are a lot of horses, a liking for them and a lot of land in Texas,"
said professional rider and trainer Roberto Leon. Roberto, who hails
from Ecuador, notes that Texas alone is three-and-a-half times larger
than his country of origin. Nowadays he is settled with his wife,
Rhonda, and two young children in the Bastrop area. Rhonda, a native
Texan, teaches school while Roberto teaches horses and riders.
had a chance to sit down with him at the Alamo Dressage Association's
Spring Dressage Show in San Antonio. He had just finished two
performances on Remington, owned by Bobbie and Clyde Paulk. Remington
is an almost 17-hand strongly opinionated warmblood cross,
sired by the famous Swedish dressage stallion Gauguin de Lully. Roberto
makes it look easy--his wiry body maintains a strong core. The horse
has been known to bounce around a lot yet Roberto keeps his
composure throughout. Roberto also trains show jumpers--so to him a
few "airs about the ground" on Remington are a breeze. This show was
Remington's debut and the animal handled it with
diplomacy under Roberto's guidance.
horse-related resume is long on both experience and formal education.
He speaks three languages fluently (Spanish, English and Italian). He
earned a diploma with honors from the Morven Park Equestrian
Institute in 1989, where he absorbed everything he could from Tad
Coffin and Raul de Leon and had the opportunity to ride in clinics
with Berthalan de Nemethy. His family has been into horses for three
generations. Roberto spent a year riding in Italy in the '90's, some
time riding under Olympian Peter Leone in the East coast in '02 and a
year in the Dallas area under Olympian Mike Huber preparing young
Irish Sport horses for sale and shows. His philosophy of riding
education has largely come from the Germans as he has sought out
classical knowledge and methods.
43, and having gained the perspective and wisdom of someone who has
ridden on three continents, Roberto focuses on doing the right thing
by the horse. "I want to teach people how to ride a horse
without a hurry. My focus is teaching riding as an art and not just a
way to make money. Basic dressage is most important for the future
career of the horse. With jumpers, I emphasize the flat work."
reflected on what he observes in the U.S. and noted that even
comparing lifestyles shows a marked difference in approaches to
riding. "Everything here seems to be in such a rush. There can
be no 'microwave horses,'” he said. "You cannot skip parts of
the process. Berthelan de Nemethy said Americans learn to compete
first; then they want to learn how to sit on a horse."
advice is: "Stick to a method. If you want to do classical
dressage riding, then go learn from the best how to do that. Of
course you can learn horsemanship from other disciplines but you need
to stick with one method." Roberto was not in favor of
introducing different methods to a horse as it can confuse the
work on rhythm, relaxation, connection, impulsion, straightness and
self carriage. If I am given a horse that won't go forward, I gallop
him in the woods to open his mind. Often bad habits in a horse come
from the lack of experience on the rider's part," he said.Currently
Roberto is based at USEF Dressage "R" judge Bobbie Paulk's
barn in the Bastrop area. "Working with Bobbie is helping me
become detailed. I am learning a lot from her. She has been doing
classical dressage for decades. That type of dressage is very
important and must not be forgotten."
want to share my knowledge and experience with riders who are
interested in the art. I am not in a hurry."
is available for lessons, re-schooling, training, and clinics. He
can be reached at (512) 706-5040 or firstname.lastname@example.org.