“Two weeks after we met, we had our first show,” said Anne Gribbons about her new partnership with the Dutch warmblood stallion Leoliet. By the sixth week, the duo was competing in their third show, the Zada Enterprises, LLC WEF Dressage Classic CDI***/Y, March 13-16 in Wellington, Florida, and scoring well in two CDI classes – the Prix St. Georges (66.4%) and Intermediaire I (65.5%) for 8th and 11th place respectively. “So far he’s been very kind and very consistent, so we hope that that continues. But you know with horses, especially a stallion, there’s the ring and outside the ring – and you need to get to know all about him, so we are ‘getting to know you’,” she sings in tune.
Judy Bernier has owned Leoliet, an eight-year-old, 16.3-hand, bay by Zeoliet out of Dorien (a Roemer mare), since he was imported as a young horse. Initially, Tom Noone showed him in Young Horse classes, but it was Canadian Shannon Oldham-Dueck who did the major training and created a well-known and successful partnership. “She is really the one who taught him everything he knows and she should have all the credit in the world for that,” states Anne, “because he is, although a magnificent horse, not easy, and like all breeding stallions, he has agendas of his own, and they are never the same two days in a row.”
A Little Romance
Recently, when Shannon decided that she needed to be in Europe this year to concentrate on Korona, her Grand Prix horse, she realized that Leoliet’s career might not fit into her plan, so she gave up her ride on him. Owner Judy Bernier, a client of Anne’s, is also the owner of several other horses in Anne’s barn, including Metallic, who was Robert Dover’s mount at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Anne had ridden Leoliet when he was six years old and was offered the ride on him then, but did not accept.
“I had promised myself that my years of riding breeding stallions were over,” said Anne. “Therefore, at that point I thanked her very much and I said, ‘No – find him a rider that is stronger and younger and would like that challenge’. We stood 15 breeding stallions over the years (at Knoll Farm) and I rode at least 10 to 12 of them in competition, and I promised I’d never do that again!”
But as fate would have it, Leoliet came back to Anne’s barn and while she was trying to figure out who should take over his competition career, she rode him. “Somehow we started to like each other. And so far, we really have a little romance going. You never know how long the honeymoon is going to be. But one thing that I know from riding stallions – you have to suck up to them,” said Anne, and added with a laugh, “So there’s plenty of sucking up going on!"
Enjoying the Ride
So far Anne’s strategy is paying off. At their first show together, the Zada Enterprises, LLC Southern Comfort show at Clarcona Park near Orlando, Florida, Leoliet was the High Point Champion of all FEI classes. Three weeks later, at the Palm Beach Dressage Derby CDI***/Y in Loxahatchee, Florida, Leoliet placed third in the I-I with a score of 70.50%, and fourth in the Prix St. Georges. “He’s been very consistent with his scores,” said Anne. “So far, so good.”
At this point Anne has not set any goals for Leoliet while they get to know each other, but he does remind her of one of her international superstars. “I call him the same thing as the one stallion that I ever loved that I rode, and I’ll never forget him, Leonardo II,” said Anne. “I adored that horse and I’ll tell you, this one is also a ‘Leo’ – and I call him the same thing, ‘Leo’.” In the early 1990s, Anne successfully competed Leonardo II in Europe and the US, finishing fifth in the 1994 USET Grand Prix standings.
“I have a lot of respect for Shannon’s work and for her decision,” said
Anne. “She handled that very well, and Judy understands. And I, so far, am enjoying the ride!”
Mary Hilton for DressageDaily.com