Circle of Trust, Part 1

How a big-hearted horse learned to run willingly guided – blind.

Imagine that your partner asks you to run while she guides you in circles and straight lines. Your partner controls your direction and your speed; you provide the power. Now imagine doing this blindfolded. You cannot see your surroundings; you cannot see the ground you run across; you cannot see where you are running to; you are in total darkness.

Your ability to run this pattern of circles and lines would totally depend on your partner and the trust you place in that partner. That would be an incredible amount of trust. That is the world now of a little bay gelding named Circle Bar Legacy, aka “Bailey.” The 2003 gelding by Genuine Legacy and out of Lenas Black Remedy by Black Little Lena has a pretty long story already for such a young horse. Bailey’s story didn’t begin in darkness, so it is a lesson in trust and faith.

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Bailey was raised by Circle Bar Ranch in Truscott, Texas, and began life intended for a reining career. Brad Cook had admired Bailey’s mother and bought him as a foal. The colt was sent to trainer Jason Grimshaw to start in reining.

But as a foal growing up on the West Texas prairie, Bailey suffered an eye injury from a thorn that caused a cataract on his right eye, and he lost the vision in it. After 90 days of training, Jason was concerned that the horse would never really turn to the right and thought he was a bit spooky in the pen. Brad took Bailey home and during the next couple of years rode him occasionally to track calves.

A Fateful Meeting
Jill Peale, a small-animal veterinarian from Tulsa, Oklahoma, met Bailey in late November 2007. Jill had an all-around horse with trainer Brenda Jeter in Weatherford, Texas, where Bailey lived.

When Jill took her horse to Brenda, Brenda sent Bailey home with Jill to open up the stall space and also to give Jill a horse to ride to keep her legged up for the hunter under saddle. They clicked almost immediately.

“He seemed to gain trust in me and soon quit being spooky and tried to turn to the right,” Jill says. “I fell madly in love with his laid-back personality and bought him from Brad.”

Jill had a conversation with her veterinarian about Bailey, and he suggested she take a lesson or two from Sean Johnson, a reining trainer close to Tulsa. Jill really had no grand plan for Bailey and decided she might be able to learn something about reining, which had always interested her.

Sean saw promise in the pair, and they began showing.

Bailey earned several points in the open and amateur division and had National Reining Horse Association earnings, as well. Jill and Bailey placed fifth in a large novice amateur reining class at the Texas Quarter Horse Association Texas Classic in May 2008. Then Sean won the circuit championship in open reining with Bailey at the AQHA show during the 2008 Reichert Celebration.

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But that summer, the cataract in Bailey’s right eye became infected and began leaking protein, which caused inflammation that was very painful. It couldn’t be controlled with medication.

In September, Bailey underwent surgery to remove his right eye and alleviate the problems. Surgery went well, and his prognosis was good as he recovered, with one exception. During surgery, the optic nerve was damaged, causing him to lose the sight in his left eye. Bailey was totally blind.

Learn about Bailey’s amazing recovery and triumphant return to the show ring, coming up in Part 2.