Rider Connect from Bit of Britain: Laura Leitch

Photo credit: Vincent Wong

 

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Rider Connect from Bit of Britain: Laura Leitch

Today’s featured rider is Laura Leitch, a University student who only began Eventing two years ago and is already successfully competing at the Training level.

If you would like to be featured in Rider Connect, email me.

 

Get to know Laura
I am 24-years-old and have been riding since I was nine – sometimes I wonder how different my life would be if my parents had said “no” when I first asked if I could go to horse camp. Outside of horses, I am finishing the last course for my Bachelor of Science degree, with a biology major; and no I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up! I am extremely lucky to have parents that love the horses as much as I do, and are quite involved. According to the horses, my mom is the best treat lady ever, which trumps my opinion of best horse show mom ever. My dad spends almost as much time at the barn as I do, cleaning and fixing anything and everything, scratching every horse he sees, and riding.

I am also involved with a therapeutic riding facility, Pacific Riding for Developing Abilities. Initially, I was just looking for volunteer experience, but six years later I’ve made some great friends, love what we do and look forward to being there every week.

Training
I became involved in the Eventing world two years ago when I became a working student for Chelan Kozak. Until that point, I had never really jumped, nor did I think I had any desire to. That being said, I learned quickly that on a horse that enjoys jumping, it’s quite fun. I started in the Arabian world, and am still actively involved in it. I have ridden quite a bit of dressage, but have also competed in various English disciplines – hunter, equitation, show hack, native costume, and side saddle to name a few. This past year was a milestone as I was able to successfully show third level dressage with my half Arabian gelding.

Photo credit: Vincent Wong

Laura’s horse power
My event partner is a Zangersheide mare, Lamartine Z, who was previously owned by Chelan and competed up to the Intermediate level, affectionately known as ‘Marti’. Marti – spelled with one I, since she only has one eye! Marti was born without her left eye. It doesn’t affect her jumping abilities at all, and she really doesn’t seem to know that she only has one eye, so we don’t tell her. Unlike most horses who are missing an eye, her eye socket is not sewn shut. She still has functional eyelids and eyelashes and can keep the socket flushed out. People don’t always notice right away, so its entertaining to see their reactions when they finally notice – particularly tack check volunteers who are midway through sticking their hands in her mouth to bit check. Marti gives me so much confidence because I know that any jump I ask her to do, she has seen a similar fence before and likely a bigger version of it. Over fences, Marti knows much more than I do and honestly prefers that I stay out of her way. When it comes to dressage I’m allowed to have a little more input.

I also have two half Arabian geldings who have helped me become the rider that I am now. They are both quite content with flat work, and have not been, nor will they ever be asked to jump. Sobie, my first horse, is still part of our family 12 years later, although he is mostly retired. My other gelding, Kitchen (yes, his name really is Kitchen! His breeder sold him and used the money to renovate her kitchen, so the trainer that bought him called him kitchen as a joke – and it stuck), is a super steady dude who gave me so much courage when I was struggling with being a timid rider.

 


 

Influence and inspiration
Even now, 15 years after getting into horses, I am constantly surprised at how amazing the horse world and how many awesome people I have met. The first people that I need to mention again are my parents. I am so lucky to have parents that are involved in my hobby and life.

Nicki Muller has been my coach with the Arabians for eight years now. Not only did I show up in her barn as a timid rider that would cry at the drop of a hat, but I was also rather a cheeky teenager. Nicki, thank you for putting up with me all these years and turning me into the rider and person and am today. I am so grateful to have you in my life.

Chelan took me on as a working student even though I had never really evented, and had jumped about seven times in total, on a friend’s perfect schoolmaster. She has also put up with many silly questions that I have asked over the last two years, as local events were a bit of a shell shock to me coming from the Arabian world. Questions like “what do you mean the dressage ring isn’t flat” and “that’s what you call a stall? You have to bring your own gate!”. I get called a princess much less now, for the record. Thank-you, Chelan for all the new experiences and opportunities you have given me in the last two years. Most of all, thank you for entrusting me with your precious Marti.

Most embarrassing Eventing moment
This fall, I got soaking wet going cross-country because it never occurred to me that there is no dress code for cross-country, so I could’ve worn a rain jacket…

Most triumphant Eventing moment
Marti is a superb jumper, so there have been a few times show jumping that she’s been clear, with absolutely no help from me. Our last show this season at Galway, I gave her a way better ride show jumping that I had most of the year, and finally managed to achieve all the things we’d been practicing at home.

2018 milestones
Marti and I started the season showing Pre-Training, and made the move to Training part way through. As much as Marti considers Training level jumps to still be small, they are plenty big enough for me! We were lucky enough to show in Canada and the US this year, competing at Chase Creek, Island 22, Campbell Valley, Whidbey Island, Spokane, Rebecca Farms and Galway.

Best of luck next year Laura! 

 

If you would like to be featured in Rider Connect, email me

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