By Erin Gilmore
Trainer and New Mother Les Ann LeClaire
Since giving birth to her daughter Lydia Rose six months ago, hunter trainer Les Ann LeClaire’s life has changed dramatically. Now she balances daily life at her multi-location Rubicon Farms with motherhood, a juggling act that is hard to match. Luckily the father of her daughter, New Zealand horseman and chiropractor Dylan Harries, is also her business partner and the small family has made staying together at shows and at home a priority. With the help of a very special staff and one dedicated nanny, Les Ann marches through each day with the same sense of purpose and meticulous eye for detail that has helped her barn thrive.
EG: What time do you get up in the morning?
LALC: Well, Lydia doesn’t really sleep; she’s up every two hours. We’re trying to break the sleep pattern I set at Thermal, when I had to get more than two hours of sleep in a row if I was going to show in the morning. So we’re working on her sleep schedule, but we’re up between 5 and 7 every morning. After I get up I email, go for a run and walk the dogs. Then I get myself and Lydia ready for the day.
EG: Does Lydia go with you to the barn?
LALC: She goes with me to the shows, and most days she does come to the barn for a bit. I am blessed to have an outstanding nanny named Mele, who was my 96-year-old grandmother’s caregiver for more than 10 years. My grandmother passed away at about the same time I gave birth, and Mele agreed to work for me. It’s a hard job because I need someone to go to all the shows. But our priority is that we’re a family and we go everywhere together. Mele really takes care of all of us! So when I’m home she comes in at 9am and takes over for me so I can get to the barn. She brings Lydia over to the barn when the weather’s nice, which is great for me. And at the shows she brings her over in the afternoon for lunch and we ride around in the golf cart to visit friends.
EG: You chose a busy time (when you were in your second trimester of pregnancy) to open a second location of Rubicon Farms. How’s that going?
LALC: It’s going great, and I think it will grow into something really special. Right now I go to Gilroy Gaits [the second location] on Wednesdays and Saturdays. We have about a half a dozen horses there, and are also helping out Angie and Mike Scully, who run Los Laureles Equine Rehabilitation Center with a lot of their rehab riding.
EG: Wow – that’s a lot of running around! What’s the advantage to having two locations?
LALC: At Gilroy Gaits I can take advantage of lots of turnout, an Aquapacer and a Eurocizer. It’s a great environment to bring the young horses along or give show horses a break. It’s going to be an amazing show facility, and it will be really fun to have our barn there when that starts happening. The Portola Valley Training Center is centrally located, close to San Francisco and two minutes from our house! It is the best training facility I have ever worked out of. It has everything we need to prepare our show horses. Kevin & Wendell Chambers have been very supportive and are really wonderful to do business with. So, I’ve got the best of both worlds.
EG: Tell us a little about your typical day.
LALC: The first thing I do in the morning is schedule changes. There are always schedule changes so I start making those while driving to the barn. When I arrive I walk the barn front to back and talk to the grooms. I want to know everything. Then I go over with my team what the day’s objective is with each horse. We don’t like to lunge the horses a lot, they all get prepared with a light school in the mornings. Weather permitting, every horse gets a turnout every day. Then the clients come in; some clients have several horses so I do several lessons. That’s up and through lunch. After lunch we’ll ride the horses that didn’t have lessons, and then in the afternoons the juniors come and we go through the same routine. At the end of the day I walk the barn again to check on everyone and start formulating my plan for the next day.
EG: And the staff that helps the day go smoothly?
LALC: First and foremost, Dylan is my right hand. He does all the ground schooling on the horses and organizes routines with the grooms. He does our hauling and handles all the sales for the business. He’s also got his chiropractic business that keeps him busy. We have an excellent staff of professionals, working students and grooms working both farms daily to keep everything to our standard and everybody happy! Everyone who is working with me is playing their part in strengthening the team, and I’m still in the process of streamlining who I need where.
EG: Besides motherhood and running two locations, other goals for the year?
LALC: We have a couple of clients going for World Champion Hunter Rider Points this year. We’re working towards that while being realistic about everyone’s personal schedules. We have a decently aggressive schedule, but all the same I try to take it month to month, if not day to day!
Photos © Flying Horse Photography