Sloane Coles Takes Three Top Placings at Blue Rock


Sloane Coles and L’Ami Noir

Sloane Coles made her presence known during the $25,000 Blue Rock Classic Grand Prix when she collected the second, fourth and fifth places with her mounts. The grand prix was a featured event during the Blue Rock Classic Horse Show, May 13-17 at Swan Lake in Littlestown, Pennsylvania.

Mary Lisa Leffler’s name topped the leader board with Carlot, owned by Rolling Acres, but Sloane gave it a gallant effort aboard her three talented grand prix partners.

“I think [Catsy Cruz, the course designer] did a really good job with the course,” said Sloane in a Phelps Sports article. “The last line was difficult; it was a really steady four strides. A lot of people had trouble there. My chestnut horse that I was fourth on his name is Espirit, and he’s my best horse. I jumped clear with him at the Old Salem Grand Prix [New York]. He jumped super, but I was so worried about him on the four that I leaned back on him in the air and got the vertical down behind.”

Sloane had much better luck when she returned seven trips later aboard L’Ami  Noir, owned by The Windwood Group. She and the 7-year-old Holsteiner gelding were the first to compete the first-round course without faults, but they fell victim to one rail in the jump-off, finishing with 4 faults in 45.16 seconds. Leffler and Carlot jumped clear for the victory.

“He’s just really talented,” said Coles of L’Ami Noir. “I’m lucky to have him. I think he’s kind of ready to step up. I don’t want to go too fast with him. He will hopefully do some of the smaller grand prix classes this summer in Kentucky. He has all of the ability, and he is a big horse that covers a lot of ground. He’s a winner.”

Other top placings for Spring Ledge included: Atilla, who was seventh in the USHJA National Hunter Derby with Sloane and won the NAL/WIHS/M&S Adult Hunter Classic with Julie Coles in the irons. Rose Alba and Madison Warner were fourth in their first 1.0M jumper class together, and Alexandra Warner went clear in NAL/WIHS/M&S Children’s Jumper Classic with Strike The Code.


Strike The Code in the Adult Jumpers in 2015 and racing at Gulf Stream in 2011.

$25,000 Blue Rock Classic Grand Prix

1. Carlot/Mary Lisa Leffler/0-0/46.50

2. L’Ami Noir/Sloane Coles/0-4/45.16

3. Cellisto/Kirk Webby/0-8/42.65

4. Esprit/Sloane Coles/4/77.72

5. Bailey VI/Sloane Coles/4/79.06

Awesome Old Salem


Nilani Trent with MVP, left, and Autumn Rhythm

Spring Ledge riders had a great time at the gorgeous Old Salem Farm I Horse Show, May 5-10 in New York! Sloane was eighth in the $35,000 New York Welcome Stake Grand Prix riding Esprit and second aboard The Windwood Group’s WEC Damokles in the 7-Year-Old Young Jumpers. Sloane was also fourth in the 1.40m on The Windwood Group’s L’Ami Noir and sixth on Janice Aron’s Bailey VI.


Sloane Coles on L’Ami Noir


Nilani Trent also had quite the week, taking both champion and reserve honors in the Adult Amateur, 18-35, Hunter section on her own Autumn Rhythm (in their first time out in the adults together!) and Amelia McArdle’s MVP, respectively. Nilani was also double clear on her new mount, Casablanca 108, in their first Adult Amateur jumper class together! Congrats to all!

Dutch Chain Letter



Sloane Coles was asked to participate in a Dutch chain letter by Mark Leone, talking about her experiences riding in America. The translated text is below and consists of her experiences, and then her passing the letter on to François Mathy.

Dear Mark,

In the American system of riding, equitation is an important basic and is used as a building block toward the Grand Prix level. I have been lucky enough to be trained by a number of very talented equitation trainers. For me, that was the foundation of my junior career and is the basis of my riding. I started in the equitation at the age of 10 and competed in it for 10 years until I was no longer eligible. I truly believe that my experiences in the equitation ring have made me the rider I am now.

In America, the basis of equitation competition is judging the rider. There are pieces of dressage that are incorporated, and like dressage an equitation course requires perfect execution of highly technical courses. Equitation classes are very complex competitions that require an exact number of strides between fences and a perfectly consistent length of stride throughout the entire course. In addition, the horse has to jump all the fences the same. While the fences might not be high (about 1.20m) perfection is what counts as it confirms the connection between you and your horse as that is what allows you to execute a flawless round.

While generally time plays no role, in some equitation classes there is a maximum allowed time. However, a rider is always judged on the accuracy of the ride and the performance of the horse and rider as a pair. That is one of the reasons why American young riders come out of their junior careers with such a strong basis. As a result, I have learned that at the end of the day the equitation classes will always be the day-to-day experience. The problem is that in our country and our sport the equitation is so expensive that sometimes junior riders have to choose between competing in the jumpers or the equitation. Unfortunately, everything around our sport is just very expensive in America because of the management of the horses and riding competitions. This makes progression in our sport difficult.

American young riders all have a similar goal of representing their country in team competition and benefitting from the training that team members receive. Competing in Europe is also a big goal for many. In Florida, there are new Grand Prix classes that only riders under a certain age are eligible for. The top five may then compete in Europe. For many riders, the hardest part of competing in Europe is the high costs. To get there, horses must be shipped to an airport, flown overseas, and then stabled in Europe. Affording all of this requires a good sponsor.

It is hard to find sponsors when a rider is just starting out at the Grand Prix level. The exception to this is riders whose parents are already in the business or whose parents support them financially. If this is not the case, this road can take a lot longer. It is a valuable experience for any rider to compete in Europe, especially representing their country in team competition. When I competed in Europe, I rode a lot of practice courses. During my stay I also had the option of going to competitions with courses of 1.20-1.30m and 1.40m. Unfortunately, we don’t have that here. I wish that we did have these kinds of small competitions in America, because they allow you to develop your young horses. Most American riders who travel to Europe usually go to the biggest three-, four- or five-star events.

In America, obtaining sponsorships doesn’t depend on how well you ride. A large part depends on your personality and your interactions with people around you. You have to be hungry and take the chance in order to ask someone if they want to buy a horse for you. It doesn’t happen if you are not asking. You have to go to dinner parties and social events to get people excited and invested in you and your future. It is also important to surround yourself with good staff and good connections. You need people who can help you manage your business and can contact people to ask if they wish to be involved with your career. In America, there are plenty of people who ride very well but still don’t have a sponsor. That’s the difference in America. For a large part riding is important, but you always need to remember that there are other aspects involved. It’s not just about talent, you need to also have a good team around you.

It’s hard to find a sponsor even at the higher levels, but it’s also difficult for the sponsors themselves. They have to not only to buy a horse, but also finance that horse all year round as the horse travels and goes to competitions. You don’t earn any money at first while teaching your 6- and 7-year-old horses. The cost for keeping and competing a young horse is enormous and much more expensive than the horse itself. You only earn money when you start winning Grand Prix events. You must be lucky with your sponsors and find people that go for the sport rather than for the business. A lot of people earn money buying and selling horses for juniors and amateurs, not bringing young horses up through the ranks.

Two years ago I started my own business, and I am lucky enough to have made a good start. My parents own the stable where I work. I ride about 15 horses for sponsors and a few that my parents and I own together. I also take on clients to train. Usually, all of my horses go to competitions because in America there is no limit to the number of horses you can compete. I would love to have more young horses, but it is not possible right now because of how expensive it is to campaign them. I think we really need to look in to changing the management and cost of competitions in America.

While my goal is to eventually ride in European competition, I first want to give myself time to settle in to American competition at the national Grand Prix level and build my pool of sponsors. I do want to go to Europe, but only if I’m going to be successful. Currently I ride an 8-year-old gelding named L’ami Noir (v. Cormint), and I am optimistic about his suitability for the highest levels of international competition.

I wish to pass on the chain letter to horse dealer François Mathy from Belgium whom I worked with for eight months. In 1976, he was an international show jumping rider and medaled at the Montreal Olympics in both individual and team competition. For me it was a great experience to work with him. I learned a lot about the business side of things and that gave me the confidence to start my own. François Mathy is also known for selling Sapphire (v. Darco) to McLain Ward.

Dear François,

What do you miss the most about competing? What advice would you give a young horse dealer? What advice would you give to a young professional rider? Tell us about your other animals on the farm besides hoses?

Best Regards,
Sloane Coles

Sloane Coles and Autumn Rhythm Claim Devoucoux Win


Sloane Coles and Autumn Rhythm claimed the first $5,000 Devoucoux Hunter Prix at HITS Culpeper, April 22, with scores of 85 and 84 to total 169.

“It was a nice class,” said Coles. “Autumn Rhythm, my second-year horse, performed beautifully. He did everything he was asked.”

In the first round, going third-to-last, Coles and the 9-year-old gelding, owned by Nilani Trent, handily earned the top score.

Coles and Autumn Rhythm returned last in the second round, earning a score of 84, which was not the top score of the round—that went to third-placed finisher Winn Alden and Spirit, owned by E.S. Equine Broker LLC, who earned an 85—but Coles and Autumn Rhythm’s combined total was enough to place them first. Alden and Spirit had a score of 80 in the first round, for a two-round total of 165.

Second-placed finisher Jeffrey Ayers and Romantik, owned by Nina Leopold, received scores of 83 and 82.5 to total 165.5.

Coles continued, “There were some nice bending lines. A normal, nice hunter course with some extra fences. It was well presented.”

The Devoucoux Hunter Prix is a qualifier for the Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final at the HITS Championship, September 2-6 at HITS-on-the-Hudson in Saugerties, New York.

Coles’ goal is to qualify Autumn Rhythm for the Final. “I’m working on my schedule so I can get qualified,” she said.

Winter Equestrian Festival

Spring Ledge riders and horses enjoyed a wonderful winter on the Winter Equestrian Festival circuit in Wellington, Florida. In addition to ribbons and trophies, everyone collected fond memories and made great progress toward their competitive goals. We look forward to a great 2015 show season and congratulate you all for starting out the year so strongly!

Summer of 2014

Spring Ledge LLC enjoyed an incredibly successful summer show season with victories from Virginia to Vermont to New York. Highlights included:

The Hampton Classic (New York):

  • Nilani Trent’s Autumn Rhythm, First Year Green Hunter Champion with rider Sloane Coles

Vermont Summer Festival: Vermont Summer Celebration

  • Nilani Trent’s Autumn Rhythm, Green Working/High Performance Hunter Champion with rider Sloane Coles
  • Julie Coles’ Cobalt, second in the $15,000 NEHJA Hunter Derby Qualifier with rider Sloane Coles
  • Backlick Bend Farm’s Mae, 1.30m Open Jumper Champion
  • Sloane Coles and Baloucat, second place in the $10,000 Brooks Brothers Welcome Stake and sixth in the $50,000 Vermont Summer Celebration Grand Prix

Vermont Summer Festival: Manchester In The Mountains

  • Amelia McArdle’s MVP, Adult Amateur Hunter, 18-35, Reserve Champion with rider Nilani Trent
  • Julie Coles and Cobalt, class winner in the 3’6″ Amateur-Owner Hunter, 36 and over, section

Vermont Summer Festival: Valley Classic

  • Rachel Paradise and Island Life, 3’3″ Junior Hunter Reserve Champions
  • Nilani Trent’s Autumn Rhythm, class winner in the Working Hunter Combined section and second place in the $5,000 NEHJA Hunter Derby Qualifier with rider Sloane Coles
  • Julie Coles and Cobalt, class winner in the 3’6″ Amateur-Owner Hunter section
  • Sloane Coles and Baloucat, winner of the $10,000 Overland Sheepskin Co. Welcome Stake and ninth place in the $30,000 Mount Equinox Grand Prix

Lake Placid & I Love New York:

  • William Upton’s Midnight Dance, Adult Amateur Jumper, over 40, Champion and winner of the Adult Jumper Classic with rider Julie Coles
  • Nilani Trent’s Autumn Rhythm, class winner in the First Year Green Hunter section

Upperville Colt & Horse Show (Virginia):

  • Alexandra Wolf’s Mae, 6-year-old Young Jumper Champion with rider Sloane Coles
  • Samantha Hallman and Chester, High Adult Amateur Jumper Reserve Champions
  • Nilani Trent’s Autumn Rhythm, winner in the First Year Green Hunter section and sixth place in the $20,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby with rider Sloane Coles

Julie Coles Wins at Lake Placid

Marty Bauman for

Lake Placid, New York-June 28, 2014–Alexandra Cherubini and Julie Coles won the two sections of the Crowne Plaza Resort NAL & WIHS Adult Jumper Classics, Saturday’s featured events at the 45th annual Lake Placid Horse Show, Presented by Sea Shore Stables.


Riding EquiFit Carlos, Cherubini won the 18-40 year-old section over a 36-horse field by riding fault-free over the first-round course designed by Olaf Petersen, Jr. and then completing the jump-off fault-free in 40.913 seconds. Coles topped a 13-horse field in the Over 40-year-old section by riding fault-free over the first-round course and then completing the jump-off fault-free in 43.711 seconds on Midnight Dance.

The NAL (North American League) offers year-long Series in five divisions – Children’s Hunter, Adult Hunter, Children’s Jumper Presented by EquiFit, Adult Jumper presented by SmartPak and Low Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper. The Series includes classes held at hundreds of horse shows across the United States and Canada. The NAL hosts two year-end finals — National Finals at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show in Harrisburg, PA in October, and West Coast Finals at the Las Vegas National Horse Show in Las Vegas, NV, in November.

Sloane Coles Drops Stirrups for Gladstone Program

George Morris Drops the Stirrups to Pin Point Positioning at Gladstone Program

Gladstone, NJ – May 23, 2014 – The fourth day of the George H. Morris Gladstone Program opened to a brisk breeze and 60-degree weather. With the horses feeling fresh, riders had to be on point as they mounted sans stirrups for the morning sessions with the world-renowned horseman. Although the riders would not face the imposing obstacles from the previous day’s sessions, Morris would test both horse and rider mentally and physically with exercises on the flat to improve aids and balance.

Proponents of no-stirrup riding, including Morris, argue that riding in this fashion is natural. It allows the rider to sit over the shoulder and just behind the withers, increasing communication with the horse considerably, while improving balance. Riders adjusted the bridge of their reins, keeping the outside a touch shorter than the inside, putting the excess rein or “bight” to the outside. The horses maintained straightness with help from the outside hand, with each rider moving forward with impulsion at the free walk.

Morris explained, “Riders, myself included tend to slip back in their position and seat, For this first position, I want your hand on the pommel of the saddle, and pull your two seat bones deep into the saddle while lengthening the legs. Your leg should be slightly behind the girth, keeping impulsion at the walk.”

Although the clinic has focused deeply on the suppleness of the horse for the past three days, today Morris redirected his attention to the suppleness of the riders. He introduced a series of exercises that are beneficial to riders of all levels, working through the ankles, legs, crotch, arms, shoulders and neck. Riders rotated their toes clockwise and counter clockwise three to four times while keeping the leg perfectly steady.

Sloane Coles rewards WEC L'Ami Noir during the Gladstone Program

Sloane Coles rewards WEC L’Ami Noir during the Gladstone Program

The scissors implementation, allowed the riders to open and close their legs to the sides while helping to stretch the adductor muscle group and the legs in entirety. The exercise is very challenging, bringing the legs to a 45-degree angle simultaneously, and Morris only had the riders perform it five times.

“You can never grow out of these exercises, they not only help to make you supple, but they allow the horse to trust you. It is important that the horse always trust its rider,” Morris commented as he asked the riders to move their arms in a circle, brushing the horse’s neck and flank lightly. “You want them to feel content, and trusting. Pat their neck, and lightly brush their flank so they don’t confuse your hand with the whip.”

The riders picked up a slow trot, still holding a forward position, and Morris asked them to rise to the trot. It was very short-lived though, as Morris acknowledged how physically taxing the posting trot is without stirrups. The riders moved through a succession of the volte, ranging about 8 meters in diameter, completing circles at an interval while keeping the horse’s forehand and hindquarters on the same track.

The riders worked with feeling the horse in the hand, pushing the horse with their legs while allowing them to stretch for the bit. As the riders worked on downward transitions, Morris focused on the details of positioning during each, always focusing on keeping the horse in front of the leg.

“The half-halt is the crux of riding,” Morris said as riders transitioned from trot to walk and walk to halt. “The basis of the half-halt is in the hand. It is like you are squeezing a lemon or a sponge. You must close your hand and make a fist. If you need a stronger half-halt, add the arm, if you need to be even stronger use your weight. The French have a great term-stretch the spine. I love that saying. It tells you that you must drive your seat into the saddle.”

Morris then asked the riders to complete leg-yields and half-passes as part of the lateral schooling. “The purpose of lateral work is to get the horse coming from behind, this is horse training,” he said. “This is why I am in the sport, not because I have won numerous equitation, hunter and jumper championships, but because of the horse training.”

The final part of the morning sessions included counter-cantering while using outside aids to correctly ask for a lead change. Morris expected each rider to keep their horse straight while asking for the lead change on the track with their inside leg and outside leg, contrary to popular teachings. Morris had the opportunity to work Brittni Raflowitz’s horse from the first group session, and Savannah Talcott’s horse from the second mounted session.

As he walked each of the horses at a free walk, it was apparent that they were content and submissive to his legs and hands. “Do you see how the horse is relaxed? It’s not from exhaustion, not from lunging, not from drugging, but from riding. See how she snorts, she is happy and that is her purr.”

Morris finished the session with words of wisdom for his students and spectators, “Our goal is perfection, we won’t ever reach perfection, but that is our goal. The best professionals reach their goals because they set their standards high.”

Day five of the clinic will review the principals that the students learned throughout the week, preparing them for the major day of jumping on Sunday morning. They had the unique opportunity to meet with United States Show Jumping Team Veterinarian, Dr. Tim Ober, DVM for a veterinary session Friday afternoon where Ober discussed the importance of proper riding and veterinary implementation in a program.

“The foundation of what I have to say builds on what George and Dr. Heuschmann have been saying, that proper riding and balance go hand-in-hand in reducing the need for a veterinarian to be involved too frequently in the care of their horse,” Ober explained. “The best way that a veterinarian can complement you and your horse in the sports industry is to help you to be proactive and preventative about injuries. If you are riding well, your horses are fit, and your vet is helping you get on top of small details, your injury rate will go down, there is no question about that.”

“I think that these clinics, and these programs are opening rider’s eyes to standards and common approaches that George and others would like to see adopted in the U.S. I think that shift will have to be nurtured and developed over time, and these clinics are fundamental,” Ober concluded. “How these clinics are getting adopted more and more throughout the year is the next evolution of this.”

The United States Equestrian Team Foundation ( is the non-profit organization that supports the competition, training, coaching, travel and educational needs of America’s elite and developing international, high-performance horses and athletes in partnership with the United States Equestrian Federation.

Sloane Coles Fine Tunes Her Performance in Gladstone

George H. Morris Gladstone Program Pushes 10 Riders to New Limits Focusing for Future International Competition

Gladstone, NJ – May 22, 2014 – The third day of the George H. Morris Gladstone Program educated both horse and rider alike as the renowned horseman put the 10 riders through rigorous tests and challenges both on the flat and over fences. The devil is in the details provided the main focus for today’s morning mounted sessions, with Morris focusing on the miniscule to enhance the eventual outcome of the riding pairs.

On the flat, riders practiced classical dressage, drastically furthering the suppleness of their horses with serpentine, shoulders in and out, haunches in and out, and flying lead changes on a straight line. Yesterday’s lessons on forward positioning continued into today’s teachings, and although the forward position is no longer “in style” as Morris commented, he preaches a forward seat for the welfare of the horse and contact of the rider in the saddle.

George Morris adjusts Sloane Coles' stirrup during the Gladstone session.

George Morris adjusts Sloane Coles’ stirrup during the Gladstone session.

“People are too busy these days to study,” Morris said while shaking his head. “They go to horse show after horse show. Everything we learned at Gladstone so many years ago is extinct. Everybody should read and learn everything that they can. I was fortunate enough to start and stay at the top of the sport. I am 76 years old, and I had one great teacher after another throughout my career, but I supplemented my knowledge on the horse with knowledge in the books.”

Morris focused on working with the riders to use the aids of classical dressage, counter cantering and completing flying lead changes by using the inside leg and the outside rein. He executed the exercise aboard Sloane Coles’ horse, balancing and straightening the horse and demonstrating a perfect flying change down each parallel of the ring as Brittni Raflowitz, Jacob Pope, Maggie McAlary, and Scott Lico followed in suit.

Morris asked each of the riders what they have observed, Pope answered, “I have really learned about the emphasis of the outside aids. They are a big part of what George has been saying. When we were doing the flying lead changes, so many of us wanted to pull on the inside rein to get the change, which is what we were taught, but when you use the outside aids it keeps them straight and you get a true lead change. I also think it is interesting that you get the horse straight by bending.”

After working Coles’ horse in the first group, Morris got down to the details. Correcting the positions of Coles’ foot in the stirrup iron, commenting on the importance of maintaining a 90-degree angle next to the girth with one quarter of the foot in the iron while keeping the outside branch slightly ahead of the inside. Once the riders had shortened their stirrups and checked their girths for jumping, he had them begin with a lesson on impulsion.

The exercise began over a liverpool set with two wings on the side. Since the fence was positioned in the far corner, the riders had to move forward. The first couple of times the riders approached the fence behind the horse, teaching self-courage. Once the horse was confident, riders substituted leg for the seat allowing the horses to think forward.

Morris continued to challenge the groups with variations of fences, including a birch cross rail, an imposing double combination, and the liverpool. Each part of the exercise forced the riders to adjust their strides in an attempt to collect and lengthen while continuing their knowledge of the small details to assist with impulsion. When they were confirmed, the water obstacle was introduced.

“This is all about educating the horse, using different fences and using self initiative to make the horse carry us,” Morris said. “You must think of the future, assisting the horse and training to prevent. You spend the first half of the horse’s life training them to jump the water, and the second half of their life trying not to touch it.”

Using repetition the riders completed each of the exercises until Morris would smile and announce, “A horse can’t jump better than that. They just can’t jump better. Horses need to jump for a reason, when they have learned, stop jumping. Do not over jump. ”

Only one variation in the second group, consisting of Alec Bozorgi, Karina Busch, Katie Cox, Christi Israel and Savannah Talcott, separated the morning’s lessons–the angle fence, which proved problematic for several of the riders. Each rider had to take the cross rail and use a left drift to angle correctly to the grey wall as part B of the double combination. Busch’s horse, more inexperienced than its clinic counterparts, ran out on the obstacle several times, but Morris corrected the refusal with the inside leg and outside rein, moving the horse forward through the exercise. When the horses were ready, Morris added the triple bar to the progression, focusing on the double combination where the riders had to collect and stay straight.

“The United States forgot to be serious,” Morris stated. “That’s why we have big owners going to Europe for riders. Why would you want to have a kindergartener ride your horse when you could have a graduate? We got cocky, fat and happy. The U.S. has become content with business and money, losing the competitiveness of the sport.”

In the afternoon the riders put their horses away, working on basic stable management with Barn Manager, Janus Marquis. After a lunch break the 10 riders met with Lee and Erica McKeever to discuss planning for success before preparing for a unique movie night where the groups would watch the 1960 Rome Olympics with Morris commentating, including his own riding in the competition arena.

Pope commented, “This program has been a great learning experience, it is great to make connections, and I am so honored to be here. Obviously, George Morris is the main reason that this clinic is such a big deal, but the fact that this program is at the USET Foundation Headquarters in Gladstone is extremely special. There is so much history, and it is pretty impressive to be here and bring you back to your roots.”

The United States Equestrian Team Foundation ( is the non-profit organization that supports the competition, training, coaching, travel and educational needs of America’s elite and developing international, high-performance horses and athletes in partnership with the United States Equestrian Federation.

For more information on the USET Foundation, please call (908) 234-1251, or visit USET ONLINE at