It's what you look for in a coach.

Skills, technical knowledge, love of the sport and an easy way of sharing expertise that encourages you to try, to improve, to win.

Lynnlee Foster of the Double H Ranch in Burlington also has the now-mended broken bones to prove she's been around the gentle 1,000-pound beasts, endured the casts, and returned to the saddle. She smiles easily and constantly but there is a no-nonsense precision as well, especially as she describes the classes of competition and the rules of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association.

So many acronyms, so many competitions, so many details carefully explained while the glistening black mare in the center stall whinnies for attention as Foster nuzzles her 15-hand paint, DeeDee. "She's part of the family," Foster says.

The sign resting against the barn and Foster's black Northern Kentucky University hoodie make clear her allegiance as coach of the Norse equestrian team.

Country Comforts

It's a perfect picture. On the rolling hills of Boone County, the barn built by her husband Tracy opens to a series of trails through the property of generous neighbors. You can ride for miles here. On a winter morning, the sun bursts through the gray skies and it's hard to believe you are a less than 15 miles from the interstate and the retail strips radiating from Florence Mall; just 30 miles from campus. In addition to the large gentle dog who greeted us before we had a chance to open the car door, an insistent fully-woolen sheep nibbles at my pant leg. Clearly, we're not in Covington any more.

Foster coaches Western and English "” hunt seat, she says "” and took the team to the nationals in 2010. Horse shows begin this month for the team that started at NKU in 2008 because one student wanted to ride. Community being what it is in Northern Kentucky, the right calls for a coach led to Foster who had started an equestrian club at Cooper High School when her daughter Ali Smith was a student there. It's attracted students from St. Henry, Holy Cross, Connor and other schools.

The NKU team competes with colleges including Morehead State and the University of Kentucky, and has recently added a Saddle Seat team under the Intercollegiate Saddle Seat Riding Association.  It's coached by Kim Smith of Sandy Run Stables in Hebron.

Foster rattles off the accomplishments of the young people who ride on her teams. One finished fifth in nationals. A member of the high school team went from a "backyard riding" to earning a $9,000 college scholarship. She is positive in an understated way when she talks about the rewards of seeing riders improve. She says she is gratified by "the progress made over time."

She also gives lessons at the barn and enjoys the very youngest riders.

"I love it when the little kids learn to canter. I have some of them who are 5 years old. To watch a little bitty kid canter is just kind of neat."

The teams allow those who don't have a horse, a barn or a trailer to participate at a cost that is less than a month's boarding fee. "They come here and train and learn and ride. All they have to do is come up with the show attire and they can show," she says of the programs at NKU and Cooper.

Childhood Passion

Foster was born to ride. The daughter of a large animal vet in tiny McGrew, Neb., she grew up on horseback. "My dad roped and my mom just rode." By the time she got to high school, she was on the rodeo team doing barrels and roping.

She went to college on a volleyball scholarship "” "all 5 foot of me" "” and on to nursing school. When that didn't keep her interest, her dad used his contacts in the industry to find her a job on a racehorse farm. "So, I packed all my stuff and moved off to Georgia."

She was there to clean stalls but since she was the perfect size and knew how to ride, it wasn't long before they put her on the horses. Once she had a taste of it, she wanted to be a jockey. "I'm very competitive by nature. I think more, it's a natural high," she says.

Wearing yellow and white silks, she won her second race at a track in Billings, Mont. It was all the more special because her sister and mother drove to surprise her. "My mom was there for my first win," she says.

Pennsylvania and New Jersey were more welcoming to women jockeys then, so she moved east for a bit. Then a trainer from Florida asked her to ride at River Downs in Cincinnati.

"A lot of race tracks are seasonal, they have so many dates here and there and you have to move." Here, she could ride at River Downs and Turfway in Florence.

After injuries ended that, she returned to her nursing roots. She started classes at UC and began working at a nursing home "” a job she loved.

Her fulltime return to horses, teaching and training "all just happened." Her parents sent a horse for her oldest daughter. A friend kept talking about this land on a hill, another needed someone to break and train his horses. Another friend asked her to teach his child to ride. Along the way, her younger daughter Kassie, excited as she was to win her first show ribbon "” calling it a bow "” gave way to her preference for trail riding. And, as inevitable as taxes, Foster was back with horses 24/7. And happy.

Her husband built the impeccable seven-stall barn with an indoor arena nine years ago and that's where you find her.

Working long hours and loving it. She's grateful. "Like I said, I couldn't do it without my husband."