This horse trainer and country singer is living her childhood dream


Kimberly Burke has always had two passions: music and horseback riding. “If you had asked me when I was 3, what did I want to do when I grew up?” I was like, ‘I want to be a singer and a cowgirl,’ ”she said. “It’s in my baby book.”

Burke, 49, who lives in Boyce, Va. On a 62-acre farm with an 18-stall barn, is living the job of his childhood dreams.

How many of us can say that?

On the one hand, she runs her own successful horse business. She is an accomplished trainer and show competitor at the A-level, or above, of the hunter-jumper world in the Southeastern United States.

And on the other, she starts a career in country music.

Burke got a taste of what a performance might look like in the dazzling heart of Nashville before the pandemic when she and her son took to Music City, and she took the stage to perform an original song at the legendary Bluebird Cafe.

“The whole history of this place,” she said. “It was cool. I’ve played for fun over the years in many different types of bands, from a bluegrass band, to a nine-piece funk band, to myself with an acoustic guitar. . I’m comfortable on stage and in game, but all of a sudden it was the Bluebird, and my knees were bumping a bit. You feel the power of the Bluebird. It was a great experience for me because I felt I had to do this.

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During the pandemic, she plunged back into writing and record country music and perform outdoors at local venues in the Virginia countryside for a growing fan base.

“I’m not getting any younger, and I really want to pursue more music,” Burke said. “I’m currently trying to find a balance between the two. “

Burke studied classical singing in college and sang opera. But after college, she landed a job on a horse farm and it took her down a different path. “Horses were an easier career in many ways,” she said. “I started my own business 22 years ago. My son, now 18, rode a horse and he was able to accompany me to the shows, so that I could be the kind of mom I wanted to be.

Her love and respect for horses has been attached to her ever since she took her first ride on a horse when she was very young. “Horses are amazing animals,” said Burke. “There have been studies recently on the heart of a horse and the energy that emanates from a horse is something that humans feel. That’s why they are good therapy animals. There is a real magic in having a partnership with horses. Fortunately, I was able to make a profession out of it.

That said, music has always been something that “I wished I had pursued to a higher level,” she said. “It’s just a huge part of who I am. But horses all consume – a seven-day-a-week commitment. “

For Burke, music has always been her “emotional release,” she said. “I have been composing music since I was a teenager. I write when things really affect me emotionally. The good thing about songs is that they are a frozen moment to me and they can mean something else to the person listening to them. I think it’s also therapy, like horses. And we’ve needed it over the past year.

Here’s what I like about Burke’s story. Yes, she’s still in the early stages of speeding up her second act, but it’s remarkable because she’s reinvent his professional life. It is a concept that should supplant the emphasis on “The Great Resignation” which keeps grabbing the headlines.

Let’s call it “The Great Reimagination”. Too bad for all the hand turmoil over disgruntled workers who quit their jobs. In my research, workers were thrown under the umbrella of the Great Resignation – some 4.4 million workers came out in September alone, according to the most recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics – don’t say take that work and push it. They are looking for a better life. It has nothing to do with “giving up” – one of the main meanings of the word “resignation”.

It’s a career pivot for Burke. This is precisely what many people who quit their jobs are also looking for. No, she doesn’t stray from her equestrian career, which still has meaning to her, but she rides and advances with guts in a new track, a second act with purpose and heart that will ideally coexist with her horse world. .

The pandemic break has prompted her to make a fresh start, new opportunities, but those who succeed in second acts never make rash moves. This new venture did not happen overnight, or when the Covid shutdown began.

A return to his musical roots had been moving. Burke began to re-explore his songwriting professionally four years ago after his father died.

“It was suddenly important for me to do it,” she said. “A sense of mortality has kicked in. I’m sure a lot of people feel that kind of your calling at times like this,” she said.

From my research on career transitions, she’s spot on. Most people who start a second act in their 40s are motivated by some sort of big life change or crisis, and it can be calamity to their health or the loss of someone they love.

“That’s when I started to feel like it was now or never – I have to step up that,” Burke said. “Then Covid hit, and the musicians weren’t playing, and I was like, OK, maybe this is not the time to try and play in a lot of places. But I focused on the writing. music and practice and, now I’m ready.

To me, stories like Burke’s shine a light on how the pandemic has motivated people to do this inner soul-searching about what matters to them, what they value, how they like to spend their time, and what dreams they want. to achieve. These dreams were often put aside while the children were raised and mortgages were paid off, or the walk of time simply trapped them in a path they were afraid to leave.

A recent investigation by Catalyst revealed that of the roughly 50% of employed Americans who intend to change careers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, about a third are interested in changing industries. And 22% plan to quit their current job and start their own business.

“I might be a little old to be a rock star,” said Burke. “But I’m not trying to be a rock star. I try to be a singer-songwriter. I like to play.

At the moment, she is on the verge of recording her second album, but Burke is fully aware that her musical expedition is only in its early stages. That said, “If someone came to see me tomorrow and said, ‘Hey, we love what you’re doing, are you willing to make that happen? The answer would be yes. I have enough of a support system for my family to make it work.

One of the perks of pursuing your dream second job: “I’ve thought about this a lot over the past year,” said Burke. “It sets an example for my son to be true to himself and to pursue whatever excites you. The most important job I will ever have will be to be his mother. And so, it is important to practice what you preach.

Kerry Hannon is an employment expert, workplace futurist, and entrepreneurship, personal finance and retirement strategist. Kerry is the author of over a dozen books, including Great Pajama Jobs: Your Complete Guide to Working From Home, Never Too Old to Get Rich: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Starting a Mid-Life Business. His next book is In Control at 50 and Over: How to Succeed in the New World of Work. Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon.


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