It’s fair to say that Lisa A. Krist, an account executive at 103.9 WFAS-FM, has had her share of peaks and valleys, twists and turns. She’s seen businesses succeed and fail, lost both her parents and had her hips replaced at a relatively early age. What keeps her riding high are her Christian faith and love of music and animals, especially horses. Over the years, she’s been a riding instructor, horse trainer, collegiate equestrian, horse farm manager and an avocational horsewoman. It is, she says, in the blood.
“Every true horse person I’ve known was born that way,” she says.
An ebullient woman with a larger-than-life personality, Lisa is chatting over the course of one of those intimate, instant-friends kind of lunches that only women seem to share. We sit at a window table at Hunan Village II in Hartsdale, overlooking Scarsdale’s beautiful stone Hitchcock Presbyterian Church, where Krist worships and sings tenor in The Chancel Choir. (She has a big range.) It’s a long way from the New York/Los Angeles business communities where she enjoyed some of her greatest success and from Iowa, where she endured some of her greatest challenges and where our story begins.
Growing up in West Des Moines in the Hawkeye State, Krist saved her babysitting money to rent a $4 horse at the local stables and quickly learned that you don’t get on a horse that’s been in the barn all winter – unless you like the long walk back to the stables. (Also beware the best friend who asks, “Want to go first?”)
Krist’s horse sense grew, however, and soon she was teaching riding as well as winning blue ribbons as part of the equestrian team at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where she studied business, advertising and fine arts management in an interdisciplinary program. After college, she headed out to LA. There she was employed by Morgan Stanley, but also found time for her equine passion, spending $1 on a wild Arabian named Little Starr, whom she boarded at Sunset Ranch Hollywood Stables, beneath the Hollywood sign.
“She was a great beauty, and she was fast,” Krist says of Little Starr. “We had a lot of fun up in the mountains in the Hollywood Hills.”
Krist sold Little Starr to a 10-year-old when she moved to Manhattan to manage a new merchant bank and put her love of horses on hold for a while. Perhaps it was just as well. When the floods of 1993 came to Iowa, her family asked her to come home to help.
“I said to my family, ‘Please don’t ask me to give up a job for which I’m doing the work of a Harvard MBA with a Cambridge education,’” she says. But she went anyway.
When she returned to the East, she became acquainted with Pelham Bit Stables, now the Bronx Equestrian Center, and a horse named, fittingly enough, Pegasus, after the winged steed of Greek legend.
“I began teaching camp in exchange for riding sale horses,” she says. “That was a blast. I was teaching there when one day I said, ‘I’d like to do this full-time.’”
A piece on the center that was cablecast on NY1 garnered Krist “so much business I couldn’t see straight.”
In 2004, she was offered a job with an A-Circuit barn on the same day that Iowa and tragedy intervened once again.
“My mother called and said, ‘I have cancer. Will you come home and take care of me?’ She was my best friend.”
Krist stayed through the end, which came in January the following year, while also helping a friend there who had had a massive stroke. Riding kept her on track.
“One thing I’d do was go to the local barn. It’s one thing I could focus on – staying on a horse. It was my mental clearance day.”
Soon opportunity came calling in the form of River Song Farm and Stables, a 150-acre spread in Adel, Iowa. Krist ran the farm – doing everything from teaching riding to mucking out stalls – while a real-estate firm developed a small portion of it for housing. Krist had the program booked in six months. But toward the end of 2007, it all came crashing down. Faced with no money, a fierce winter and some 50 horses – both boarders and school-horses – that still needed to be cared for, Krist nonetheless held on through 2008, doing most of the work herself from 5 a.m. until midnight and using her marketing skills to attract riders.
“I was too busy for despair, and I’m a determined little bird,” she says. “I could hear my mother saying, ‘Put the rod up your back and the boot in your bottom and get on with it.’”
She sold 12 of the horses there, bringing nine back East. Bingo, a big quarter horse, died not long after. In Goshen, N.Y., Krist boards the other three – El Dorado, a Palomino who’s her best pal and runs like the proverbial wind; Eryka, a bright chestnut mare with an unusual flaxen mane and tail who’s a Trakehner, a breed that was beloved by the Prussian kings; and Dazzle, an idiosyncratic chestnut gelding.
Home in White Plains, Krist has reconnected with her Presbyterian and musical roots. She once made good money singing rock ’n’ roll, pop, country and blues. Now she prefers classical and church music. The past two years have not always been easy. Hip surgery and recovery were quickly followed by her father’s passing. Riding once again has been invaluable, along with the three cats – Peppermint, Tristan and Mr. Pink.
With animals, particularly horses, you have to check the emotionalism at the door, she says.
“If you’re tired, they’ll be tired. If you’re grumpy, they’ll be grumpy.”
Instead, she hears her mother’s voice and puts the rod up her back.
It’s good advice for riding – and for life.