by Katherine O. Rizzo

When The Equiery first spoke with the Maryland Horse Show Association about sponsoring an award, similar to awards already given by The Equiery in dressage, eventing and foxhunting, two goals were quickly agreed upon. First, the award needed to promote the hunter discipline among Marylanders competing in Maryland. Second, the award needed to highlight an amateur rider who is aspiring to be the best he or she can with the means and time they have.
The Equiery couldn’t have asked for a more fitting rider to be the first recipient of the Equiery Perpetual Hunter Award. Bailey Fraser of Davidsonville shows tremendous passion for and dedication to the sport, all at the ripe old age of nine. She and her pony, The Buck Starts Here, have already gained the attention of many on the MHSA circuit and are sure to keep turning heads this season.

The Joy of Riding
Nine year old Bailey comes from a long line of strong horsewomen. Her mother Amy Keller rode hunters as a child on the local and rated circuits. Now Amy competes in team roping with her husband Adam Keller, Bailey’s stepfather and Bucky’s farrier. Bailey’s grandmother, Brenda Lamb, is a long time hunter/jumper trainer based out of Davidsonville. Bailey’s uncle, Tom Boyle, rode as a kid and now builds tack trunks and jumps. Logan, Bailey’s older sister, is also a gifted hunter rider, having won several year-end awards on the local and rated circuits as well as being the runner up for this award.

It should then come as no surprise that Bailey started riding when she was only a year old at her grandparent’s (Robert and Brenda) Tag Along Farm in Davidsonville. “I started the girls into riding because it was such a huge part of my life. I hope that it is teaching the girls responsibility, compassion, sportsmanship and to remember to always consider how the pony feels,” Amy said.

From that first ride on Silver Penny, Bailey was hooked. She learned how to trot and post on a pony named Skittles when she was about three years old, was cantering at four and was jumping by age five.

Baily’s father Kurt Fraser describes how both Bailey and Logan would “play horse” all around the house. With one sister being the instructor and the other the rider/horse, courses of jumps made out of tables, pillows and more would be navigated. When asked why she rides, Bailey simply answered, “It’s just fun! I like competitions and being around horses all the time.”

One might think that having two competitive and gifted riders in the same household would cause drama, and sometimes it does. But Bailey said, “we want each other to do well at shows.”

The Hunter Hook
After a brief stint riding Western when she was even younger, Bailey switched to hunters and plans to stay there. “I like jumping a lot,” she noted. Under the guidance of her mother, Bailey started in leadline divisions aboard a pony named Huckleberry. She moved on to the walk divisions on Cinderella and then Bucky to continue up the hunter ranks.
From there, Bailey has gained recognition and year-end high score awards through Maryland Saddle Association, Southern Maryland Horse Association and Black-Eyed Susan Horse Shows. “My mom has helped me the most,” she explained. In 2008, Bailey moved on to MHSA and U.S. Equestrian Federation rated shows and won several awards in the Small/Medium Children’s Pony Hunters divisions and also qualified for the 2009 MHSA Children’s Pony Medal.
Being a mom and a trainer calls for a ton of tough love but Amy seems to have figured it all out. “Knowing when to parent and when to train is the hardest part,” Amy sxplained. “Emotions run deep for sure; you want them to do so well. I try not to push too hard because it has to be fun and I need to let them choose where they want to take their riding and try to get them there. When they apply something or get past something that they have been struggling with, it makes it all worth it,” Amy added.

Though Bailey has her mind set on hunters, she would also like to explore the pony jumper world and maybe even eventing. “[I’m] concerned with the fact that the jumps don’t fall if you hit them,” she said. Amy on the other hand isn’t as concerned. “He’s a very multi-talented pony and will do whatever is asked of him…that’s how he got the nick name ‘Bucky Superman’,” she explained.

The Superman Pony
Baily began leasing Bucky in 2007, and the pair quickly hit it off as a team. This buckskin pony of unknown breeding is the perfect match for Bailey. They started in the walk/trot divisions but after only two shows, Bailey declared she was ready for the Schooling Pony Hunters. “I was terrified,” Amy laughed. “I knew Bucky would take care of her, but he can also be a handful if he is fresh… he was great [and] she won a second place the first time out in the over fences class,” she added proudly.

In 2009, Bailey’s family bought him as her ninth birthday present. “His personality is just like mine!” she commented. “He goes around the ring and just does everything,” she added. The bond between pony and rider runs deep. Bucky’s pasture is along the main road and he meets Bailey at the bus stop at the end of the driveway every day after school to receive his afternoon horse cookies.

Bailey and Bucky plan to compete in the Small/Medium Children’s Hunters again this year. They have already shown at the Showplace Spring Festival and Maryland National Horse Show, as well as a few BEST shows and some at McDonogh School. “I’m hoping to qualify for zone finals,” she stated and then move up to the Regular Mediums in 2011.

Being the First
Although Bailey is the younger sister of the Fraser duo, she is the first winner of this new Equiery award. And even at this young age, Bailey understands the importance of this honor. “It feels really cool [to be the first winner], even though I had to go against my sister to win,” she said.

Not only is Bailey the first winner, she is also the youngest winner of any Equiery award. “I think that it is a huge accomplishment for me to win it, especially since I had to compete against the adults!” she said. Amy added, “I think winning this award at age nine is incredible for Bailey. Most people think she is older than she is, I guess because she is so focused when she rides.”

So what advice does this young star have to offer perspective winners? “Always keep trying and never give up. It doesn’t really matter what type of pony you have or how fancy it is. Give it all you’ve got!”