The Road Back: Robert Osbourne Spreading the Word on Stable Recovery

Stable Recovery's Director of Fundraising and
Marketing Robert Osbourne | Katie Petrunyak


Robert Osbourne was spending a few weeks helping out at the Stable Recovery house at Taylor Made, taking some time to reset and perhaps figure out some goals for his life, when one afternoon the program's director Christian Countzler walked into the living room looking as white as a ghost.

This was a little over a year ago, just as the calendar was turning over to 2023, and at the time Stable Recovery was relying on funding from the Kentucky Career Center to keep the fledgling project up and running. The Center had just called Countzler to say that they would no longer be able to help fund the program.

Stable Recovery had hosted a golf scramble that fall that had raised about $60,000. It would be enough to keep the program going for a few more weeks, but the money supply was not going to last long.

“We're going to have to shut the doors,” a disheartened Countzler told Osbourne. “One more month and we're done.”

But Osbourne wasn't so sure. He'd seen firsthand what Stable Recovery could do for men recovering from drug and alcohol addiction and thought that if they could just get the word out, surely there would be people out there who would want to help.

“At that point I knew what my purpose was,” Osbourne recounted. “I wanted to make sure that Christian didn't have to worry about funding and that we could keep this thing growing. I wanted the whole industry to see what we were doing. If all it takes is a little bit of money to help these guys get sober, I wanted to help do that because this formula we've got here is so amazing.”

So Osbourne signed on as Stable Recovery's Director of Fundraising and Marketing.

His first major project was the Stable Recovery Spring Meet Gala. They weren't sure if anyone would show up for the inaugural event, but 150 people attended and raised $70,000. That kept the program running for a while longer, but by summer they were down to six weeks worth of operating funds. Then, another golf scramble helped them raise a whopping $300,000.

Now the second-annual Spring Meet Gala is around the corner, scheduled for Saturday the 13th at Fasig-Tipton, and close to 400 people are expected to be in attendance.

“I don't know where everyone is going to sit,” joked Osbourne. “But that's a great problem to have. This thing is just so special.”

Like so many of the men whose lives have been changed through Stable Recovery, Osbourne got to where he is because of Frank Taylor. He even goes so far as to say that Taylor is one of the main reasons why he is still alive today.

Growing up in Lexington, Osbourne's family was close friends with Taylor and his wife and children. The kids were on the same sporting teams and they would all go on spring breaks together.

When Osbourne was 15 years old, his father committed suicide. As evening approached on the day of his death, Taylor picked Osbourne up from his house and took him to an Adoration service at Christ the King Church. They spent an hour there, sitting side by side in silence, and ever since that horrific day, the two men have attended that same service together on Tuesday evenings at 7 p.m.

Osbourne celebrates a successful day at Keeneland | Kelcey Loges

When Osbourne attended the University of Kentucky a few years later, drugs, alcohol and partying began to take over his life. While he was always able to hold down a job, his problems escalated over the next few years.

“I was hanging out with a really bad crowd here in town–like really bad–and I ended up catching a couple of charges, about five felonies,” Osbourne recalled. “At the time Frank and I did a little venture where we bought some property to flip it, trying to rent it out, but I had turned it into a trap house basically.”

Taylor offered Osbourne a job at Taylor Made's yearling complex where he would work under John Hall and Marshall Taylor–two men who had battled their own struggles with drugs and alcohol and gone through recovery.

“That was my first time dealing with horses and God, I feel so bad looking back now,” Osbourne admitted. “If I was John, I would have fired me on day two. But Frank knew what he was doing putting me with those two men. They saw I had a problem and I learned a lot from them. But I still was taking taxis from whatever I was doing the night before and going straight to the barn in the morning and eventually that caught up with me. I got in some legal trouble. I had some family in Alabama, so I went down there.”

Osbourne caught two more felonies during his first week in Alabama and ended up spending five years there, bouncing in and out of a jail cell.

Eventually Osbourne made it back to Lexington, but he quickly learned that a lot had changed in his home town. Not only had Taylor got sober, but Osbourne's other lifelong friend Josh Bryan (profiled here) was sober now too.

“I was like, 'What the **** is going on? Something is in the water around here.' Then later I hear Frank saying that he was going to buy some horses for Will Walden and all these other drug addicts. I said, 'God, he's really lost his mind!'”

Osbourne continued going down his destructive path, but despite living a very different lifestyle than his reformed mentor, he would still meet up with Taylor almost every Tuesday evening.

“That was just something that Frank and I stuck to, all through our good times and bad,” he explained. “That hour was set in stone for us. We would go eat at Malone's and then go to Adoration. That went on for years and kind of transcended into something that was the one constant in my life. When everything else was going bad, at least I had Adoration with Frank at 7 p.m. on Tuesday nights.”

One evening in January of 2022, Osbourne was coming off a long bender when he came to a realization.

“I can't explain it as anything but a God moment,” he said. “Something came over me and I just thought that I didn't want to do this anymore. I was like, 'You know what? I will do anything it takes to stop doing this.' So I'm driving my car around. I didn't have a phone because I had gotten paranoid that people were following me. But I realize it's a Tuesday night and I knew Frank was going to be at Adoration at 7 p.m.”

So Osbourne drove over to the church he'd been to so many times before, but knowing he was in no state to go inside, he waited in the parking lot for Taylor to come out. When he spotted his friend, he jumped out of his car.

“Hey, I know you and Josh are sober now,” Osbourne said as Taylor approached. “I need some help getting sober too.”

Taylor looked at him for a moment before replying, “Have you been sitting in the parking lot this whole time?”

Taylor promised that he would help Osbourne get into rehab, but first he had other plans. It was the weekend of the 2022 Pegasus World Cup, so Taylor took Osbourne with him down to Gulfstream and woke him up before dawn on their first morning to go to the track. They visited Will Walden and his improbable team of former drug addicts and alcoholics (learn about them here) who made up a fledgling racing stable.

“I'm still in a haze, but I see Will training these horses, Tyler Maxwell riding them and Mike Lowery and everyone else just working their asses off, but they were as happy as could be,” Osbourne recalled. “I was like, 'God I want that.'”

Osbourne came home and went into a three-month rehabilitation program. When Walden's team got back to Kentucky in April, he begged them to let him join their stable. Osbourne worked as a barn foreman for Walden for almost a year, traveling from Keeneland to Turfway to Ellis Park.

He was taking some time off to work on his AA program and was staying at the Stable Recovery house at Taylor Made when the opportunity to join the Stable Recovery program came up. Since then, he has been busy spreading the word to anyone who will listen about just how impactful the Stable Recovery program has been.

Mike Lowery, Robert Osbourne and Will Walden | courtesy Robert Osbourne

“We spend about $60,000 a month, so my goal every day is to get $60,000 raised every month,” he explained. “Every day, it seems like there's something that God is blessing us with, like Andy Beshear gave us an award the other week or that the news was out here all day yesterday for a feature. It's like if something goes bad, three things will go right.”

Osbourne said he enjoys talking to donors, sharing the stories of the many men whose lives have been changed because of this program. He lives on-site at the Stable Recovery house so is well acquainted with all the current residents. When donors want to know where their money is going, Osbourne can show them how each and every dollar is allocated toward a toothbrush, a gallon of gas, or an hour's worth of salary.

“Every penny is literally going toward saving someone's life,” he said. “It's very special. And just compared to other transitional living places, the average of keeping someone sober for 90 days is about 15%. We are at over 80%. These jobs are giving people a purpose. They know that horse is depending on them to come work tomorrow.”

“It doesn't feel like a job,” he continued. “It's a passion and I get to hang out with Frank, who has been my best friend since I was 15, so that's a big bonus.”

Taylor and Osbourne still go to their weekly dinner and Adoration service on Tuesdays, but these days they have a crew of Stable Recovery residents who come along with them.

Osbourne never lost contact with his family despite the many deleterious choices he has made in his life and he is sure that their constant support is a big part of why he has been sober since January 23, 2022.

“They definitely saw me struggle a lot,” he admitted. “My mother, two younger sisters and my younger brother have been a big motivation in getting sober. Since my dad died, I wouldn't have gotten by if it weren't for all of us staying together and supporting each other. My mom has been my biggest support and she was always so worried about me. Now she's at peace because she's not wondering if I'm going to die tonight.”

Osbourne is counting down the days until the Spring Gala, knowing that it will be one of the most significant opportunities Stable Recovery has had yet to share its story with the Thoroughbred industry and beyond.

“This gala is going to be huge,” he said. “I think we can raise a lot of money through it and hopefully we're looking to expand by the end of the year so that we can start helping all these farms get good, solid people that they can depend on. I think we're going to take this thing to the moon. You know, in the horse industry it's easy to sit here and bash all this stuff going on. But this is something that is showing how good the industry actually is. There are really good people in this business. Growing up, I had a lot of opportunities to become successful and I blew that because of drugs and alcohol. I feel like this is what my purpose is supposed to be, so here I am.”

   Stable Recovery is a recovery housing program in Lexington, Kentucky that offers men in the early stages of recovery access to 12-step meetings, life skills training and– through the Taylor Made School of Horsemanship– the opportunity to develop a trade in the equine field.

   To learn more about Stable Recovery's upcoming Spring Meet Gala, click here.

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