Leslie Law has been a fan favorite of eventing enthusiasts worldwide for decades. The popular British eventer partnered with two striking grey Irish Sport Horse brothers, Shear L’H20 and Shear L’eau, and picked up numerous international wins. Law’s most notable victories include an individual Olympic gold medal (and team silver medal) in 2004, an Olympic team silver medal in 2000, team bronze at the 2002 WEG and three team gold medals at the European championships (2001, 2003, 2005).
Since relocating to the U.S. in 2006, he and his wife Lesley, a four-star Canadian eventer, have had success with dozens of different horses, racking up major wins in FEI divisions, national classes and Young Event Horse championships.
The Laws reside at their Ocala farm, along with their young son Liam, and have a thriving business of importing, training and competing talented event horses, as well as coaching up-and-coming event riders and adult amateurs. Law is also quite busy as the USEF Eventing Emerging Athlete Coach, helping to mentor and coach rising stars in the sport.
On March 21-24 at the Carolina International, Law will serve as coach for one of the two teams at the North American Futures Team Challenge (USEF Performance Director for Eventing Erik Duvander will coach the other).
Though he’s a consistent competitor on the East Coast circuit at the upper levels, this spring will be Law’s first trip back to the Kentucky Three-Day Event in nearly a decade. He plans to compete Voltaire de Tre, a stunning and exceptionally talented 10-year-old Selle Francais gelding, who he’s partnered with over the past few years, picking up solid results at top-level events.
1. I’d love to hear about Voltaire de Tre. What’s his personality like?
‘Splash’ is a 10-year-old, 17.1-hand, French-bred Selle Francais with very predominant Thoroughbred bloodlines [he is sired by Gentleman IV and out of Jasmina du Fresne]. He is owned by Tre Book of Texas. He is a larger-than-life character whose personality matches his size. As a whole, he tries to be very good, but sometimes he can’t help himself. On the ground he can become quite a bit to handle just because he is so very full of life and enthusiasm and can quietly turn into a bit of a ‘bull in a china shop’ if not careful! But in general, he tries very hard to behave and curb his enthusiasm.
His unique coloring also makes him a stand out in the barn with his long white socks and white spot on his belly and flaxen mane and tail. We called him “The Koi” when he first moved to us in his six-year-old year.
2. What are some of the main things you’ve worked with Voltaire de Tre this season? What are his strengths and weaknesses, and what types of exercises have you been doing to help him prepare for Kentucky? What do you think will be the most challenging part of the event for him?
He has always found the flat work to be the most challenging part for him. He’s just not built to find the flatwork easy, so physically it is a challenge on him. This affects him mentally as he very much wants to be good. So it has been a balance of pushing him just the right amount to have him learn and improve, but not enough that it discourages him mentally or makes him worried. However, he tries very hard and in the past few years has made some good progress. He’s not really ready yet to have a serious go at the dressage at Kentucky, but he is a very young horse going into this first five-star and we hope that he is at a good place on the flat to give it a first try. Hopefully he will only improve and strengthen over time to come out better again when he next enters that level.
The jumping portions for him are much easier. He has always been brave as a lion on cross country and very quick with his legs and his brain. One never likes to assume anything but he has always been quite forward thinking and positive cross country and has a wonderful gallop.
In show jumping he can become a handful to ride at times, just getting overly enthusiastic, but he is a tidy jumper and wants to leave the rails up. He was third in the Eventer’s Grand Prix down here in Ocala a few weeks back.
To prepare for Kentucky our goal has been to just quietly build on what we have been doing the past few years. If the program you have set up for your horse has been working, I think you just quietly build upon that and hope that the horses go from strength to strength and find mental confidence in the work, as opposed to changing anything radically for one event.
3. You and Lesley have brought along so many young horses successfully up the levels over the years. What are some of the traits you look for in a top-level event horse? Physically and mentally? Which of your past (or present) partners do you think was what you would consider an ideal horse for five-star level eventing these days and why?
We are usually looking at young horses to bring along and certainly no one out there has a crystal ball to see down the road what will become of them, even if one does everything right. But after establishing obviously that we think the horse is a good jumper and has decent enough movement, we try to find ones that appear to have a brain and temperament that will allow them to be rideable and trainable. That is very important. Of course, it is hard to try to suss this out when sitting on a horse for a very short period of time trying them, however, a horse that is rideable and trainable will always have a good job and a purpose even if they do not end up being among the tiny percentage of horses that are capable of the five-star level. We still as well try to find horses with quite a bit of Thoroughbred blood as we think that is still, more often than not, a contributing factor for success at the upper levels.
People used to joke in previous decades that eventers were jack-of-all-trades but masters of none, though that really wasn’t the case. In previous decades, the top horses and riders were masters of the cross country, masters of bravery and stamina and then learned to cope with and train the other two phases. Now the top level of our sport are really horses and riders that are masters of all three phases and the level of skill and talent of each phase if very impressive. It takes a very special horse right now to dominate our sport and more so to have longevity there.
I have a few very nice young horses I am bringing up right now and a horse named First Class that appears to have all the tools built in to be able to perform at a high level in each phase. However, he is mentally still quite young and has a lot of growing up to do in that department, so we shall see in a few years what happens!
4. Though you and Lesley have had an impressive string of event horses in your barn over the last several years, the last time you competed in Kentucky was nearly a decade ago. What are you looking forward to the most being back at a CCI5* event? How are you preparing mentally and physically? (Did I hear you had a knee replacement recently?) Do you ever get nervous at such a huge event, or because you compete so often, is it just “another day at the office”?
Yes, I had knee surgery at the end of November, so although it has been a blessing to have relieved some pain, it has also taken a bit of adjustment and still feels a bit odd and tight. However, in the long run, it was certainly the right thing for me to do. I am very excited to get back to Kentucky! It has been a long time, but I am at the point in my life where attending a five-star with just any horse isn’t really that attractive to me, but going into it with Splash, whom I’ve developed from the training level up and who really tries and seems to love the cross-country portion and is young enough to have years at this level… that’s exciting. And yes, of course I am nervous! But I am fairly good at this point at compartmentalizing that and getting on with the job.
5. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not busy with the horses?
I enjoy the rare moments that my family and I get to go to the beach and relax!