Most young hunter/jumper professionals who hang out a shingle to begin their careers have ample show ring experience. Perhaps they’ve earned championships at the country’s top shows since childhood, trained with some of the best instructors in the business and have ridden talented ponies and horses.
While Sloane Coles certainly fits this description, the 25-year-old Virginia native takes it a step farther. In addition to a comprehensive and successful show ring career—including multiple national and regional championships in hunters, jumpers and equitation—Coles has lifelong experience riding cross-country and foxhunting.
“I think when my upbringing in Virginia and background showing in equitation, hunters and jumpers is combined with my continuing education in horsemanship it all provides a unique set of skills,” said Coles. “I’m equally comfortable hacking cross-country, crossing streams as well as jumping grand prix courses and showing green hunters.”
Coles comes from a long family tradition of equestrian sport growing up in The Plains, Virginia. Her parents, John and Julie Coles, are both lifelong riders and horsemen, with John being an MFH at Orange County Hunt since 2001 and Julie a successful amateur hunter/jumper rider.
Following graduation from The Hill School and Foxcroft in Middleburg, Virginia, Coles spent most of the following decade immersed in her continuing education. She earned a business degree from Drew University (New Jersey) while also balancing a passion for sports. She graduated from Drew in 2011 as an All-Landmark Conference Lacrosse player and a Grand Prix show jumper.
Coles has worked with such trainers as two-time Olympic gold medalist Beezie Madden and husband John in New York, international rider Mark Leone of Ri-Arm Farm in New Jersey, Belgian Olympian Francois Mathy Sr., in Europe, and Olympic show jumper Lauren Hough in Florida.
Now that she’s spent time traveling the United States and into Europe to study riding and horsemanship from some of the best trainers in the business, she’s realized home is where she wants to be. So Sloane established her new business, Spring Ledge LLC, based out of her parents’ farm The Oaks in The Plains.
When she takes the winding drive down to the barn from Landmark Road, she now sees a field full of young, green Thoroughbreds grazing in the fields, paddocks holding talented warmblood show jumpers and stalls with the elegant faces of top show hunters waiting for her.
“Returning to Virginia is what I’ve always wanted to do,” said Coles. “It feels right and comfortable. I’ve made connections all over the world, and while there are always more to make, I feel prepared and am ready to work hard and move forward toward my goals.”
And after just six months back home in Virginia, Coles has already made her presence known in the show ring, both locally and nationally.
During the popular Twilight Jumper series at Great Meadow in The Plains, Coles picked up some impressive placings, including victory aboard Remonta Eden in the $5,000 1.30m Mini-Prix on Aug. 30. The win came over a field of established professionals that included Ian Silitch, Ragan Roberts and Manuel Torres, to name just a few.
“It was a great class,” said Coles. “Remonta Eden is an Argentine Warmblood owned by Sandy Van Dyke that I have in to sell. He’s naturally very fast and careful and knows his job. He’s a great horse for this level, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to show him.”
Coles has also been equally successful on the other end of the spectrum with young and less experienced horses. She caught the attention of the judges and established hunter professionals during the inaugural $157,990 USHJA Pre-Green Incentive Championship in mid-August when she guided Nilani Trent’s Autumn Rhythm to impressive placings in Lexington, Kentucky.
Coles and Autumn Rhythm placed fourth overall out of 107 entries during the first day of competition, qualifying them for the Championship Round. Coles was just behind eventual winner Hunt Tosh and ahead of renowned hunter pros Jennifer Alfano, Havens Schatt and Peter Pletcher in the standings.
“He couldn’t have gone any better at the Pre-Green Championship,” said Coles who also collected 15th place in the Championship Round. “I was very happy with his results, especially the first day. It was great to be a part of the first championship and to be among so many great hunter riders. He’s come a long way over the past few months, and I’m really proud that he stepped up to be seen as one of the best Pre-Green horses in the country.”
Coles has designed Spring Ledge LLC to offer a variety of custom training options for horses and riders, from those aspiring to top-level hunter/jumper competition to ship-in lessons for eventers and foxhunters wishing to hone their skills in the show ring. The Spring Ledge facility includes 20 stalls, an expansive indoor arena and outdoor ring, and ride-out in Orange County Hunt territory
“I really enjoy training young horses and helping people improve their relationships and skills with their horses,” said Coles. “It’s always about the relationships and discovering what works best for each partnership. If a horse or rider needs a unique approach in solving a problem or improving a performance, I’ll work hard to figure out that ideal way.”
While Coles is focused on growing a business, she hasn’t lost sight of her own riding goals and taking her talents wherever they might lead.
“My ultimate goal is to have top-level grand prix horses and a successful client base and sales program,” said Coles. “I also enjoy working with all types of horses, including Thoroughbreds for the show ring and hunt field.”