Pictured above: Carolyn's mother, Mary, was an avid horsewoman. She and Carolyn shared the equine passion.
THE LESLEY FARMS STORY
Where Intuition & Passion Intersect
The role of horses in our lives is ever evolving. Across the board, equestrian realms are at a crossroads as we strive to keep horses a viable entity in modern society. Arabians are no different. For Carolyn Lesley, owner of Lesley Farms, her answer to this issue rests upon her own intuition and passion for the horse.
Carolyn’s father, Noel, founded an events management company that serves as the General Contractor for NFL (National Football League) special events, including its annual spotlight event, the Super Bowl. In 2010, when Noel passed away, Carolyn took the reins as president of Noel Lesley Event Services. Luckily, she was just the woman for the job, taking after her dad’s hard work, determination, and integrity.
Carolyn’s instincts continue to successfully guide her, achieving balance in the two main aspects of her life—work and Arabian horses. Carolyn reveals, “I still feel like I’m working for my dad; he was such a major force in my life. Every day that I come to work, I still feel like I’m working for him. His drive helped shape my daily determination in a demanding environment. The horses are my respite. They give me the opportunity to relax and let my guard down. Horses are such a mirror to ourselves, and therefore are a reprieve; I don’t have to be anything but me.”
This connection to horses finds its source in Carolyn’s grandfather, who shared his passion with his daughter, Mary (Carolyn’s mother). The father-daughter duo ended up showing together in the highest levels of competitions across the country, including Madison Square Garden, creating lifelong, life-changing memories with their horses. This deep-rooted bond would inspire Carolyn’s connection to horses and a similar relationship between mother, daughter, and horse. Carolyn hardly remembers a time when horses weren’t a part of her life. From sweet memories of bareback rides at her parents’ Ashland (Oregon) farm property to national championship rides in Kentucky, Carolyn cherishes every equine moment from her younger years.
But sometimes life changes direction, and Carolyn took a 17-year hiatus from horses to become more involved in her father’s thriving event company. And yet, she felt something was missing. There was a massive hole—a horse-sized one—in her life. In the summer of 2014, she made a declaration to carve out time in her life for horses once again.
“I vividly remember seeing photos on Facebook of the Scottsdale Show during the 2015 Super Bowl in Phoenix. Knowing it was just up the road, I decided then and there to go for a day. The feelings I felt walking through WestWorld felt just as emotional and exciting as it did 17 years prior,” Carolyn said.
She soaked in the familiarity of Scottsdale. Before the show ended, she and Mary bought a beautiful western gelding—and in a moment, they were back in the business.
Their high would quickly turn into a devastating low, however. In just a few months, their beloved gelding tragically and unexpectedly passed away—the same day Mary was diagnosed with Terminal Sarcoma. Carolyn and her mother were shattered. In light of the events, it appeared that horses must once again take a back seat so that Carolyn could concentrate on her mother’s health. To everyone’s surprise, that notion was vehemently and abruptly challenged by Carolyn’s brother who, though is not involved with horses in the slightest, recognized the immense and unrivaled joy in his mom he hadn’t seen in years because horses were back in her life, and exhorted Carolyn to keep horses involved in their lives as a reason for Mary to keep fighting for her life. And so, the search for another horse began.
Cue Joe Reser, owner and trainer at Setting Sun Stables in Wakarusa, Indiana with a phone call to Carolyn about a special stallion. Soon, Carolyn and her mom were out of the hospital and flying to Indiana to meet a stallion named Monticello V (Julleyn El Jamaal x Mosquerade V). Carolyn reflects, “Of course it was love at first sight for us, and I think Monticello sensed his role immediately when my mom walked into his stall.”
They bought Monticello the next morning, and from there, Carolyn showed Monticello at Region 14 and Canadian Nationals, with her mom being able to fly to both shows. And in between shows, Joe would send videos of Monticello every morning for Carolyn and Mary to enjoy. Mary passed away during U.S. Nationals later that year, and in every ride since, Carolyn feels grateful to have shared a bond through horses at the culmination of her mother’s life. “That’s why it’s even more special to me. When we got back into horses, we had no idea she was sick—and then it all hit. And I think, what a blessing we did it together and she was able to get to know Monticello. The timing was amazing—God had a plan.”
Monticello V is now not only decorated in the show ring under the expert guidance of Joe Reser, he is also displaying his potent ability to sire a remarkable percentage of national winners as well. Monticello exemplifies the Lesley Farms vision of producing exceptional Arabian horses that are beautiful, well-minded athletes you can lay in a stall with, as well as potent producers who will leave the breed better than before.
Carolyn believes Monticello V, along with Crown Juell XX (SF Veraz x Beautiful Juell V), the newest addition to Lesley Farms, proves an Arabian horse can be seamlessly balanced and breathlessly beautiful, all in one. It begins with their extraordinary pedigrees—lines proudly featuring the best of Varian breeding, Ali Jamaal and Gazal Al Shaqab. And the influence of the Varian lines? It is not lost on Carolyn, who recognizes that Sheila Varian singlehandedly created defining eras in the last half century. Carolyn shares, “Monticello V and Crown Juell XX are honoring all the greatest things of our past, and yet, they are continuing to evolve and define the future. They are a nod to a program that changed and impacted and bettered our breed—and they will continue that legacy.”