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Natalie Keller Reinert Books

The Makeover Horse (Ocala Horse Girls: Book Five) Paperback

The Makeover Horse (Ocala Horse Girls: Book Five) Paperback

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Mackenzie's life needs a makeover. Just like her retired racehorse! Head home to horse country for a new novel celebrating horsewomen, friendship, and love with the fifth book in the bestselling Ocala Horse Girls series! Mackenzie's heading to the Thoroughbred Makeover, but first, she has to get through her first summer as a professional groom...and evade the attention of a charming farrier!

This edition: 392 pages, trade paperback

Ocala Horse Girls is a beloved romantic comedy series set in the same lush and detailed world as Natalie Keller Reinert's other bestselling equestrian series, including...

  • The Eventing Series
  • The Alex & Alexander Series
  • The Show Barn Blues Series
  • The Briar Hill Farm Series

These novels include overlapping characters, events, and locales which create a community of equestrians you'll love recognizing and catching up with in each book!

This paperback ships directly from the printer. Please add your name to the "Notes" box at check-out to have a signed book-plate to add to your book! It will be mailed separately.

Other Editions: Find the ebook here.


Mackenzie's life needs a complete makeover. Just like her retired racehorse.

Halfway between a quarter-life crisis and a midlife one -- that's where you'll find Mackenzie O'Neill. With the glitter of West Palm Beach and the debris of a failed marriage in her truck's rear-view mirror, she's heading to North Florida to start over as a groom for show-jumper Basil Han and his girlfriend, Kayla Moore (The Sweetheart Horse).

With her, she brings a retired racehorse she loves with all her heart, and her hope of taking him to the Thoroughbred Makeover competition in Kentucky. Oh, and a lot of emotional baggage about controlling men. She's looking forward to healing and personal growth on a quiet farm.

She didn't know about the farrier renting stalls and an apartment in the same barn where she'll be living and working.

As Mackenzie works on repairing her life and retraining her off-track Thoroughbred, she finds it harder and harder to resist this quiet giant of a man, who rehabs racehorses with a gentle hand. But she knows better than to let a charming man past her defenses. Even one who lives just across the barn aisle.

Even one who might be her only hope to get her beloved ex-racehorse to the Thoroughbred Makeover.

Book Five in the heartwarming Ocala Horse Girls series brings back old friends and introduces new ones in a relatable, emotional, and thoroughly horsey adventure! Combining the best of romantic comedy and women's fiction, the Ocala Horse Girls are full of fun, heart, and friendship.

Look Inside: Chapter One

I would have liked a moment to sit and stare out over the steering wheel. Take in the surroundings. Understand that I’ve really done it, really upended my entire life and embarked on a crazy new career that makes absolutely no sense, on paper or otherwise. This early-summer afternoon in Florida looks custom-made for a fresh start, at least. Blue skies, fluffy cumulous clouds, and a ninety-percent chance of a total mental breakdown.
But my new employers are waiting for me, and they look so expectant, so pleased to see me, that I can’t bear to disappoint them by sitting here and bursting into tears—of relief, of horror, of shock, of joy, all commingled into one sob-fest—so I plaster a smile on my face, pop open my truck door, and let the outdoors into the cab for the first time since I filled up the gas tank at the Okahumpka service plaza on the turnpike.
Sixty miles from the closest ocean, and three hundred miles from West Palm Beach, but there’s no doubt that we’re still in Florida. It’s humid as hell.
“Mackenzie!” Basil Han, jumper trainer and friend from my bad old days in Wellington, clasps his hands endearingly. He’s of Chinese descent and when the wind blows from behind him, a curtain of alluringly smooth, dark hair falls over his eyes; he smooths it back with one hand, a gesture I remember. “You’re here!”
“I am,” I say.
Basil’s girlfriend, pretty and round-faced, gives me the most welcoming smile I’ve ever seen in my life. “It’s so great to meet you at last!” she exclaims. “I mean, I feel like I know you already.”
“I feel like I know you, too,” I say, unable to resist her gorgeous smile. I’ve spent hours on the phone with Basil and Kayla, working out the logistics of this job offer, where I’ll stay and when I’ll start and what I can bring with me. It’s complicated, running away from your past. I had to make sure everything was in apple-pie order before I started this journey in earnest. I slide down from the truck cab and my knees nearly buckle when my paddock boots hit the ground. “Woo, I’m exhausted,” I say, laughing sheepishly. “I hope you didn’t want me to start work this afternoon, because that was a long freaking drive.”
“Oh, no,” Kayla says, looking alarmed at the idea. “Settle in today and tonight.”
“You can start running our lives tomorrow,” Basil offers.
“That’s the goal, right?” I put my hands to the small of my back and stretch. “Hope I don’t let you down.”
“You’ll be amazing at it,” Kayla says. “You know how to take care of horses already, and everything you haven’t done yet, we’ll teach you! We’re not high-maintenance, I promise.”
Basil just smiles, and I know he’s amused at Kayla’s gross underestimation of their needs around here. They’re training high-class show horses out of a rented barn in the wilds of north-central Florida, shipping horses about an hour to the big horse shows in Ocala with regularity all summer—and for weeks at a time in winter. They needed a barn manager with experience running a stable full of high-performance horses. But thanks to this remote location, they got me instead.
“I just hope I can keep up with you,” I say, wishing I wouldn’t be this honest. It’s a fault of mine. I run my hands over my dark brown hair, pressing down as if I can combat the constant flyaways from my taut ponytail. “I mean…you know—”
“You’re going to be fine,” Basil says firmly, giving me a little head-shake. Basil also knows all about anxiety. I’d known him as a tense young man back on the Wellington circuit, but when I first got him on the phone to talk about the job, I got a calm, measured version of the Basil I used to know. He told me leaving the hustle and bustle of south Florida did wonders for his brain. And he has assured me moving to this remote farm he’s rented in the wilds of north-central Florida, far from the madding crowd, will do wonders for me, too.
Well, I need wonders, so I’m hoping he’s right. I’ve kind of risked everything on his promises.
There’s no turning back now. Especially since I’m so far from everything I’ve ever known.
“What did you think of the drive in?” Kayla asks. “Pretty countryside, right?”
“Gorgeous,” I agree, “just a little farther from civilization than I expected.” I’ve never seen so few houses per mile, not in Florida. Except for, maybe, driving across the Everglades on the appropriately named Alligator Alley.
“It’s far from town, but I think you’ll be comfortable,” Basil says. He gives me a reassuring smile. Basil is a handsome, kind, intelligent amalgam of cultures, South Floridian by way of England by way of Hong Kong. He’s a thoughtful horseman and, I can only assume, a wonderful boyfriend. Kayla is a lucky girl. He continues, “Kayla and I try to go to the price club and stock up on pantry stuff once a month, so you’re never far from a box of crackers or extra toilet paper.” He grins. “And of course, even out here, we’ve got high-speed internet and Amazon Prime.”
“Don’t look so nervous!” Kayla coos, when Amazon Prime fails to ease my expression. She gives me a big, warm hug.
Surprised but touched, I try really hard not to stiffen up in her arms. I can at least try not to behave like a wooden cutout of a person. But it’s not easy. I haven’t been big on human contact over the past few years. Maybe it’s just that I’ve been around too many of them, living in the ant farm that is south Florida, or maybe it’s my rat-bastard ex-husband reminding me that he was cozy with way too many other people while I was spending late nights at the show-grounds, jumping under the lights as if that might prove I was worth something.
I feel like, because of his behavior, I’ve touched a lot of people by association that I’d prefer not to have ever even been near.
Anyway. That’s my trauma, in a nutshell. Best packed up and forgotten now that I’m finally here in…what’s this place called again? Alachua. I make a stab at saying it aloud, placing the emphasis on the wrong syllable.
“Ah-latch-chew-ah,” Kayla corrects me. “It means ‘land with lots of sinkholes,’ apparently.”
“Oh.” I don’t know how to react to this. Surely there should have been a sinkhole disclaimer in the employment contract? But then again, this is Florida. That risk is built in.
“They’re all really old,” she says reassuringly. “I’ll show you ours sometime.”
“Your very own sinkhole?”
“That’s the dream, right?” Kayla laughs. “It’s in the far back corner, that way.” She points past the long, low, white-painted barn we’re standing in front of. “It’s pretty cool, actually.”
“You’re not afraid of new ones opening up, right?”
All I need is to move to north Florida for a fresh start, only to promptly find myself sucked deep into the bedrock.
Kayla shrugs. “I mean, it doesn’t seem to happen very often?”
“You can’t have good grass without limestone,” Basil says, with surprising authority, “and you can’t have limestone without some sinkholes.”
“Just look at that grass,” Kayla adds.
She’s not kidding. Despite the sudden knowledge that the ground beneath me is riddled with subterranean passages held up with all the strength of a stick of sidewalk chalk, I can appreciate that this is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.
We’re surrounded by large grassy pastures, glowing vibrant green with the onset of the summer rainy season. Live oaks line the distant perimeter fences, their upper boughs tangled together, their lower ones scooping all the way to the ground in some spots. A few solitary oaks dot the fields, the sandy patches beneath them showing that horses appreciate their shade and shelter. The fences are no-climb wire with a top board, just like the fences in Ocala. A flock of cattle egrets pokes through the grass in one field, their white feathers gleaming bright beneath the June sun. It is hot and humid, and the air smells of green things growing just as fast they can.
Somehow—despite the wringer the past decade has put me through, with experiences which might make anyone might look for a totally new state and climate to start afresh—when I look around and take in those massive live oaks and these rolling fields with their grass green as envy beneath a huge blue sky, dotted with fluffy cotton-ball cumulus clouds, I’m reminded of how much I love Florida. What an infinite variety of beauty my home-state possesses! These pastures are as Floridian as the tropical paradise I woke up in this morning, as the coconut and queen palms of West Palm Beach, the turquoise streak of the Gulf Stream rushing just off the sandy beaches, or the bird-filled flatness of the northern Everglades that rushed past my truck for the first hour of the drive north.
Some places dwell in a person’s blood, no matter how bizarrely the media portrays them. And so yes, La Florida, although truly a land of a million mosquitoes and meth-heads, thou art my soul’s home.
“You have lucky horses,” I say, looking back at them. “That’s really gorgeous grass, for sure.”
“Speaking of which,” Kayla says, glancing at the long, sleek trailer behind my Ford F-350. “We’re dying to meet Thomas. Basil says you’re a little obsessed with this guy. I love that!”
I make a grimace to cover up my true feelings, which are of such deep and utter devotion that they’re embarrassing. Should a person love so deeply? Absolutely not. I am probably going to get hurt. I am absolutely going to get hurt. The question is, how long do I have with him before something happens that breaks my heart? Five years? Ten? Twenty? Surely no more than that.
“You’re going to love him,” I say, shrugging away my existential dread with the practice of many years, “but he’s best if he just waits and has a look through the windows first.”
“If you say so. Let’s get your bags inside.”
“Thomas, be good!” I call as I sling my hiking backpack over my shoulder and heft a suitcase with my free hand. My phone rattles from its side-pocket and hits the ground; I scoop it up and shove it in my purse. “We’ll be right back, sweetie.”
There’s no answer from Thomas.
That’s normal for him, though.

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