Re­viv­ing Tra­di­tion

Practical Horseman - - Rassing's lonoir -

In some ways, you could say that grand prix jumper Peter Leone’s ca­reer has come full cir­cle. He be­gan rid­ing at the age of 5 and went on to earn Best Child Rider awards at ev­ery ma­jor East Coast horse show. At the age of 18, he won the FEI World Cup™ Grand Prix at the Na­tional Horse Show at New York’s Madi­son Square Gar­den and then com­peted in the ASPCA Ma­clay Na­tional Cham­pi­onship the next morn­ing. He started rid­ing for the U.S. Eques­trian Team as a 19-year-old, scor­ing dou­ble clears in Na­tions Cup com­pe­ti­tions at ma­jor shows like Dublin, Rot­ter­dam and Wash­ing­ton, D.C. He earned a team sil­ver in the 1996 At­lanta Olympic Games. Show­ing an abil­ity to ride Jump­ing Derby cour­ses from the be­gin­ning, Peter won the in­tim­i­dat­ing In­ter­na­tional Jump­ing Derby in New­port, Rhode Is­land, at the age of 20.

The mid­dle of three broth­ers who rode as Team Leone, Peter pol­ished his rid­ing skills un­der the tute­lage of such greats as Ber­ta­lan DeNŽmethy, Frank Chapot, Ge­orge Mor­ris and Michael Matz. He re­mem­bers that jumper cour­ses dur­ing those years taught rid­ers to be brave and de­ter­mined. “You had to dig in, roll up your sleeves and get the job done,” he says. “You had to be part foot­ball player and part bal­let dancer. These days, you don’t see the 360-de­gree com­plete rider. You see less of the foot­ball player.”

To help rec­tify this sit­u­a­tion, Peter has nar­rowed his coach­ing and train­ing fo­cus to just up­per-level jumpers. He re­cently moved his busi­ness, Lion­share Farm, to 200-acre Sun­ny­field Farm in Bed­ford, New York. In the ’60s and ’70s, Sun­ny­field was a pop­u­lar show venue, at­tract­ing top rid­ers like Bill Steinkraus.

To help rid­ers build more grit, he has re­vived the in­vi­ta­tional jumper com­pe­ti­tion he hosted in the ’90s at his for­mer base in Green­wich, Con­necti­cut. The in­au­gu­ral Bed­ford Cup, held in Oc­to­ber, was a two-round team com­pe­ti­tion cul­mi­nat­ing in a jump-off for in­di­vid­ual plac­ings. Peter de­signed the course on the grass field, in­cor­po­rat­ing a va­ri­ety of ques­tions, such as a snake jump, straw-bale jump, wa­ter jump, ca­noe jump and dou­ble liv­er­pools. “Parts of the course you had to ride with con­vic­tion; other parts you had to ride like a fine artist. You had to be a com­plete rider.”

The first team to win the Bed­ford Cup in­cluded Olympic gold medal­ist Ro­drigo Pes­soa and his wife, Alexa, who also topped the in­di­vid­ual plac­ings. Peter plans to build nat­u­ral ob­sta­cles over the win­ter to make next year’s com­pe­ti­tion even more “derby-es­que.”

Mean­while, af­ter hav­ing to eu­th­a­nize his tal­ented home­bred Way­farer due to colic in Oc­to­ber and tem­po­rar­ily sidelin­ing his young grand prix jumper, Capito Z, due to in­jury, he’s on the look­out for new prospects.

Alexa Pes­soa pi­loted Juli­ette over a ca­noe jump and was part of the win­ning team at Peter Leone’s in­au­gu­ral Bed­ford Cup, held at his farm in New York in Oc­to­ber.

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