As the Olympic Games commence on Aug. 8, horse enthusiasts worldwide will tune in to follow the exciting stories of athletes who represent the peak of equestrian ability and training.
While their talent, drive and determination will certainly be highlighted, there’s another factor often overlooked when reporters try to capture the exhilarating story of backyard rider to Olympic medalist. Very few riders would ever have the chance to stand on a podium without generous owners who pay enormous sums of money to buy exceptional horses and provide them with the best of everything.
I’m as guilty of that omission in my articles as anyone else. I try to mention the owners, but I seldom have space to say more. That’s why I was honored to write about Leslie Malone and Harmony Sporthorses (p. 8). Leslie is a self-effacing individual who doesn’t own horses for glory or fame. She doesn’t compete herself, but she likes to pair promising young horses with talented riders. She thinks in terms of the big picture, and she’s supporting dressage and dressage riders with a plan to make the sport better in the United States from the bottom up.
Courtney King-Dye was just one rider on a list of talented equestrians that Leslie reached out to help. Leslie hadn’t even met Courtney when she first purchased a horse for her, but Leslie went out on a limb for an exceptional young professional, and now Courtney will represent her country in this year’s Olympic Games aboard a Harmony horse.
Leslie certainly isn’t the only dedicated owner out there. Some people own just one special horse, or even part of a horse, while others have the means to keep multiple deserving equestrians mounted with many options. But I think most riders would agree that no matter what level of support an owner can provide, their help is invaluable.
Unfortunately, it seems like the only time we hear about the owners is when they receive negative press. If someone decides to sell a horse out from under a top rider for an enormous sum of money, then critics are quick to label that person unfaithful, unpatriotic or greedy. Never mind that the owner has already poured thousands of dollars into training, veterinary care and board, perhaps with the express hope of helping a rider and making some profit in the end. Worse yet, if an owner decides he or she would like to actually ride the fancy mount that’s out there winning in the show ring, then the railbirds have a field day if the horse’s performance suffers in the slightest.
It’s easy to forget that the owners exist, except as a name attached to a horse. And when you think about owners at all, you might feel envious because, after all, most owners are wealthy people who can not only afford a nice horse for themselves, but can also buy and support a quality horse for someone else.
But instead of ignorance or envy, it’s time to celebrate our owners. What would our Olympic teams look like without the generous people who pay the horses’ way? We don’t all have the means to own a horse for someone else—or sometimes even for ourselves—but we can all appreciate those people who make our equestrian sport possible at the highest level.
Sara Lieser, Editorial Staff