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Hat's Off!

“Rocky” wins award

by caring for young owner with epilepsy

By Dorinda Troutman, RMR Staff Writer


May 2009 Issue  


     In the winter of 2004, the pony that five-year-old Bailee Stenger was scheduled to ride in Pee Wee Barrels choked on feed on the way to the races and couldn’t race.

     Bailee’s mom, Suanne, had brought along her keen, young Quarter Horse gelding, My Rockin Ryon (Rocky), to race in 1D Barrel Racing that day.

     Bailee had never before ridden her mom’s five-year-old liver chestnut by herself, but she really wanted to compete.

     “Try telling a five-year-old they can’t run in Pee Wees… You don’t. I was scared to death, because Rocky always muscles out of the gate. But when I let him go with Bailee on him, he trotted gently away and around the barrels in a slow pattern,” says Suanne.

     That was the beginning of a very special relationship.

     Bailee, now ten, was diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of three. Her seizures were controlled by medication for the first two years, but by the time Bailee began riding Rocky, the little girl was having up to 30 seizures a day.

     The only time life seemed normal for Bailee was when she rode Rocky. For some unknown reason that has baffled her doctors, Bailee has had only one seizure while riding, and then Rocky stopped and stood still until Bailee’s dad could help.

     Suanne says that she recently watched videos taken over the last few years of Bailey and Rocky barrel racing. “Rocky’s changed – he started out slow, but as Bailee has gotten more confident, they have gotten faster and faster. There is some sort of bond between that horse and that little girl.”

     Rocky seems to understand that Bailee needs to be taken care of. Once, Bailee was attempting to bridle Rocky and she fell to the ground between his front feet in a seizure. Suanne says that she didn’t want to spook Rocky and have him step on her daughter, but he never moved as she ran up to help Bailee.

     Another time, Suanne says, the family was riding along the river bottom near their home. Their dogs ran up some deer and one came out of the brush and crashed into the front of Rocky. “My horse sure spooked, but Rocky is such a cool horse when Bailee is riding him – he just took it.”

     In January, 2007, Bailee underwent brain surgery at UCLA Medical Center . Neurosurgeons removed part of Bailee’s brain in hope that it would control her seizures. According to Suanne, Bailee’s only worry was — would she still be able to barrel race on Rocky? Six months after the surgery, they were back at it.

     Bailee’s epilepsy is now under control with medication. “She’s only had three seizures in two years. Everything is great. She and Rocky are even beating me in Barrels,” laughs Suanne.

     My Rockin Ryon received the MD Barns Silver Spur Award at the 60th AQHA Convention March 8, 2009, in San Antonio Texas . The award honors American Quarter Horses who have made significant impact on the lives of others.

     Bailee and her parents, Suanne and Calvin Stenger, of Worden , Montana , accepted the award as Rocky’s owners. They received a $25,000 gift certificate toward an MD Barn and a Montana Silversmith buckle.


Back to May 2009 Articles



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