It’s the ultimate cliché – a young girl is given a rocking horse, falls in love with horses and dreams of one day not only owning her own pony, but spending her life surrounded by them. For Bailey Allen, it is a dream that has come true.
Growing up in Victoria’s Wangaratta, 24-year-old Bailey always loved to be outside and surrounded by animals. She spent weekends and school holidays at her grandparent’s dairy farm, riding around the paddocks with her cousins on horseback.
A relatively self-taught rider, Bailey got her first job at age 14, working for local horse trainers Chris and John Ledger of Ledger Racing. She’d muck out stables before and after school, soaking up all knowledge she could.
A year later, at age 15, she was kicked in the face by her own horse. Suffering multiple jaw fractures and losing seven teeth, her family and friends thought that would end her love affair with horses.
“It was tough,” said Bailey. “My parents aren’t horsey people so it was hard for them to deal with. They assumed that I’d be turned off horses for good. I think everyone was a bit surprised I came back and still wanted to work with them after that.”
Not even an acceptance to study Zoology at university following her completion of Year 12 deterred her and Bailey decided to instead work full time for the Ledgers.
When she was 19 years old, an old school friend convinced her to join her at Leeanne Smith’s boutique broodmare property, Bucklee Farm, in nearby Greta West. After spending 5 years working in a racing stable, Bailey was keen to see a different side of the industry.
“I wanted to see the other side,” said Bailey. “I wanted to learn about everything that happens at the start of a racehorse’s life before they end up at a racing stable. So I juggled working for both the Ledgers and Leeanne for a while before transitioning to Bucklee Farm full time.”
Having been working for Bucklee Farm for 5 years, she’s been there for the birth of many foals, but there’s one that holds a special place in her heart.
“I was there (at Bucklee Farm) for the birth of Cliff’s Edge and helped bring him into the world,” reminisces Bailey.
“I prepped him as a yearling, looked after him and sold him through the ring and watched his race career closely. It’s excited to feel that close connection to him.”
Bailey has spent the early part of May and early June preparing Bucklee Farm’s draft of 21 horses for the last big sale of the season, last week's Inglis Great Southern Sale.
“It’s always nice to come to the sales, as life can get a bit isolated on the farm when there’s lots of hours involved. There’s a competitive banter between the vendors, it’s social and a good chance to catch up with the friends you really only get to see three times a year,” said Bailey, referring to the three major Melbourne sales – Inglis Premier, VOBIS Gold and Great Southern Sales.
When asked about her future career plans, Bailey has to stop to think.
“To be honest, I haven’t thought that far into the future as yet,” she said.
“My partner and I are concentrating on working hard and saving money. We want to buy a farm and then down the line maybe I can have a few broodmares and raise my own weanlings and yearlings to put through the sale ring.”
No matter where her future career takes her, it seems fairly certain Bailey Allen won’t be straying too far from the industry, or the four-legged animals she holds dear.
HOOFNOTE: This article was originally written for and published by Thoroughbred Breeders Victoria (TBV), as part of their new ‘Grassroots” segment. I’m appreciative of the opportunity from TBV to help share the stories of those who work in this industry, as ultimately, that was one of the driving forces behind the creation of this blog.
*Bailey at work for Bucklee Farm at the Inglis Sales