Sloane Coles balances lacrosse with horseback riding

By T. Rees Shapiro
Wednesday, October 21, 2009

When Sloane Coles, 21, rides into the ring for the President's Cup $100,000 jumper grand prix Saturday night, she'll face some of the best professionals in the world, including Olympic gold medalists McLain Ward and Brazilian Rodrigo Pessoa.

But come Monday she'll head back to Drew University, trade her tall boots and breeches for running shoes and shorts, and continue preparing for the upcoming lacrosse season.

"When Sloane came in here I thought, 'How is she going to balance all of this, her riding, academics and lacrosse? It would be such a difficult feat.' But she did it," said her lacrosse coach, Kimberly Christos. "She's a very focused kid and extremely mature for her age, very responsible and extremely driven. She's a workhorse."

Coles, of The Plains, Va., is a junior majoring in sociology, all-conference midfielder, and a competitive jumper rider with Olympic aspirations.

This will be Coles's first President's Cup. She understands the competition will be fierce, the course unrelenting, and the stakes high, but she says she is thrilled just for the opportunity.

"I've had a good year and I'm learning a lot," Coles said. "To be in the same classes as the other riders, see them evaluate the same courses I do, and get their opinions on the courses, and watch them ride only makes me better."

Coles grew up in a family with an affinity for bareback backyard trail rides and fall mornings in the hunt field.

"I'm very fortunate that my mom and dad were both into horses," Coles said, whose father is the master of foxhounds for the Orange County Hunt. "I pushed my parents to let me show more and more, because I could have just stayed fox hunting, but I ended up on this show-jumping track, and they've made it possible."

During the school year Coles trains at Ri-Arm Farm with Mark Leone, whose stables are a 30-minute drive from Drew's Madison, N.J., campus. But from January to March, the busiest time for competitive riders, and the beginning of the lacrosse season, she travels to Wellington, Fla., the equestrian world's southern home.

Coles leaves school on Wednesdays and returns late on Sundays. Despite a full season of open jumpers in Florida, Coles started every lacrosse game. She also made the all-conference academic honor roll.

Georgina Bloomberg, 26, daughter of New York Major Michael Bloomberg, will compete against Sloane in the President's Cup. Bloomberg has been competing at the sport's highest levels for years and admires the younger rider's natural place in the saddle.

"Sloane's got the talent, and she's got the work ethic and determination. She has it all." Bloomberg said. "The other riders like McLain [Ward] and Rodrigo [Pessoa], they've had years of experience. In riding, the longer you're out there proving yourself, the better you're going to get."

Coles will ride Louisiana, a 14-year-old bay Dutch Warmblood mare

"I'd like to ride professionally and am aiming for the Olympics," Coles said. "That's the road I'd like to take. It's a long road and does not come easily but I love showing, I love the competition and I want to keep going."

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