Living Legend Leslie Law on 'Making It' as a Competitive Rider

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eslie Law is a legend in the eventing world. Riding for Great Britain, he amassed an incredible collection of medals, including individual gold and team silver at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, team silver at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, team bronze at the 2002 Jerez World Equestrian Games, and team gold at the European Championships in 2001, 2003, and 2005. Leslie eventually ventured out to conquer new territory, moving his operation to the United States where he continued racking up top national and international placings.

However, Leslie’s legacy extends beyond his own competition results as he has largely influenced the future of eventing as a coach and mentor to the next generation. In 2014, Leslie was named the USEF Eventing Emerging Athlete Coach and has spent the last five years imparting riding knowledge and life skills on the up-and-comers of the sport. His mission is not just to help them be world-class riders, but give them tools to be great horsemen and successful businessmen and women. 

Leslie Law and First Class. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

To complement riding lessons at the annual winter training sessions for USEF Emerging Athlete Eventing 25 and Eventing 18 Program participants, Leslie brings in experts to teach unmounted lectures — covering everything from nutrition to saddle fitting to hoof care. With a lifetime of experience under his belt, Leslie is systematically setting up the next generation of superstars to thrive in one of the toughest, grittiest, most complex riding disciplines there is.

If you ask the young riders themselves what they’ve learned, they can rattle off a litany of ways Leslie has helped them improve their riding and horsemanship, but what stands out to them the most are the life lessons he passes on, gleaned from his own years of experience.  

Grab Life By the Horns

Emma Lomangino, 24, was selected as an auditing participant for the 2018 training sessions. She was struck by Leslie’s advice on taking advantage of every opportunity and how one unexpected experience could set you up for life. 

“Leslie talked about how his own career was skyrocketed by being open to an opportunity that didn’t really sound like it was going to pan out as much [as it did], but he met people that changed his life with their support and helped make his Olympic aspirations become reality,” Emma says.

"... all the struggle and effort can amount to something incredible, sometimes when you least expect it."

“Leslie speaking about this really hit home for me that to make it to the top level in this sport when you are low on cash and still inexperienced, you have to be willing and prepared for opportunities that cross your path and be determined to make the most out of every situation. I found that inspirational and think about that when I’m feeling like there’s a huge ocean between where I am and where I want to be as a rider and trainer, to have some belief in the process and that all the struggle and effort can amount to something incredible, sometimes when you least expect it.”

Make the Right Connections

Many of the developing riders Leslie teaches are hoping to make a career in the sport and are attempting to navigate the often tricky transition from the young rider to professional ranks. Cornelia Dorr, 21, is one such rider hoping to procure owners and sponsors and build up a string of talented horses. Her big takeaway from Leslie’s lectures during three consecutive years on the Emerging Athlete list is that the people behind you are as important as the horses under you. 

Cornelia Dorr and Sir Patico MH. Photo by Sportfot.

“It’s all about the network that you create,” Cornelia says. “Surround yourself with supportive people that have your best interest in mind so you have the right horses and the best training. Find established vets and farriers who can help you and steer you in the right direction. [Leslie] also says that people you meet today could be your owners in four years, so treat everyone like they can help you.”

Shine Your Own Light

For the next generation of riders, the urge to make it in the sport can be overwhelming. Some have the horsepower and resources to forge ahead, while others have to make their own way. Tayler Stewart, 20, who earned team gold and individual silver at the 2018 FEI North American Youth Championships, heard that message loud and clear.

Lillian Heard is the epic role model we all need.

“Leslie addresses the fact that not all the same ‘xyz’ will get everyone where they want to be. Not everyone will win a four-star, but everyone has a place in the sport if you’re willing to work hard and be smart, so figure out what makes you unique from everyone else and how to make that your brand,” Tayler says. 

Tayler Stewart and Ideal Contini. Photo by Sportfot.

“What I’ve really taken away from Leslie is you have to be creative. What separates the top riders from the rest and being successful at whatever they’re doing is they think outside the box, and when push comes to shove, they rise to the occasion. So go out and try something new or different that is going to make you that much of a better rider and horse person.”

It speaks volumes that Coach Leslie is not only taking the time to enlighten our future stars that success is about more than just good riding but that their young minds are soaking it in. With Leslie at the helm, the future looks bright!

Read this next: 'I Want to Prove Them Wrong': Why a Young Eventer Left His Sport to Join Mike Smith at the Racetrack

Feature photo by Shannon Brinkman. 

Written by Leslie Threlkeld

Having grown up on horseback, Leslie Threlkeld, Managing Editor at NOËLLE FLOYD, treasures her career in the equestrian industry as a writer, photographer, and eventing technical delegate. Leslie thrives on frequent travel but never tires of returning home to the serene mountains of North Carolina.