Sparkles and Sunshine: Horseback Rider Interview Series: Bailey Nolte

Horseback Rider Interview Series: Bailey Nolte

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Happy Wednesday!

As I have continued to learn more about horses I have also continued to meet many new equestrians that I look up to and admire. I always try to surround myself with positive people that are honest, uplifting, and all around great people. The woman I am introducing you all to today is someone I am so happy to have met. Bailey Nolte (@joyful_dressage) is not only an accomplished rider, but also a great person all around. As I started to see the content she would share, I realized how accurate her Instagram handle was. Today I would love to introduce you all to Bailey and her three amazing horses. I know you all are going to love her!


1. How long have you been riding?



As of my birthday in June, I will have been riding for 21 years! As with most youngsters, the first two years were mainly pony rides, lead line lessons, toddling around learning about grooming, etc., but I started my first pony camp when I was five. I pinged around different disciplines and riding fun until I was around 11 years old. At 11, I discovered my passion for dressage. Haven’t had the opportunity to look back since! 



2. Why do you ride?


It's hard to separate it from my life like that, in retrospect. I've never known anything else - no other sport, no other true passion minus maybe tacos and poetry, no other tremendous motivator despite my own desire to do well. That's not to say that I don't have a life outside of my horses or my riding, but everything I do in my "real life" is to benefit my riding life and my horses. I guess it comes down to that I ride because the connection I feel with horses is something greater than myself. The never-ending education and emotional/physical growth are hugely attractive to me as well. That feeling of constantly working to be better for more than just yourself, but for your horse, keeps everything in perspective. Plus, talk about love of the animal more than just the sport!



3. What discipline(s) do you ride? Do you have a favorite?

I'm exclusively a dressage rider that has shown through FEI Pre St. George and earned my USDF bronze and silver medal. I have to say, dressage is probably my favorite because it is the foundation for every equestrian discipline. George Morris said "if flat work is boring, you're doing it wrong" and I couldn't agree more. However, I adore eventing and show jumping. My under saddle education for either of those is lacking. That's why having a best friend who is an experienced eventer (shoutout to the best of the best, Erin McLeod) is very valuable to me and my horses. I do cross train a couple of times a week with either low jumps, endurance work on my makeshift "track", heavy trail rides, and some low-level eventing. If you count the donkeys that occasionally run into my path, you could even say I do a little cutting, haha! I think it valuable to a dressage horse's physical and mental education and wellbeing to have an "out of the arena" understanding of the world. 



4. Who are some of your biggest inspirations?

I adore truly classical riders like Reiner and Ingrid Klimke, Michael Jung, Hubertus Schmidt, and Klaus Balkenhol. Some of my biggest inspirations are riders are highly skilled in all levels of various disciplines, like Klimke and Jung. In modern Dressage, I'm constantly inspired by Sönke Rothenberger (still thinking of their family during their time of recovery from a horrible tragedy), Helen Langenhanberg, Jessica Von Bredow-Werndl, and Dorthee Schneider. In my every day, my horses keep me inspired as well as some seriously strong, competitive, amazing friends and acquaintances around me! 



5. Tell us more about your horses! Height/age/breed/quirks? :) 

I am beyond lucky enough to own three horses - well, two horses and a pony! 

Apple is my childhood pony. He's 25 years old, 13.3h, and a grade POA. His past is a little bit of a mystery as he was one of two horses to survive a tragic flood that devastated a show barn in Texas when he was young. No further information about him has been able to be discovered. He was naively bought as a lesson pony for my first real trainer, a job he was not suited for, and we clicked instantly. We were about six years old. My parents half leased then full leased him for me for a few years - a huge financial sacrifice for them that I'll never be able to repay - before surprising me with him on Christmas morning! He's been a staple in my life ever since, heading on 19 years now. His quirks are that he LOVES human food - including french fries! He’s not a pawer, but he hovers his feet above the ground and is still, to this day, the only horse able to put me in the dirt whenever he wants to. Despite his size, he’s got quite the bronc side! He's got the biggest personality of any horse I've met, but he also has the best heart. He's mostly retired now, serving as a "manny" to my yearling.



Fair Joy *Pb*, barn name Joy, is my 15.3h, coming 10-year-old, American Trakehner (Magritte/Fair Diva/Rock Point xx) mare, with a presence of a horse 10x her size. I was in the right place at the right time (I worked for her breeder as a teenager - I was 14 when she was born), and I was the first person to put my hands on her when she was foaled, a month premature. That didn't slow her down! I negotiated her purchase within hours and bought her with all my summer job money. She turned out to be the most challenging, educational, and worthwhile endeavor I've ever undertaken. Due to some personal circumstances, I produced her myself with exclusive support of my non-horsey family and the occasional lesson from a mentor, from her first halter lesson to her first ride to her first flying change and her first FEI centerline. She has more opinions than the average successful dressage horse, but I wouldn't change a thing about her. She made me the rider I am today, and she has been the most incredible partner to share the journey with. She doesn't like normal treats and prefers Sour Patch Watermelon candy, she hates small animals and children, and a very difficult, challenging ride. People like to try to write her off because of her size and opinions, but it makes it more worthwhile for me. Riders just don’t like to be humbled. Despite having to be choosy about who I put on her back for fear there will be a war, I know I can trust her with any young rider learning the basics.  



Fanfare MN, barn name Posey, is my first homebred! She's a coming yearling, anticipated to finish 16.1-16.3h, and is also an American Trakehner. She is out of my mare, Joy, and by a grand prix stallion now shortlisted for the Tokyo 2020 Para games, Lord Locksley *Pg* (Unkenruf *Pg*E*/Lonka *E*/Enrico Caruso *Ps*E*). Once Joy showed the potential to be a serious upper-level horse and was highly praised as high point mare at her Trakehner inspection, I decided to get a foal out of her while I was starting law school and she was young enough for it to be a healthy pregnancy. Joy seemed to know I would only breed her once, no matter the outcome, and she delivered in spades! Posey is everything I could have dreamed of and more. She is a forward thinking, brave, level headed, and smart as a whip young lady, with looks to die for and gaits that show off her immaculate pedigree! She'll begin to show in hand this fall, and go under saddle when deemed appropriate - likely as a late 3 year old if not her four-year-old year. She has a career as a future dressage star that I am over the moon to be a part of. Of all the foals I've worked with, over varying breeders and breeds, I'm most excited about her! There's something incredibly special about seeing the differences/similarities between her and Joy, and my girls are such a huge part of my heart She has a very bright future, even if her quirks right now are incessant licking, carrying rocks around in her mouth, and a very, VERY late sleeper!    



7. What does your trainer constantly get on to you about? Ha!


Well, I don't work consistently with a trainer and I'm not in a training program, as my horses live at my home! But, my go-to trainer and mentor always get on me about a couple of things: riding correct geometric figures, not pinching at the leg or flapping my right arm like a chicken wing, looking down instead of between the ears, and my favorite - "TAKE THE HORSE'S SHOULDERS WITH YOU!" 



8. What is the best piece of riding advice you've ever been given?

1. "If you ever think you know it all and have no more to learn, it's time to quit."

2. "If you look at the ground, where will you end up? On the ground!"

3. "Don't get so focused on one movement that you blow preparation for the others."

4. "Judge people not by their show rides, but by how they treat their horse when no one is watching, like in the warm-up."

5. “Dressage is for every horse, horses aren’t made for dressage.”



9. What motivates you?


I've always worked with young, green, more sensitive horses that need education, but I've never had a schoolmaster to teach me. My motivation is to always continue to learn to fill in my educational gaps so I can be a better horsewoman for my horses in every aspect. I have some incredible, brilliant horses with big talent, big personalities, and unlimited possibilities. I just want to do them justice in showing them off to the best of my ability and to provide them confidence in their rider. 



10. How has riding made an impact on other parts of your life?


I manage heavy generalized anxiety disorder as well as social anxiety, depression, and attention deficit disorder. Despite medication, I've always thought that riding competitively and for pleasure brought a next level kind of therapy. Horses have always been my escape, but in a much deeper way, they've always kept me stable. The required level of responsibility necessary to be successful as a rider AND a horse owner reminded me that there was something bigger than me that needed my attention and hard work. Being around horses always has kept me from feeling isolated or undervalued, and as I'm sure many others can attest to, horses have a calming power that can help someone stay grounded in the present. Working with a horse like Joy helped me gain strength and confidence in myself, my decisions, and my capabilities, both in and out of the arena. In a less romantic sense, riding has deeply impacted my time management skills and studying habits. I rode competitively in undergraduate while pursuing a masters through an accelerated BA to MA program, taking as many as 21 credit hours at a time, and tried to have some semblance of a social life. Once I decided to go to law school and got married, those time management and study habits had to step up. Thank goodness for planners and black coffee!



11.  How do you afford three horses? Do you have any tips for those who are saving up for their first horse or tips for keeping costs in check with their current horse?

I'm confident enough nowadays to say that I afford three horses through a lot of damn hard work. A couple weeks ago, I might have written something about how lucky I am to be surrounded by people who are willing to help out in little ways and that it takes a village, but most due to some screenshots of a group chat that surfaced, I feel like it is important to stand by the fact that I work really hard for what I grew up with and what I have now. There was a lot of planning that went into my life, especially financially.

My parents sacrificed a lot for me to be able to ride and own Apple (subsequently, Joy too). When I was younger, I worked for my trainer/barn owner and "worked off" board and lessons by teaching lessons, cleaning stalls, feeding, working horses, and general barn labor. When it was time for my family and me to move on, my dad built a paddock in our large front yard and the horses moved there. I was an undergraduate, so at that time, I worked part time during the school year and a good amount during the summer. Because I lived at home, I was able to use the money my job's afforded me to pay for feed, farrier, and vet expenses. My parents helped with hay and vet bills sometimes. They also helped a little when I boarded Apple and Joy, paying for what was left over of Apple's board after the amount he taught off through lessons and when Joy was professionally boarded for 9 months, they helped me by paying half of that as well. 

The biggest money saver is board. All three of my horses live at my house, in an informal barn attached to the breezeway where we can park our cars. I knew years ago when I started planning to breed Joy that there was no way I would be able to afford board on three horses, and emotionally, I couldn't imagine boarding my three most cherished possessions with people I didn't know or didn't listen to my opinions on horse care. Going into law school with Joy pregnant, I will say I am lucky enough to have a husband that was willing to help with things here and there, especially because you are legally not allowed to work your first year of law school. I lived off student loans and a small amount of savings. It means being ruthless in cutting unnecessary expenses because all my extra cash went to high quality feed in bulk. I planned vet visits in advance so I could begin setting money aside. Both horses are barefoot, so I saved money on shoes. By having horses at home, I was also able to save gas money that would have otherwise gone to an additional part of my commute. Today, in my second going on third year of law school, I'm allowed to work part time (20-25 hours) a week. I was so grateful to have gotten a paid internship that way I'm not spending all of my loan money horse expenses. Now about 75% of my paychecks go towards feeding/vet/farrier/general upkeep, while the rest can go towards the rest of my grown up life, like insurance, utilities, gas, and the like. Joy and Posey are both insured for most major medical emergency expenses, which gives me some peace of mind financially.

These days, it's just my husband and I. There's a general understanding in our marriage that I take care of horse, school, and personal expenses, while he takes care of some of the other adult things. But I am grateful to know that if something happened, I could lean on him to help support me until I got back on my feet for a little while. We don't plan nor want children, so any of those type of savings can go towards an emergency fund for our futures, whether that's horse related or otherwise. 

When saving up for your first horse, it's important to have an understanding of what you're saving for. It's like my dad always told me, "you should always have 3 months worth of expenses in your savings account, just in case." That same logic holds true for my approach to horses, especially a first horse. Not only are you saving up for the initial purchase price, but you're saving up for the expenses that come with that purchase, such as a pre-purchase exam, board, lessons, routine vet/farrier care, tack, and an emergency vet fund. Having dreams of the perfect horse is always a great motivator, but you have to approach it from a very practical stance of being responsible for a large mammal, because that's how people tend to get blind sighted with unexpected financial constraints. If you can map out all those expenses and budget appropriately, then you're ahead of the curve. Think long term finances, not short term immediate goals. And personally, I think unless you're boarding at an established barn with trailering help, that investing in a truck and trailer before the horse is a responsible and important part of becoming a horse owner. 

When you're trying to cut costs with current horses, don't get swept up in the matchy-matchy lifestyle! Your horse doesn't care if you spend $20 on a pad or $65, if your breeches are in season or if you're wearing half chaps instead of tall boots. The only person who cares about that is you. Don't skimp on the important things, like solid leg protection, your helmet, or your general tack, but does all the equestrian fashion really make you a better rider? No, and it can be a huge waste of money unless your horse requires specific fitting saddle pads. Don't feel pressured to fit in by going all our with your riding attire - judges don't care. If you're at a place that would allow you to help work horses in return for knocking some money off your board, that's always a great help. Sell your unused tack - do you REALLY need that bridle that's been in your tack box for 6 years? I ask myself that all the time, and try to widdle down my collections to things I know I will need. Avoid unnecessary large purchases. I know the Smartpak monograming sales are so good, but I promise, you could save that $30 and have a little more financial breathing room. Another thing could be are you over supplementing? Check with your vet and see if you are adding unnecessary fillers that may not actually be doing anything. Learn to do some of the expensive stuff yourself, like body clipping (learn from a pro!), braiding for shows, trailering, and those types of things. Depending on your horse and barn situation, a half lease can sometimes be very beneficial for all parties involved! However, three things to never skimp on: feed, farrier, and vet care! 


That's all for today's rider interview post featuring the incredible Bailey Nolte! I am very humbled to have been able to work with her on this and I hope all of you have loved getting to know her like I have. Stay tuned for next week's rider interview series, you're going to love it!

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