Wednesday, December 14, 2011


(The view at the farm where Lesley worked for many years.)

In the fall of 2007, I graduated college, picked up my belongings, and moved to Maryland to be a working student. The original intention was to be a working student for two years before returning to Texas to attend UT. During the time I worked, I realized I wasn't cut out to work with horses as a living, and cut my stay to six months.

It wasn't a great time for me, needless to say.

However, this blog isn't about me. It's about a woman I met while I was there. This woman was one of the strongest people I have ever met. She wasn't an upper level rider. She wasn't an upper level trainer, or groom, a farrier, or a vet. She was a horsewoman.

Her name was Lesley Long.

Lesley had been part of the farm for years, and would be part of it long after I was gone. She and her daughter were horsewomen, in the pure and true sense of the word. Lesley made her living in the daily tasks of caring for horses. She cleaned stalls, scrubbed buckets, held horses for the farrier. She pulled manes and clipped horses. Lesley always had two to three horses for her and her daughter to ride. They were always off the track thoroughbreds that she had bought for her and her daughter to retrain and sell. 

They were always lovely horses.

Lesley was always to be counted on, rain, shine or snow. Her smile came easily and quickly. She ran Training for the first time on a horse named High Tech, her trainer's former Advanced horse. She was a certified ICP instructor, who specialized in teaching beginners, both human and horse. Lesley knew every trick in the book for treating thrush. She taught me how to break a horse to saddle and rider for the first time.

Around Thanksgiving this year, she was body clipping when the horse kicked her in the head. Lesley had clipped hundreds of horses before, including clipping Dante once. She was as careful as anyone could reasonably expect. Unfortunately, her brain was severely injured and she slipped into a coma. Today, December 14, 2011, she passed away without ever waking up.

I'm absolutely in shock right now. Even though she was in a coma, I never truly thought she wouldn't make it. As I said before, she was one of the strongest people I ever knew, and I thought that for sure if anyone could beat this, it would be Lesley. I write this blog right now because her story deserves to be heard. Lesley deserves to be honored for the blood, sweat, and tears she put into her horses every single day of her life.

It's a stark reminder of how unpredictable life can be, and how dangerous horses can be, even on the ground. Be careful while clipping this season and please keep Lesley and her family in your thoughts and prayers. 

If you knew her, please feel free to share stories of her in the comments. She was a wonderful horsewoman and person, and will be deeply missed.


  1. I rode Mardi my first day at Water's Edge, and I was terrified of messing up while Lesley watched us from the corner. But she was kind, helpful. Only later did I realize how cool it was that she'd volunteered Mardi -- her mare! -- when she barely knew me.

    So many afternoons we drove around haying horses in the mule, talking about England, traveling.

    I hadn't seen her for a little while but about a year ago, a few WEF folk reunited for dinner, and it was great to catch up with her. She was the same as ever.

    It amazes me the people and friends I met in my short time at that barn, all of us with Lesley to thank for teaching us more about our horses (she got Prima to stand STILL for the farrier when I could not; she helped me get her on the trailer the first time I shipped out for a lesson, etc etc etc). I never worried about the horses knowing she had her eye on them.

    I am heartbroken to think of Kerri, Mardi, Karma. I just can't believe it. Lesley could do anything, and she deserved so much more.

  2. Thank you for writing this.It says so many of the wonderful things about lesley that I can't put into organized thoughts right now. I have Mardi at my barn currently to help the family out and I am fighting every urge to get in my car and just go out there and hug her and cry even more. She was the most amazing woman. Always had the time to do things the right way, no matter how long it took. I know how horribly I am coping with this and can't even imagine how Kerri is feeling right now- its been a day since I have talked to her but she texted me how much she loved all of us. I am just numb and heartbroken over such a tragic outcome to such a random freak accident.

  3. I met Leslie when I impulsively bought two horses at once: a lovely young TB she owned and another youngster she had started. Her horsemanship was so impressive and her honesty was so clearly evident that I didn't have a moment's doubt about my rather impulsive purchases. I still have the younger one and wish so much I had told her how right she was about him, in every way! My thoughts are with her friends and family - all best -

  4. I never got to see Lesley in action with horses, but I see in all the pictures that she has the greatest smile on her face and is loving it. I will remember her fondly. I have linked here in my blog today, hope that's ok. My condolences to everyone who knew her well. She lived the life she loved.

  5. Thank you for writing such a beautiful tribute, Maggie. I think it's so important that you noted that Lesley made her living by caring for and training horses. There seem to be so few people like her anymore, and I know that I was so fortunate to have learned from her during my time at WEF. I remember being so in awe of her at first and even intimidated. LIke a kid in school, I wanted to earn her approval because it clearly meant something. After only owning my horse for 11 weeks, he coliced very badly. Over the course of 2 nights and 2 days, my husband and I stayed with him and had the vet out several times to examine and intubate. It seemed certain that he would not make it, and I remember Lesley (and Kerri and Jen and Nina and Abby and Lara...) being so kind and supportive. Remarkably he pulled through and made a full recovery. A few days later Lesley told me that she thought I was a very good horse owner for having stayed by his side through the night. I remember just beaming on the inside--"Lesley Long has given me her stamp of approval and this means that I can be a good horse person!" That might sound silly, but it's truly how I felt. And I continued to always seek her advice and guidance during my time at WEF. She was kind to my grumpy old gelding and saw potential in him and me. She knew that the true reason we all ride is for the joy of it, and she ALWAYS reminded me and others that that was what this was about. In a sport where so many people are caught up in achieving the next big goal, Lesley was living in the moment and loving it. She was a sage. Although I had not seen her in several months, I always just expected to frequent the same circles and celebrate the many successes that she and Kerri had achieved. I was so proud of their new business. It's just so heartbreaking that she is gone. She was larger than life. She will be so greatly missed. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to share.