Lindsey Bailey has been riding horses since she could walk. Born into a family who has always been a part of the equestrian scene, it was no surprise that Bailey would one day also become a rider.
The young equestrian was recently a Grand Champion in the Children's Division, winning three out of five classes, at the Tryon International Equestrian Center, where she was also third in the classic. Receiving such an honor so close to home has left Bailey all smiles.
"It's really intimidating," Bailey said of competing at TIEC, which hosts many of the world's top equestrian athletes.
Bailey competes in the hunter-jumper category, which she described as "seeing how pretty you can maneuver the horse through a course while looking effortless." Those taking part in show jumping navigate through a series of jumps. The horse with the fastest, cleanest round with the fewest faults or rails knocked down is the winner.
Bailey didn't start off in hunter-jumper. First, she rode a foundation quarter horse, taking part in Western events like roping and cutting. As she got older, she began to take an interest in hunter-jumper and decided to focus on it, she said, because it's difficult to have two different disciplines.
"I ride almost every day," she said. "And I feed Kipper twice a day."
Kipper, a former race horse, is "a ding dong," Bailey said, laughing. "He's like a little kid and picks at me."
And while bred to be fast, he's done surprisingly well as a hunter-jumper.
"Some people online shop - I online shop for horses," Bailey said. "I followed his barn on Facebook and really liked him, but saw that he'd gone out on lease. A year later, his price was cut in half."
She kept watching the price, and finally her mom relented that they'd buy him.
"We bought him based on nothing but pictures and video," Bailey explained. "We took a chance. He was very thin - rescue thin."
Originally bought for her sister, Bailey soon saw the potential the former racer had.
"I've shown him for the past year. I couldn't have asked for a better situation," she said. "I never thought I'd go to Tryon with him, much less show him at all."
Bailey works with trainer Lee Cone of Windbrook Farm in Landrum, S.C. Unlike other competitors she was up against at TIEC, Bailey rides and trains Kipper.
"It's a really great feeling when you've worked really hard to win," she added. "I used to be so serious, and my trainer told me to have fun. The more I thought about that .... now I think how lucky I am to do this and it's OK if I mess up."
And while other horses she's ridden in the past are, well, in the past, that's not in her plans this time.
"No, he's around forever," she said.
When she's not in the ring, Bailey is a student at Isothermal Community College and works at Farmer's Friend. She plans to pursue her four year degree closer to home in order to continue working with Kipper. She hasn't decided yet if she wants to pursue a career that involves horses.
"I want it to be my personal thing," she said. "I have thought about the business side of things, but I haven't figured that out yet."