August 5, 2012
By Christine HamiltonThe American Quarter Horse Journal
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Bailey (left) and Keili Sapp (right), and AQHA Professional Horseman Sandy Vaughn (center) (Journal photo)
When Kiersten “Bailey” Sapp and Naturally Forever, aka “Stanley,” completed their August 4 preliminary go in the equitation over fences, cheers erupted from her Florida teammates and friends in the Performance Arena stands.
Frankly-speaking, it was not a ride that would put Bailey and “Stanley” in the August 7 finals of the class, and those in the stands knew it. But it represented a major accomplishment for Bailey and her gelding, and her friends knew that, too.
They were both brave.
“I got ‘Stanley’ when he was a coming 4, and he was scared to death of everybody and everything,” Bailey remembers. “And it took 45 minutes to get him over his first crossrails. We actually went through a phase where he had a big stopping issue. This is our first show where we haven’t had an issue with that.”
A well-bred and athletic gelding, Bailey’s mom, Keili, bought Stanley thinking she would teach him to jump and resell him. She did not anticipate that her daughter would fall in love with the fearful youngster.
Bailey started showing AQHA early in 2011, and she turned to AQHA Professional Horseman Sandy Vaughn of Hernando, Florida, for help. The Florida show circuit witnessed how hard Bailey has worked with Stanley.
“It was her riding that had to improve to give him the courage he needed to complete his job,” Sandy says. “Horses do everything because they believe in you: We tell them and they believe you’re not going to hurt them or ask them to do something they can’t do.
“When a horse asks a question like ‘Should I be afraid?’ we have to say, ‘I’m here,’ with our feel, our leg and our hand. That’s where the courage comes from. But when (Stanley) would get hesitant, instead of going ‘It’s OK,’ she’d release him.”
But Bailey was determined to get to the 2012 Built Ford Tough AQHYA World Championship Show in her last year of youth eligibility.
“I wanted to come to show everyone that we were good enough,” she says. “A lot of people doubted me. We haven’t really been consistent: We’ll have good weekends and we’ll have bad weekends.
“He came down the ramp (to the Barn Six Arena) today and stood there pretty quietly, and then he went through the gate, and he kind of didn’t want to go through the gate. But we got rolling and I got my determination, and I was like, ‘We are going to do this, I don’t care what it looks like. I’ll make it as good as I can.’ He was trying me the entire time, but we did it!”
It was a championship moment for Bailey and Stanley, and they deserved the cheers.
“Today was her biggest breakthrough in (riding Stanley),” Sandy says with a smile. “She gave him his courage.”
Bailey will never forget the lesson.
“Don’t be afraid,” she says. “If you fall off, you fall off, but you won’t get to the other side if you don’t try. That’s one of the best things Sandy told me: To be brave.”