

Aiken, SC: February 2009
It was a group dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, Tako Sushi. Can’t remember what the occasion was, but I remember Dan was there. Dan has recently revealed that he does not, in fact, remember me being there. Naturally this revelation left me devastated, questioning the very nature of my identity. Am I not as adorable and charming as I thought? Dan went on to assure me that ‘all horse girls blend together.’ Only digging the hole deeper, buddy. But I have to grudgingly admit I see his point. Girls that ride are a dime a dozen, guys that ride are a rarer breed. With a very specific reputation, if Shania Twain’s classic ditty “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under’ and eavesdropping in the stabling areas at competitions had taught me anything. So, 18 year old Kaitlin (wise beyond her years), mentally filed Dan away as cute-boy-who-rides-who-I-am-avoiding. And I continued dating the musician I was seeing at the time. Somehow I missed the memo on those guys.

Millbrook, NY: August 2012
The next time I remember seeing Dan was at Millbrook Horse Trials in 2012. We were both in the Advanced, and I had just finished my dressage test. I was walking out of the ring when Dan came trotting around the ring, next to go. Dan looks over and asks ‘Where do we halt again?’ So I added on to my categorization. He became cute-guy-who-rides-who-I-am-avoiding-who-is-forgetful-or-very-laid-back. Little of both as it turns out. But again I filed him away and kept on dating my lacrosse player boyfriend. Nobody warned me about those guys either.

2012-2014, Various Locations
This next part takes the better part of two years, as Dan and I are both very reserved, quiet people. Some would say it borders on social disorder, but I’ll be kind and just say it’s a good thing we’re both better with horses than people. But Dan trained with my boss, so we had a bit of time (over two years) to start speaking complete sentences to each other. We started chatting during lessons, waiting for our turn to jump. A sample conversation during this time: ‘Hey’ ‘Hey’ ‘It sure is (insert current weather condition)’long pause ‘Yeah’. We progressed from there. And I got to know Dan, and realize he is a pretty super person. Kind to his horses, good to his friends, surprisingly funny, and still pretty cute. Which didn’t hurt.

Present Day
So to bring this story into present tense there are two versions I could tell you. The first is the sobering account I’m sure our parents would want to hear. Two responsible adults sat down and made a business plan, taking into account financial risks and possible pitfalls. The second version is the one I think my friends would like to hear, which is the classic ‘and then they lived happily ever after.’ I’ll avoid either of those, as the truth is tangled somewhere in the middle. But after dating for over a year we did decide to pool our resources and hang out our shingle together. We looked for ideal locations and were lucky enough to find the beautiful Hermitage Farm in Kennett Square, PA, which will be the perfect base. You can check out the farm here. We did do the whole business plan thing, and for a moment I felt very adult. Until I sat down with my freshly installed QuickBooks and nearly threw my computer out the window. Dan talked me down. It’s a work in progress. And as far as running the barn together, its been pretty easy. The conversation went something like this: ‘I like taking excellent care of my horses’ ‘Me too.’ So that’s what we do, and I’m realizing that maybe in four years our conversation skills haven’t improved all that much. Oh well. And as for the day to day riding and training, I do my thing, Dan does his. We both have enough respect for the others way of doing things/fear of sleeping on the couch to give unsolicited advice. But watching is learning, and I think we are both benefitting from riding around each other. When the riding is done we hand over the basic barn chores to our super IMG_0357working students while Dan and I focus on our specific barn management talents. For example, this afternoon Dan worked on the tractor dragging the ring (because when I drive the tractor I manage to take out fence lines) and I worked on pulling some of the horses tail (because when Dan pulls tails it looks like the tail has merged with a porcupine). And now the days work is done, Dan’s watching football and I’m typing this. We’re splitting some cookie dough ice cream right out of the carton (we went to the gym earlier, its justified). Dan’s even fishing out some cookie dough just for me. So basically…happily ever after.1


Now that I’ve given you an idea of how I got where I’m at, I can give you some idea of where exactly that is!  And seeing as I spent the first week of December doing some pretty serious relocating, this seems like a good time for a summary.  If nothing else it will help remind me what zip code I’m currently in!  After several caffeine fueled trips up and down I-95, I’m all settled into Aiken, SC, along with Dan Clasing, our working students, horses, and a shocking amount of stuff.  Aside from confirming that I will never be a professional truck driver, the time in the truck was a bit of a welcome time for reflection.  The past year has been pretty nonstop.  Figuring out how to run my own barn, both the business side and training side, has been a full time endeavor.  But at a fuel stop somewhere on the third trip, the fog lifted and I got a bit of clarity on what I’m looking forward to in 2016.

I’ve been really lucky to work for some of the top professionals in the industry, and two things were constant no matter the discipline or barn. First was horsemanship. No two barns run exactly the same, but the quality of horse care always comes first. The second constant I’ve noticed is a bit harder name. There is a feeling in every barn I’ve worked at that you’re working for something a bit bigger than yourself. Looking back, I vaguely remember long hours and feeling exhausted. But what really stands out is being pretty inspired by the people and horses I worked with. In a sport that can rightly be seen from the outside as an individualist pursuit, this is where the team comes in. No equestrian gets to the top of their sport without a group of people who are as invested in their success as they are. And in every barn I’ve worked at, the mentality of a team was the rule not the exception.
So as we settle in here in Aiken, I’m pretty excited that we have the opportunity to create that same atmosphere.  The other day I was walking down the barn aisle and overheard two of our working students discussing the personalities of each of the horses in depth.  It made me smile, because their observations were pretty spot on (Noodle is the hands down favorite, Cappy is the mischief maker).  But more than that I loved the idea of these ambitious kids feeling as excited about my horses as I do.  And as Dan and I expand and look to grow our business and increase our competitive results, I know that having people like that around is what it will take.