Ten Things Show Jumper Sloane Coles Has Learned From Riding In the Hunt Field

MASTER CLASS| By Nina Fedrizzi| May 1, 2017

Special thanks to Noelle Floyd Style for writing this feature on Sloane!

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Hunter/jumper rider Sloane Coles has certainly learned from the best. Not only did she grow up with two horse riding parents, she cut her teeth traveling the country and the world to train with some of the top names in the industry—from John and Beezie Madden to Mark Leone and Lauren Hough, and Belgian Olympian, Francois Mathy Sr.

Four years ago, Sloane decided to return to the place where she began: The Plains, Virgina, and the vast, rolling hills of Orange County hunt country where she works for top training facility, Spring Ledge Farm. And while, these days, Sloane is equally successful in the hunter and grand prix jumper rings, she hasn’t forgotten those important, early lessons she learned outside the arena, as a young rider growing up on horseback in Virginia’s bountiful countryside.

sloane and john coles

Sloane Coles and her father John Coles

“I [still] try to get out as often as I can,” Sloane says, adding that the picture below was taken just last fall.

Here are 10 riding lessons Sloane Coles has learned from the hunt field:

1. Changing position. 

Learning what to do with your weight and body as the different terrain and uphill/downhill gradient changes the balance of your horse.

2. How to ride at speed. 

What to do with your body, weight, and control at a much faster pace than you would in the show ring.

3. Developing feel. 

I learned to ride by the seat of my pants and worked at developing my natural feel in the field before I had many lessons in a ring.

4. Lean back! 

When leaning back and riding down a hill, it’s more about using the entire body weight behind you. Believe it or not, this is about much more than leaning back—it’s about getting every ounce of your weight behind your heels. Creating this subtle shift is a huge advantage in triple combinations in the show ring as well as when simply protecting a horse’s front end.

5. Letting go of the distance. 

In the field, it’s not a matter of looking for the perfect distance. What’s more important is concentrating on the obstacles behind the fence—ditch, stream or fallen tree—whatever it may be.

6. Gallop 101

Hunt riding has taught me how to truly gallop in all kinds of natural environments.

7. Trust. 

This one is simple, but if you don’t trust your horse, you aren’t going to get very far in this environment.

8. One-handed riding. 

Riding with one hand on the rein (one of my personal favorites!).

9. Love of the Thoroughbred.

The American Thoroughbred’s natural ability to gallop and jump in an open field is unmatched.

10. Enjoying the moment.

There’s nothing like the thrill of being able to experience the beautiful countryside by horseback!

Sloane Coles Foxhunting

Sloane Coles out fox hunting last season.

Springledge Starts WEF Strongly


Connor Husain and MTF Betina

The Springledge team of horses and riders, based in The Plains, Virginia, traveled to the Winter Equestrian Festival circuit in Wellington, Florida, for the 2017 winter season and has already enjoyed ample success during the first four weeks.

During WEF 1, held January 11-15 at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, Connor Husain earned Springledge’s first blue ribbon with victory in the Low Amateur-Owner Jumpers aboard MTF Betina. The pair sped to victory in a field of 75 competitors for an impressive win.

“She’s a really cool horse, and I get along with her really well,” said Connor, who purchased the bay mare in Europe where he spent the summer of 2016 training and showing. “I competed her there in the 1.35m speed classes, and she always placed well. She’s naturally quick without trying.”

After beginning his riding career in the eventing world and achieving international-level success at the Junior and Young Rider levels, Connor, 23, has transitioned full-time to show jumping and is working to rise up the levels in the discipline under the tutelage of trainer Sloane Coles.


Connor Husain and MTF Saint Simeon

“I’m currently showing in the Low and Medium Amateur-Owners and came to Florida to gain more experience,” he said. “In the eventing world I was pretty far along, but in show jumping I’m still facing a learning curve. I’m improving quickly now, but I’m still making small mistakes and hope to stay it this level until I get confirmed with the horses I have. My aspiration is to represent the United States on a senior team one day. I’m still a long way off, but I’m going to work hard to make that happen!”

Connor’s family owns Morningside Training Farm in The Plains, Virginia, a United States Equestrian Federation elite training center, with the mission to produce top three-day eventing students at all levels. When not on the road, Connor is based there with his string of horses, including Betina, Birmingham, MTF Saint Simeon and MTF Madame X.

Sloane enjoyed ribbons of her own during WEF 1, including 10th place in the $8,000 1.45m class aboard Esprit and seventh out of 51 in a 1.35m class riding Binja. Both horses are owned by The Springledge Group.

During WEF Weeks 2, 3 and 4, Springledge continued to achieve major goals and added more ribbons to the banner.


Sloane Coles and Binja

Highlights included Binja’s two blue ribbons in the 1.40m classes with Sloane aboard. During WEF 3, she outran a field of 33 for the top call,and during week 4 she repeated the victory over 22 challengers. Sloane found the 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Colandro—Naomie) in the Netherlands last summer and imported her as a sales horse.

“She’s stepped up and done the 1.45m classes, too,” said Sloane. “I think she’ll be a super Junior Jumper. She’s extremely fast. I actually didn’t set out to win both classes; she just turns so quickly and doesn’t take much time in the air, so she’s naturally fast. She’s a real competitor. I’ll continue to bring her along until a good kid comes along to buy her.”

Connor debuted  with MTF Saint Simeon during Week 1 in the Amateur-Owner Jumpers and moved up to the Medium level during Week 3, where he earned ribbons at the 1.35m level. During Week 4, the pair moved up to the 1.40m level during the Palm Beach Masters CSI3*, where they produced solid results.

“She’s very exciting,” said Sloane of Connor’s newest horse. “She’s going to be the horse he moves up with. They were great in the $25,000 1.40m this week. He had a couple of rails down, but he was solid from start to finish. Connor is riding great, and being able to get in the ring so often has allowed him to improve so quickly.”


Connor Husain and MTF Saint Simeon making their 1.40m debut.

During Week 4, February 1-5, Sloane and Esprit contested the $216,000 Ariat Grand Prix CSI4* out on the expansive grass field. “The jumps were huge!” said Sloane. “There were some 1.60m fences out there. We had a couple down, but I was thrilled. He tried really hard, and it’s so nice to be out there in that company. I’m especially proud to be able to do those kinds of classes on a horse that was bought as a Junior Jumper. I’m so lucky to have him!”

Sloane was also proud of Connor’s MTF Madame X , a 10-year-old mare he purchased to bring up the ranks. With Sloane aboard, the bay Oldenburg (Continio—Walona) placed fifth out of 43 in the $6,000 1.40m Speed Challenge.



Sloane Coles and MTF Madame X

“I’m really excited about her; she gives you an amazing feeling,” said Sloane. “Jumping is so easy for her, and she’s naturally careful. She’ll have a bright future with me or someone else. She’s only 10, and she’s very talented.”

Springledge will remain in Wellington through the 12-week WEF circuit, where Sloane is accepting new clients and horses.


Springledge South in Wellington, Florida


Winter Equestrian Festival 2016 Mid-Circuit


Spring Ledge riders and horses have enjoyed a wonderful winter so far on the 2106 Winter Equestrian Festival circuit in Wellington, Florida, with great ribbons in the Hunter and Jumper sections under the watchful eye of trainer Sloane Coles during weeks 1-6.

Nilani Trent and her hunter Autumn Rhythm garnered top ribbons in the Amateur-Owner, 18-35, sections, with especially impressive showings early in the circuit with wins in the 3’3″ section. The pair moved up to the 3’6″ height, and during the super competitive WCHR Week 6, they collected excellent scores and ribbons.


Nilani Trent and Autumn Rhythm

Nilani also guided her Casablanca 108 to consistent performances in the Adult Amateur Jumper, 18-35, section, with ribbons throughout the circuit.

Rocky Rochlin’s Fabricio 23 has also made his presence known in the hunters, with nice ribbons in the 3’6″ Performance Working Hunters with Sloane and in the 3’6″ Amateur-Owner, 36 and over, section with his owner.

Over in the jumper rings, Spring Ledge has found success as well. Rose Alba has been doing double duty in the Adult Amateur and Children’s Jumpers, earning ribbons with Alexandra and Madison Christina Warner. Bon Vivant and Helena Le Picart earned good prizes in the Medium Amateur-Owners, and Ilona has carried multiple riders to ribbons, including Gabriela Reutter and Robert Murphy.

Esprit and Sloane have continued on with their grand prix success, taking an impressive eighth place in the $50,000 WEF 6 National Grand Prix during, along with ribbons throughout the circuit in a variety of 1.35m and 1.40m classes.

Please enjoy the gallery of special moments (below) in and around the horse show. Best of luck to everyone at Spring Ledge for the remainder of the 12-week circuit!


New York Blues

Spring Ledge collected a variety of blue ribbons and championship rosettes during their time at the Lake Placid and I Love NY horse shows, held June 23-July 5 in Lake Placid, New York.


Nilani Trent and Autumn Rhythm

During the first week it was Autumn Rhythm who shined brightest in the hunters, taking top calls in the Green and Amateur-Owner 3’3″ sections with Sloane Coles and Nilani Trent, respectively.

“This was so exciting. It was her first time in the Amateur-Owners with him,” said Sloane. “Nilani won two over fences classes and the reserve championship. He just marched right around and was so consistent with her. She showed him at Old Salem (in May) in the Adults and was champion. He just jumps so well it’s hard for him not to win, and Nilani did a great job!”

Nilani also piloted her new horse Casablanca 108 to top ribbons in the Adult Amateur Jumpers. “Old Salem was their first show together, so they haven’t had much time to get to know each other, but they posted lots of clear rounds here,” said Sloane. “I wasn’t intending to buy her a 7-year-old, but this mare has the best attitude. She walks straight out of her stall to the ring with no preparation. She’s very mellow and does her job extremely well. I’m very excited about her. I’d like to show her a little, too, to see what she has in her and maybe jump a little bigger. It would be great if she could move up to the Low Amateur-Owners with Nilani in the future.”

In the 7-year-old Young Jumpers, The Windwood Group’s WEC Damokles picked up excellent ribbons, while their L’Ami Noir did the same in the 1.35m open jumpers.

During the second week’s I Love NY show, it was Sloane and The Spring Ledge Group’s Esprit who took center stage in the jumpers, claiming second in the $30,000 Welcome. “There were 11 in the jump-off, and I went last,” said Sloane. “I was conservative to fences 1 through 4 and then stepped on the gas for the last three fences to make up time. It was really exciting because I haven’t done many jump-offs with him. He’s so fast across the ground. I decided not to do the grand prix and instead save him for the third week’s $100,000 class on Friday (July 10).”



In the hunter ring, it was Sloane’s mom Julie Coles who hung a tricolor on the banner with top honors in the Adult Amateur, 50 and over, section. She guided the 13-year-old Odiel, owned by Janice Aron, to victory in three out of four over fences classes for the championship. Odiel started the year in the 1.40m jumpers but has successfully transitioned to the hunters this spring. The Spanish-bred earned the Performance Working Hunter 3’3″ Reserve Championship at Upperville and placed 12th in his first USHJA International Hunter Derby outing there.

“We weren’t planning on having my mom show him, but he did the High Performance the previous week and had gotten an 85 in the handy. So, I did him in the derby, and he was great. He just got a little jumpery over one fence,” said Sloane. “Since he didn’t do a division, I thought it would be good for him to go around and have some nice trips, and my mom gets along really well with him. They ended up winning, and it was the first time she’d ever shown him. She was amazing!”


Julie Coles and Odiel

While Sloane was up in New York, Assistant Trainer Lillibet Motion stayed in Virginia to hold down the fort and attend the Showday National in Culpeper, Virginia. There, she helped Rachel Paradise to top ribbons in the Junior Hunters aboard Island Life. Lillibet will remain in Culpeper for the Cavalier Classic, and Sloane will join her after she returns from New York.

A Great Upperville


Spring Ledge had another great year at Upperville! We are very lucky to have such a great show right around the corner from us, and we enjoy it every year.

We would like to congratulate all our riders and horses on their accomplishments! Nilani Trent’s Autumn Rhythm won two out of four over fences in the Second Year Green section and took home the championship! He also placed 10th in the $20,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby. Odiel, owned by Janice Aron, took 12th in the Derby with Sloane as well as some blues and a reserve championship in the 3’3” Performance Hunters.

Our amateurs and juniors had a great day in the hunters, with Julie Coles winning the Woodslane Farm Adult Amateur Hunter Classic with Atilla and Nilani Trent taking second in the Adult Amateurs on MVP. Rachel Paradise and Island Life also took home great ribbons in the junior hunters!

On the jumper side, we were very happy to debut L’Ami Noir in his first 1.50M class, jumping amazingly with only a cheap 4 faults. WEC Damokles took second in the 7-year-old  jumpers, and Le’Roi, owned by Olivia Pirovano, took home two blues in the schooling jumpers with Sloane. Madison Warner nabbed a third-placed ribbon in the Children’s Classic on her new mount Rose Alba. We would also like to congratulate her sister, Alexandra Warner, on a great first show with her new mount Accolade, owned by Skyler Voss! They put in a perfect double-clear round in the High Children’s and took eighth in the Classic.

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.