Amelia Bayer is taking a gap year before college to be a working student for top event rider Sinead Halpin–and she’s agreed to tell us all about it!
Hi everyone! My name is Amelia Bayer. I’m 18 years old and am a recent graduate of Central Bucks West High School in Doylestown, PA. Although I walked with the rest of my class this past June, I doubled up on classes and took some summer classes to graduate early and spend the winter in Florida with Sinead Halpin.
While in Florida, Sinead and Meg offered me and my friend the opportunity to temporarily work for Clayton Fredericks, since we were leasing our barn from him. Clayton was looking for a permanent working student but needed some help in the meantime. That was a once in a life time opportunity–I will never be able to thank Meg, Sinead, Lisa or Clayton enough. This opportunity made me think of taking a gap year before heading off to college, and I am extremely thankful my parents agreed to it. And now I get to spend the next year with Sinead, Meg, Assistant Trainer Sarah, and fellow working student Hannah, along with many other members of Team SHE.
I loved my first pony, and I am lucky that I still get to see him since I passed him down to my little sister. But it is the horse I have now that I owe my tactful riding and bad habits to.
Handsome Devil, a.k.a. Oni, is an 8-year-old chestnut OTTB. I bought him when he was 4, and I was 14, and we both knew nothing. Although there are days when I want to sell him because of another horrible dressage test or just frustration, I do love that horse to death.
His name is Oni (pronounced OH-nee) because it is the Japanese word for “devil.” When I bought him, he had two giant bumps on his head and everyone said that it looked like he was growing horns. Our goal for this year is to complete our first 1* together before I have to head off to college (where he will be joining me!).
In Florida, our dressage was so horrible that Sinead took away my bridle. I was permitted to only use a rope halter for about a month. Not going to lie, I was terrified at first. Especially when she said I would be using it for jump lessons too! But it ended up being a lot of fun and worked extremely well. Even though our dressage is far from perfect, it is A LOT better.
Working Student’s Worst Nightmare
After working so hard in Florida, I was ready to come back and take on the season! That is, until I came out for a flat lesson and Oni was dead lame. DEAD lame.
We brought him inside and Meg and Sinead both took a look. All that was going through my mind was “What did I do? Is this my fault? My horse is hurt, and it is probably my fault.” Basically I went into panic mode.
After a few moments of sheer shock, I pulled myself out and forced myself to listen to everything Sinead and Meg were saying. And they were saying possible check ligament.
That night Meg was driving us home, and she needed to stop at Walmart. So as Meg filled her cart with leafy greens and other healthy stuff, I took another route. What started as me just picking up some peanut butter ended with a cart full of ice cream, cookies and other horrible goodies. I just committed myself to this team for a year, and now Oni might be done. Scratch that, just the fact that Oni might be done was enough to send me over the edge. I love that horse.
So we iced and iced and iced. And I waited for the day when we took him to Dr. Brendan Furlong. For a minute while I was there I did get caught up in the thought that I was about to jog up my horse for the vet practice that watches jogs of top horses of top riders like Sinead. And that was pretty cool.
After some blocking, we found that his foot was part of the problem. Upon further inspection, they predicted that within the next few days, an abscess would pop up on the inside heel. (It in fact did pop up about two days later.)
Next was the ultrasound, and I was terrified. That was the longest few minutes of my life. And what made it worse was when the vet doing the ultrasound called another vet over to look at the screen without saying a word to me. I was sure it was bad news and they were just figuring out how to break it to me. Then the words came out of their mouth and they said, “I see a slightly sprained tendon, but it’s no big deal. I can barely see it, it’s so mild. He’ll be fine.” HE’LL BE FINE! I didn’t care anymore how long it would take to get him back, HE’LL BE FINE!
Onward and Upward
During the weeks while he was healing, Sinead would have me set jumps for her and I would spend a couple hours watching her jump all the horses. Studying her position and watching how she reacts to each individual horse (we have so many different types in the barn right now) gave me an even greater appreciation of Sinead’s talent and ability to feel each horse. The best part was when she would commentate and explain why she was doing what she was while riding. I also had to opportunity to take a jump lesson on Assistant Trainer Sarah Rupert’s Man of Conviction, a.k.a. Convict. (Currently for sale!) He is so much fun to jump and I really got to work on my position instead of worrying about Oni.
Oni is now back in full work and has completed Fair Hill at Prelim, Plantation at Prelim (placing 4th!), and Horse Park of New Jersey at Prelim. NOW we are ready to take on the season!