Of course, nothing with horses is ever straightforward. Six years ago, Kaitlin had a nasty riding accident that left her with a traumatic brain injury: “I had six brain bleeds and fractured my face and my orbital floor. It was a really significant injury.”
Following the accident Kaitlin had to learn to walk again. “I spent six months in the brain injury rehabilitation unit. I think that when the neurologist realised that I was a horse rider, he was just already shaking his head because he sees a lot of people that do BMX and horse riding. According to my neurologist, I’m never allowed to ride a horse ever again!
“After the accident, I took stock at my life and went, ‘maybe I don’t want to be riding 12 horses a day’ and there’s definitely no doubt that long term that wasn’t going to be sustainable for me,” says Kaitlin.
“I needed to make an adjustment and, number one, follow a little bit more in my passion, but number two, just make some changes to the way I do things. I went from breeding one or two horses a year to this year I have five coming.”
Kaitlin plans to focus more on breeding and selling progeny rather than taking on clients’ horses to train and sell, thereby reducing the number of horses she has in work; currently, she’s managed to reduce that number to eight! “The plan is to make things a little bit easier on myself and reduce the risk to my head with potential concussions, essentially,” she explains.
“It’s given me also a hugely different perspective on life. I love breeding the horses; I love following their journey with the riders they end up with, and how that transpires and the feedback that you get from those people. Honestly, there’s nothing like that.”
Kaitlin still competes, currently mostly on sale horses as hers haven’t been old enough to enter the competition arena yet. “I have purchased two fillies that I’m really excited about; they might be ready to compete next year. It’s really nice to have horses that you have ownership of. I then have the two younger fillies growing up in the paddock as well for the future, which is also something that I’m pretty excited about.”
The 2022 season saw the arrival of Kaitlin’s first third-generation foal. “He was the first foal from Sevenoaks Riviera, my Riverside mare, and by stallion Cadeau Noir. To get to the third generation of my breeding program in 15 years was a really exciting milestone for me; I didn’t have huge expectations in terms of how he was going to grow being the first foal from that mare. I was just absolutely stoked that he was such good quality.” Sevenoaks Calimero Noir’s quality was recognised, and he was subsequently named the Hanoverian Horse Society of Australia’s 2023 Top Hanoverian Colt of the Year.
“That recognition gave me so much enthusiasm and pride to keep on going… to see that the quality is improving in my own breeding program with each generation. I was really proud of him. He’s sold to a professional dressage rider, and he’s been recommended to stay as a stallion prospect. There’s a really exciting future for him.”
Kaitlin also has a filly from Sevenoaks Rafaela (Rotspon) by Iron from the same crop of foals that was awarded Gold classification from the HHSA. “Foals are scored on four components: their walk and trot, their overall type and conformation, and their limbs conformation,” explains Katilin.
“If they average 8 or higher for everything – so 32 out of 40 – they are a Gold foal, and if they average 30 to 31½, they’re a Silver foal. The scoring is pretty hard on the foals; to average 8 or higher, it’s basically like getting an 80% test. It is quite a hard achievement. I think last year in Australia we had roughly 190 foals and I think we had 14 Gold foals.”
Kaitlin had several foals this season, one of which was a brown colt named Sevenoaks French Legacy, bred via embryo transfer (by Fusionist) from one of the mares that she has started to ride, named French Sparrow. “She’s a really, really outstanding mare, by Follow Me and her mother is by Johnson and a full sibling to Edward Gal’s stallion, Jack Sparrow. She’s a super, super well-bred mare and I think that she’s got a really big future. Hopefully I’ll be able to do her justice.”
While dark brown and black dressage horses appear to be in vogue, Kaitlin can’t go past a chestnut with bling. “Oh my goodness, chestnut with some white! For me I just can’t go past a chestnut with bling, absolutely every time. The last two seasons I’ve kept blingy chestnut fillies, it’s definitely my thing… I can’t help it!” This current season, Kaitlin welcomed another chestnut filly named Sevenoaks Tempranillo, by Total Diamond PS and out of Driving Miss Daisy (pictured earlier in this article, Don Gold/Royal Hit), as well as a chestnut colt by Light My Fire (who has already sold), and a beautiful buckskin filly by Daily Dancer.