Courage to Lead

Photo courtesy of Archive
(1997 – )
Owned by Beverley R. Lesher
Inducted: 2013


Photo courtesy of Vicki Long
Photo courtesy of Vicki Long
Photo courtesy of Vicki Long
Going out on top is the dream of every champion. Having the courage and strength to do so are sometimes the defining characteristics. Not once, but twice, Courage to Lead had a brush with career-ending injuries. Bouncing back from each of them is an overwhelming testament to the little mare’s heart, courage and dedication to excellence.

National champion for the first time in 2004, Courage to Lead was named to the 2005 team for the FEI Pony Driving World Championships in England, but just a few weeks before she was to fly to Germany to compete, Courage to Lead, or “Katy,” suffered a spill. No injuries were evident at the time after a vet exam, and Katy continued driving, but Suzy Stafford her driver, knew something was not right. Special vets called in, and after a trip to New Bolton Animal Hospital in Pennsylvania, it was determined that she’d pulled almost her entire hip muscle off on one side. The vets were astounded. They’d never seen a horse continue walking, much less continue pulling a carriage with such an injury, but Katy was tough. As she underwent six months of forced rest, Katy also seemed to understand the importance of staying calm and allowing herself to heal.

Katy came back after healing and re-conditioning then started all over again in the beginning of 2007, winning her first competition, but it wasn't’all smooth sailing from there. That same year another pony in the paddock kicked her and fractured a bone in her hind leg, that required major surgery at New Bolton, and landing her back on stall rest for six months plus of healing. Not once, but twice did she have near career ending accidents, but because of her powerful, competitive yet very gentle nature, she knew that she had to be quiet once again!.

Courage to Lead went back to competing in the Fall of 2008 and at her first event, won for the second time, the United States Equestrian Federation National Single Pony Driving Championship. That event was held at the Laurels at Landhope CDE, and the crowds were thrilled that Courage to Lead was back, healthy, and in the Winners Circle again.

As the 2009 season began, Courage to Lead came back for a monumental and career-defining year, storming to victory in three combined driving events. From Sunshine State to Live Oak to the National Championships at the Kentucky Classic, she was invincible. She was named to the FEI Pony Driving World Championships team again. In Europe, the 14.1 hand pony bravely went head-to-head with the best in the world, narrowly missing the individual silver at the 2009 World Pony Driving Championships in Greven, Germany. She settled for bronze by 4/10ths of a point, leading the U.S. team to a fourth place finish. She was given a huge accolade at Live Oak International Horse Show in March of 2009, winning the Hanzi Award for the Best Horse or Pony in the entire competition as determined by the grand jury.

She was crowned the National Single Pony Champion by the United States Equestrian Federation for the third time in the fall of 2009 at the hands of Suzy Stafford. Her prowess, courage, movement, and stamina made her a venerable force in the pony division. She had no idea how small she was, or that there was any limit to what she was capable of achieving. The USEF agreed and then honored her as a 2009 Horse of Honor.

Katy was retired in 2009 from FEI competition going out on top following her remarkable year. Now, the strong little mare started another job by producing a beautiful filly and passed on many of her traits to her foal, Lead With Courage. With white hind socks identical to her mothers and a similar sane, sensible personality, plus an athletic build, Bev Lesher her owner, hopes Lead With Courage will follow in her mom’s big hoof prints.

Those lucky enough to witness the tenacity of Courage to Lead will never forget how hard she tried or how big her heart is. An athlete at every turn, the sport of combined driving requires diligence, stamina and elegance. Courage to Lead has all three, and can capitalize on any or all of them at will and certainly showed her talents on both the National and International stages.