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 prestigious Grand Prix events in Maastricht as well as World Cup Qualifiers in Amsterdam and s'Hertogenbosch

Leslie has won the prestigious Spruce Meadows Derby multiple times aboard Youp, S’blieft and Lennox Lewis with Lennox winning a record four times, the final time being in 2013. Utah was a four-time Grand Prix winner including the Big Ben Challenge at the Royal in Toronto and helped the team to a Silver Podium finish at the Nations Cup of Spruce Meadows.

Leslie set another milestone when she competed TicTac at the Spruce Meadows Masters Nations Cup in 2017 where they captured Silver. This event made her the only person to have ridden under four US Chefs d’Equipe: Bertelan de Nemethy, Frank Chapot, George Morris and Robert Ridland.

Tic Tac

In 2020 Leslie broke another record when, by winning Grand Prix events in Tryon aboard Donna Speciale, she marked victories spanning six decades, her first victory being the Presidents Cup in 1979 in Washington DC.
In 2020 Leslie was inducted into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame.

Tic Tac

Parallel to her love of competing is her love of teaching and Leslie’s influence can be seen in the rides of some of today’s top Show Jumpers and USET team riders including Kent Farrington, Molly Ashe Cawley, Christine Tribble McCrea, July Garofalo Torres, Nicole Shahinian Simpson, Lisa Jacquin and Debbie Dolan.

Leslie continues to train out of her top-class equestrian facility in Wellington FL which she owns with her husband Peter Howard. Bringing both young riders and horses to a top competitive level is still her passion. Sharing training and riding duties with her is her dedicated and talented assistant Jad Dana.