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Racing & Riding Through Life – Kim Burrell Gutowski

Select exhibitor Kim Burrell Gutowski began riding almost before she came out of the womb. Still, as she grew up, she was also drawn to another type of horsepower once she experienced the thrill of a Porsche’s speed.

“I met my husband in med school, and he got a Porsche. He got me into racing,” she said. “Porsches are very difficult to drive because all the weight is in the back. So it’s common to spin them around and do stupid things with them.”

The Gutowski’s spent years traveling the country to race on different tracks, including the Daytona International Speedway.

“In the Porsche club racing world, we became very famous because we were a super successful couple,” Kim told us. At first, the couple shared a car. But as they attended more races, they acquired another. Her husband, Paul worked on the cars, so they were similar, which ultimately upped the competition between the two. 

“They were very, very similar in ability,” she said. “That meant it came down to a competition between the two of us. We would be wheel to wheel, door to door — let the better man win. It was a wonderful time that my husband and I could have together and be competitive together.” 

At one point, Gutowski was one of the top three female road racers in the country.

“Women are notorious for being good early on,” she said. “We listen to our coaches, and we’re very smooth.” But, there was a gender gap present on the racetrack that Kim had to navigate.

“There might be 400 racecar drivers and one female. In the beginning, I would never take my helmet off because I didn’t want people to know I was a girl. The guys would try to intimidate me,” she said. “But, over time, we did it long enough that they just understood. Then it became a thing from the coaches, ‘You’re not gonna let that girl beat you.’ I was the ice queen. I still hold multiple track records across the country.”

For Gutowski, racing and horseback riding served as a similar outlet.

“I miss car racing because it was a whole adrenaline rush,” she said. “You don’t have a moment to think about anything else because it could be a matter of life or death. It gave me a respite in that way, but it was very high stress because you have to be focused in that way. It’s like doing pattern classes.”

Amid her racing career, Kim stumbled back into her old passion of riding horses. After her mother’s passing, she inherited her mother’s horse. She leisurely rode him until his passing from old age. Despite his death, she spent time at the barn riding a roping horse whose owner lived farther away.

Eager for a horse of her own, she purchased a mare. Yet, six months after Kim bought her, the mare coliced and died. Unfortunately, only a year later, the roping horse also passed. And the string of deaths began to take a toll on her. 

“It was so incredibly sad. I had gotten attached to her in just six months,” she said. “I told my trainer, ‘You know what, I can’t do this.’ I had three horses die in three years.”

But, Gutowski couldn’t stand being without a horse for long. She had already taken a 35-year break after high school and realized she didn’t want to leave her passion behind again. Little did she know, she’d soon find her heart horse.

Kelly McDowall, of McDowall Quarter Horses, had been looking for horses for Kim. His search took him to Shannon Vroegh’s barn in Iowa, where he found the perfect one: Toucht, aka Dallas. He called Gutowski, who quickly hopped on a flight. Dallas passed his prepurchase exam, and there was nothing memorable about their first ride; however, while she stood in the barn aisle watching Dallas eat, something extraordinary happened.

“Anyone who knows Dallas knows he loves to eat. So he’s got his hay in the back of the stall, and he’s just standing there, looking at me,” she said. “But then, he sticks his kissable, chubby nose through the bars and sticks it there. I went up and planted a big, fat kiss on the end of his chubby nose. And then he went to the back of his stall and ate his hay. And I’m like, ‘Hmm, did he just own me?’”

Dallas had chosen her. So, Gutowski bought him and brought him back to Colorado. It was a match made in heaven. 

“He still loves his big fat chubby nose kiss. When I walk in the barn, he whinnies to me,” she said. “We play tag. We play soccer with a big ball. He is just an old soul.”

Under the guidance of Jimmy Daurio, they compete in showmanship, horsemanship, and trail and have just started western riding. Not only have they formed a strong bond, but their close relationship translates to the show pen, racking up multiple top 10 awards at the world show. Even better, for Kim, riding offers the same release that speeding around the track in her Porsche gave her.

“When I’m with Dallas, nothing else enters my brain. It’s just him and me,” she said. “It’s my chance to exhale because the rest of the week, it’s foot to the floor. It’s craziness running my ophthalmology practice. The barn is the only place that I have to take a breath. It gives me a full brain release in a very peaceful way.”

Gutowski loves the competition, but she loves Dallas even more.

“There are the emotions; there’s just the absolute bond and love I have for my horse,” she said. “He is absolutely a partner, and I love that horse with all my heart and soul.”

About the Author – Olivia Bradish has been an equestrian for 15 years. She attends the University of Michigan and works for The Michigan Daily. Olivia competes in the all-around events with her horse, CSR Roan Bar Penny, known around the barn as London. They enjoy showing in the showmanship, horsemanship, equitation, and trail.