Monday, February 19, 2018
Over the course of her career, dressage rider Leslie Morse has accomplished what most athletes only dream of. She’s represented the United States at five FEI World Cup Finals, earned a Team Bronze Medal at the FEI World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany, won the Exquis World Dressage Masters Grand Prix Special twice, was a two-time alternate to the U.S. Olympic team, and been a multiple National Grand Prix champion.
The California native’s journey to the top of the sport began when her grandparents took her to the pony rides when she was 9 years old. A passion for horses was born, and her parents bought her a $650 Appaloosa named Sunspots. She joined the Tarzana Pony Club and went on to earn her “B” rating—along the way, she participated in a USET clinic with Col. Bengt Ljungquist when she was just 14. After high school, she left California with one horse to study psychology in Kentucky, but a year later, Morse returned home with two horses in tow and a plan to launch a business. She did just that, teaching juniors and amateurs at Mill Creek Equestrian Center in Topanga, CA.
Morse trained for a year with Robert Dover, who was then based in California, with her Thoroughbred Classic Blend and her Oldenburg stallion Tantienne, and continued her education with such trainers as Major Anders Lindgren, Bert Rutten and Christilot Boylen. She soon expanded her clientele and began traveling to Europe to buy young horses. In competition, she found success with several mounts, including the American-bred, Dutch warmblood Greystoke, who was the USDF Intermediaire I and II Horse of the Year.
For many, Morse’s partnership with the Oldenburg-approved Dutch stallion Kingston (Voltaire—Gisnette, Burggraaf) embodied what the sport is all about. She found him as a gawky 8-year-old in Europe, and immediately saw his potential. Their bond found full flower in their musical freestyle routine, performed to the dramatic score from “The Pirates of the Caribbean,” which perfectly expressed the dark bay stallion’s larger-than-life presence. He was a USDF Horse of the Year, and he and Leslie were twice named as U.S. Olympic team alternates.
Where Kingston was all power and personality, Morse’s other stallion, the Swedish warmblood Tip Top 962 (Master 850—Hortensia, Chagall), was elastic and dynamic. Morse purchased “TT” as an 8-year-old from her longtime trainer/mentor Kyra Kyrklund, with whom he was Swedish Young Dressage Horse Champion three times in a row. Morse trained him up to Grand Prix, and the pair represented the U.S. twice in the FEI World Cup Final, and in 2006, they were members of the bronze medal-winning team at the FEI World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany.
Outside the show ring, Morse built on her international dressage success and her experience handling and training stallions, and developed a successful breeding program, with Kingston and Tip Top as sires. Among their progeny is the recognized Swedish warmblood gelding Tip Top’s Sterling, the mare King’s Ruby, and the gelding King’s Excalibur.
After suffering two injuries, which precipitated a chronic pain condition, Morse took a break from competition and her breeding operation. But she is fit and riding again, and looking forward to offering personalized clinics to trainers and their students on how to develop and improve rider seat, feel and effectiveness as well as helping competitors fine-tune their riding. Says Morse, “I want to share what I’ve learned through the years. I love teaching horsemanship and the art of feel to riders.”
Leslie Morse’s Career Highlights:
- Team Bronze Medal at the World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany
- 5 FEI World Cup Finals
- 2-time Team Bronze Medal winner at the Aachen CHIO Nations’ Cup
- 2-time winner of the Grand Prix Special at the Exquis World Dressage Masters, Hickstead, England, and Palm Beach, FL
- 2-time Grand Prix and Grand Prix Freestyle Champion at Horses & Dreams in Hagen, Germany
- 5-time U.S. National Grand Prix Champion
- 2-time alternate for the U.S. Olympic dressage team