Beauty Is in the Eye When Horse Shopping at the Winter Equestrian Festival

March 15. 2024

There is not a lot of down time for a Hunter trainer at the Winter Equestrian Festival, but showing is not the only thing on Michael Britt-Leon’s mind. “We’re always shopping.” he said. “I usually go from ring to ring for my clients or my own rides, but I try to watch a lot. I watch for the ones that I’d like to have.”

His shopping criteria includes movement and appearance and may alter depending on who he is buying for. “For myself I like sharp horses, with a lot of scope,” Michael said. “I like a mover – and ones that are obviously beautiful. That’s important to me – that they are pretty.”

There is also a definitive deal breaker. “My biggest thing that I look at when I look at a horse, is their eye,” he said. “I’m a fanatic about a horse’s eye. It can be a fantastic jumping horse, beautiful across the ground, but if I don’t like its eye, I won’t do anything with it.”

A horse's eye cannot lie. Photo: Sarah Eakin

While horses are not being shown with an obvious ‘For Sale’ sign, Michael is undeterred when it comes to pursuing a purchase.

“Most of the horses that I’ve bought that I’ve had success with were not horses that were for sale,” he said. “They were horses that I saw that I loved and I said I want that. I’ve been fortunate to have wonderful, wonderful customers that put their trust in me and I’ve shown them a lot of success and I say that’s one you should own.”

And that is the other important component – matchmaking.  “I can look at a horse go and say yes it will work for this person,” he said. “So because of that and the success that we’ve had, my clients really trust me when I say this one is for you. I get so much joy out of making up horses and then putting my Juniors or Amateurs on them to have success. When I’m looking at a horse, for me I always have the end goal of okay who’s going to be on them. And that is crucial.”

Written by Sarah Eakin for Paper Horse.