Eighteen is a pivotal age for most young adults as it presents a multitude of education and career decisions that must be made. But for young event rider Bailey Moran, who knew exactly how she’d like to step into adulthood, age 18 has put her firmly on track with a full-time riding schedule and her very first sponsor.
On Nov. 11, Moran read Majyk Equipe’s letter offering to sponsor her to her then-crying parents, Kim and Dan Moran, on their 5-acre farm in San Antonio, Texas. The sponsorship served as not only the best 18th birthday present Bailey could hope for but also a very fitting and motivating preamble to her success Jan. 25-26 at the Rocking Horse Winter I Horse Trials in Ocala, Fla., where Bailey won two divisions. Bailey topped the intermediate rider division on Loughnatousa Caislean, and a section of preliminary rider on her newer mount, Catalyst.
While in high school, Bailey had the option to graduate early. “My parents told me, ‘If you do the work and you graduate early, then you can have the year off to do whatever you want,’ ” she said.
So Bailey graduated Vanguard Christian Institute (Texas) with a small class of 10 students last year, carrying her straight-A work ethic into her riding vocation.
“I sent an email [to Majyk Equipe] without telling my parents,” she said, thinking it was a long shot and not wanting to get her hopes up. “At the end I wrote something like, ‘I plan to be at the top of eventing one day, and I’d like to take your brand with me.’ ”
Bailey’s confident approach intrigued Majyk Equipe, a company offering protective boots for horses. The sponsorship was a major step in Bailey’s longtime goal of one day becoming a professional eventer, a dream she’s pursued since she fell in love with the sport at 9. After working her way up the levels on a variety of mounts, she met “the light of her life,” Loughnatousa Caislean, better known as “Leo.” She first saw the horse on a trip to Ireland in 2011, during which she also worked with stallions at Parkmore Stud.
Bailey took the 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse through the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships CCI* (Ky.) and wasn’t nervous to move up to intermediate this year.
“Leo and I have been through everything together,” she said. “I’ve been there since he was a spooky novice horse, and he knows me better than I know myself. I know what he’s going to do before he even thinks it.”
Bailey has trained with Donna Kinney for six years out of her farm in Texas, which she and a couple friends manage, but she takes winter trips to a small farm in Ocala called Shady Oaks. There she’s trained with Joe Meyer for the past two years.
“Donna tells you what you’re doing and gets you there, and Joe refines it,” she said of their complementary styles. “Joe focuses on detail and really gets in there and makes it that much better.”
At Ocala Properties Winter 1 H.T. on Jan. 11, the pair's first run at intermediate, the duo finished ninth after incurring 12 jumping faults in show jumping and a few cross-country time faults. At Rocking Horse, Bailey finished on top of her intermediate division on her original dressage score of 30.4.
Bailey praises Leo’s adjustability and cross-country acumen. “With him it’s a lot about the more technical questions; it’s easy for him to get to the skinnies and the tight corners and angles,” she said of the 17.3-hand gelding. “He’s so adjustable. He’s dead on. As soon as he gets the [jumps] in his eyes, it doesn’t matter where you are or what you’re doing. He knows that’s where he’s going, and he’ll take you right up to it.”
Although she wasn’t expecting to win at Rocking Horse with Leo, it was Catalyst who surprised her the most.
“We like to set low expectations, so our horses shock us as we go,” said Bailey, who had only taken “Catch,” a 5-year-old Holsteiner, training prior to his win. She purchased him sight unseen only six weeks ago when Meyer found him in England.
“In the first week, I wasn’t blown away,” said Meyer of introducing the new horse to Bailey. “But I was really, really happy because they clicked right away. He’s different from her other horse; he’s a fancier mover, a bit slower, the right size for her, and he’s a great jumper. I think that sometimes it’s good to have that different horse. The shape of this horse suits the way she’s riding at the moment.”
Although Catch is a bit slow off the leg compared to Leo, who requires a lot of sitting up and strong posture, he’s very responsive, Bailey said.
“He has a wise man’s brain and is well beyond his years. He’s just very quiet and kind of goofy and goes along with everything, whereas Leo is more of your militant, ‘Yes, ma’am,’ type of horse,” she said.
“During Catch’s training in Ocala, a loose horse went flying in front of him and went shooting back to the barn, and he just sort of watched and kept cantering on,” she continued. “He’s so laid back. Leo probably would have tried to spin around and chase the other horse back to the barn!”
Bailey attributes her success to her supportive family. Her father, Dan, a retirement 401k manager for larger companies, attends her events around his work schedule. Her mother, Kim, is her main travel companion, and Bailey said she wouldn't be anywhere without her grandfather, Art Dix. Bailey also draws inspiration from her boyfriend, Nicholas Hansen, a dressage rider who winters in Wellington.
“I completely credit my doing well in dressage to him,” Bailey laughed. “He’s also evented through preliminary, so we help each other out.” In their free time, the two commute the four hours between Ocala and Wellington to ride together.
Although Bailey has cliniced with her eventing role models, like Will Faudree, Heather Morris and Boyd Martin, competing alongside the likes of Buck Davidson and other top eventers is still awe-inspiring.
“You can’t help but have that kid-in-a-candy-store jaw drop,” she said. “I learn so much from just watching them.”
Next Bailey hopes to compete in the Rocking Horse and Ocala Properties Winter II Horse Trials.
“She’s a fierce competitor, young and hungry,” said Meyer. “Last year she was wanting to know if she was ready to do the CIC** at Red Hills (Fla.), and that’s starting to become more of a reality now.”