Monday, Sep. 25, 2023

Behind The Stall Door With: Bacchus



Michael Britt-Leon and Kelly Sims had gone to Wellington, Florida, to look at different horses when they saw Bacchus walk out of the barn.

“We just fell in love with his look,” Britt-Leon recalled.

“They really didn’t want to show him to us because they’re like, ‘No, he doesn’t know anything. He doesn’t do his changes, and he’s very, very green. He’s strong,’ and all of these different things. And we’re like, no, no, we want to see him.”

Bacchus. Kimberly Loushin Photos

The pair liked what they saw, and Sims ultimately purchased the then 4-year-old Hanoverian (Bisquet Balou—Feliz Van De Donkhoeve, Calato). It proved to be a good purchase, as the now 11-year-old gelding has made a name for himself in the hunter divisions and USHJA international hunter derbies.

Britt-Leon developed him up the levels from the 3’ greens to the high performance hunters, earning the U.S. Equestrian Federation Horse of the Year award for the high performance conformation hunters, increment, in 2022. In 2021 and 2020 he was reserve HOTY in the high performance hunters and 3’9” green hunters, respectively. He’s earned numerous top placings in derbies, including winning at Upperville (Virginia) last year and was reserve champion at the National Horse Show (Kentucky).

Bacchus with owner Kelly Sims (left) and rider Michael Britt-Leon.

Now he’s headed to Kentucky to compete in the USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship, Aug. 17-19.

We met up with Bacchus during the Winter Equestrian Festival (Florida) to get to know him.

When Sims purchased Bacchus, his barn name was “Bad Boy.”

We call him ‘BB’ or ‘Bad Boy’ depending on the day that we’re having, but it’s kind of like a joke because he really doesn’t ever do anything bad,” Britt-Leon said.

Both Sims and Britt-Leon are originally from Louisiana, and the gelding’s show name honors that. Bacchus comes from the Krewe of Bacchus, one of the popular parades during Mardi Gras.

“Mardi Gras is kind of a big deal for us and always was growing up, so we thought it was appropriate to name him Bacchus, which is their biggest parade. And [Bacchus] is a god, which he’s kind of one of those Roman gods that are big and beautiful, so we went with it.”


Showing off the physique that makes him a winning conformation hunter.

• You know the child who is into absolutely everything? That’s Bacchus.

“He is famous for opening his stall door. He knows how to get himself out of the turnouts,” Britt-Leon said.

“[He’s] our goofball in the barn,” he added. “He’s in your pocket. He’s trying to look for something all the time. He’s chewing on the crossties. He’s just kind of messing around wherever he can.”

He enjoys being able to put his head out of his stall, but you better make sure there’s nothing important within his reach, because he’ll make a grab for it, so it’s not unusual to find a halter or leadrope strewn about.

• Just like the kid who begs for five more minutes at the park, Bacchus feels the same way about coming in after spending most of his day outside.

“It takes a couple of us to catch him because he thinks it’s a game,” Britt-Leon said. “You go out to get him, and he gets close, and he runs and bucks and plays. We do that for about 20 minutes, and then he finally says, ‘OK, we can go in.’ ”

Bacchus loves his turnout time.

While he’s generally quiet in turnout, he does have a naughty streak.

“We have two donkeys, and they get a little bit rowdy, so then he gets a little bit rowdy,” he said. “He is a bit of an instigator in that when the other horses go out next to him, he definitely likes to stir it up and get them galloping around and is very playful that way. If he’s just out on his own, he’s a pretty chill and pretty lazy guy.”

• While he’s goofy and playful, he’s also one of the kindest horses in the barn. Sims purchased him thinking he’d be for her daughter Jordan Carlson. While Carlson’s career prevents her from riding much, and she’s only shown him a handful of times over the years, he’s very forgiving when she’s a bit rusty.

“She’ll come out and ride him whenever she can,” Britt-Leon said. “He’s great for her and kind of just takes care of her, because she doesn’t get a chance to practice a lot.”

He’s also a favorite with Sims’ grandchildren and will delicately take any treats they offer.


This is my best “give me all the treats” face.

• He’s also the one to go to when you need a good snuggle.

“He’s probably one of our more soft, cuddly ones,” he said. “You can go in his stall when he’s laying down. I’ll go lay down with him and just pet him and kind of hang out with him.

“He’s been a really fun one for me because it’s reminded me, which as professionals I think we can lose track of, how much we actually love horses. Not the sport, but the animal of horses. He’s that guy for me for sure. He wants to be your friend. He wants to hang out. He’s very sweet. He kind of makes you feel like a big kid, so that’s been neat.”

Bacchus’ sweet personality makes him a favorite for a good cuddle.

He is the epitome of a kick ride. Britt-Leon is using his leg the entire way around the ring, especially in the 4’ classes and derbies.

He’s so athletic; he could literally jump a 4’6” fence, land and walk,” he said. “It’s nothing for him.”

• He loves being doted on and getting attention. Grooming is one of his favorite activities, and he’ll eat just about anything you offer.

• If he were a human, he’d probably live on the road. He seems to enjoy going on new adventures and traveling to different horse shows.

“They enjoy the different places, seeing different things,” Britt-Leon said. “I would say as we get somewhere new is when he’s brightest and sharpest. As you’re there longer and longer he gets a little relaxed and a little dull.”

“He’s ready to go to a new spot,” added Sims.

Bacchus with owner Kelly Sims.

• While BB is a happy-go-lucky kind of guy, he’s also sensitive. If there’s tension, he picks up on it and gets unhappy.

“He doesn’t want anyone to be tough or mean to him in any way,” Britt-Leon said. “By that I mean even words or crazy activity around the barn. That definitely makes him uncomfortable. You can see in his eye he doesn’t like any negativity around. Luckily he doesn’t have to deal with much of that.”



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