Leslie Career

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Leslie Burr Howard

By the age of four, Leslie Burr Howard already knew two things for certain: she liked horses and she liked speed. Stopwatch in hand, she’d throw her western saddle on her pony and time her rides as she raced around a track in her yard, trying to best her previous times. Without anyone to teach her, she was already headed for a goal – and after years of training and hard work, she would achieve Olympic Gold.

“My parents had no experience with horses and I was not brought up around horses, but fortunately for me I was fearless – I loved speed and loved a challenge. My parents decided when I was six that it was time for some formal lessons. Just a mile from where I lived was one of the top pony farms – Highfields Farm – and I got to ride with Sharyn Hardy-Cole and her brother, Thom Hardy, who rode for USET. I had access to a lot of great ponies and great teachers. I was just lucky that I fell into the right situation.”

At age 14 she began training with George Morris in nearby Pittstown, New Jersey. As a junior rider, just 15 years old, she won the 1972 ASPCA Maclay Finals at Madison Square Garden, laying the groundwork for success as an adult rider. She won AGA Horse of the Year awards in 1983 with Albany and in 1984 was named AGA Rider of the Year, a golden year indeed for she and Albany competed on the USET squad at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, and captured the Gold medal.

Gold Medalists Olympic Games Los Angeles 1984

Albany belonged to then 19-year-old Debbie Dolan, who was training with Leslie at the time (she later rode successfully at the international level). Leslie explains, “Albany was a horse we watched compete. He was a young, brilliant horse and we bought him for Debbie but she was not at that level yet. She was still riding Amateur Owner Jumpers, so I competed him while he was still quite inexperienced. He was a Thoroughbred and very scopey and brave.” After the pair won the 1983 horse and rider of year awards, they then led the 1984 Olympic Trials and “The Dolan family was nice enough to lend him to me.”

Two years later, she won the FEI World Cup Finals in Gothenburg, Sweden riding McLain, and was named American Horse Show’s Equestrian of the Year. She had another great horse loaned to her in 1992, when she took over the reins of the famed Gem Twist for injured rider Greg Best. The two won Horse of the Year. In 1994, Leslie again represented the U.S. at the World Equestrian Games in The Netherlands. She rode Gem Twist and Charisma to a 1st place tie in the USET Show Jumping Championships at the Bayer/USET Festival of Champions in Gladstone, NJ.

In 1996, Leslie again represented the United States at the Olympic Games, riding Jane Clarks Extreme. The U.S. took the team Silver Medal in Atlanta.

By 1997 Leslie had been honored by USET with the Whitney Stone Cup, and won the world’s richest Grand Prix event, the du Maurier Ltd. International at Spruce Meadows in Calgary riding S’Blieft. She represented the USET and won the first Samsung Nations Cup Series that year.

Her accomplishments have continued to place her high in the national standings, earning the Team Silver Medal at the Pan American Games in 1999, riding Jane Clarks Cloverleaf. Leading the USA East Coast FEI World Cup League in 2000, and winning the Queen Elizabeth II Cup in Calgary aboard Judy Garafalo’s Priobert de Kalvarie. She competed internationally and won several prestigious Grand Prix events in Europe including World Cup qualifiers in Amsterdam and S'Hertogenbosch.

Leslie’s most successful horses in the last 10 years have been Youp, Lennox Lewis II, and Utah. Youp was the first horse ever to win the WEF and the Grand Prix in the same week during the Winter Equestrian Festival. Youp and Lennox Lewis II were both fantastic derby mounts. They were both victorious in the prestigious Spruce Meadows derbies; the Chrysler Classic Derby and the Mercedes Benz Classic. Lennox Lewis II most recently won the Nexen Cup 1.60m Derby in 2013 at Spruce Meadows. Utah has been a four-time grand prix winning mount for Leslie, who most recently won the Ricoh Big Ben International Challenge at the Royal in Toronto. Leslie and Utah also represented the USET in the Nation’s Cup during the Spruce Meadows Masters

Tic Tac
Tic Tac. Silver spruce Meadows Nations Cup

Currently, Leslie's greatest successes have come with Jane Clark's Tic Tac. The pair were on the silver medal Nation's Cup team last year at Spruce Meadows, and they also competed in the World Cup Finals last year in Lyon, France. Additionally, Leslie and Tic Tac earned numerous Grand Prix placings and wins in the last year.

Leslie is based out of Redgate Farm in Newtown, Connecticut, with her company, Burr Associates Inc. It is a state-of-the-art Grand Prix training facility with two large Grand Prix fields, a sand arena, and an indoor arena. “It has every single obstacle imaginable,” says Leslie, including water jumps, liverpools, a graub, different types of ditches, and several types of banks. Ten employees work at the barn, which has been in operation for ten years, and is home to clients’ equitation horses and hunters as well as the jumpers. Leslie competed exclusively out of Fairfield County Hunt Club from 1978 until about ten years ago.

Parallel to her love of competing is her love of teaching, Leslie’s influence can be seen in the rides of some of today’s top Show Jumpers, including Kent Farrington, Molly Ashe Cawley, Christine Trible McCrea, Judy Garofalo Torres, Nicole Shahinian Simpson, Lisa Jacquin, Marley Goodman, Mary Shirley, and Debbie Dolan.

Tic Tac
Leslie and Tic Tac