Leap Year

A local teen competes at Longines Masters international horse show with the best in the world.

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  • Written by
    Diane E.

The love of a horse, going fast, “flying,” shiny trophies and blue ribbons are the things little equestrian girls dream of. And for those who dream big, they often come true. Danielle Lean, a South Bay native, is a testament to that.

Long inspired by elite athletes, such as the U.S. equestrian team that recently brought show jumping silver home from the Summer Olympics in Rio, 17-year-old Danielle will compete in the prestigious 2016 Longines Masters at the Long Beach Convention Center (September 29 to October 2)—an indoor show jumping event featuring some of the best riders and horses from across the globe. Paris and Hong Kong are the next stops of the three-event grand slam series.

Following in her parents’ bootprints, Danielle became passionate about horses when she was 9 years old. Like mother, like daughter … she was drawn to the thrill of jumping. After riding for two years at Palos Verdes Stables, she moved to Seahorse Riding Club in Rolling Hills Estates—where her mother jumped when she was growing up.

“When I was Danielle’s age, I met her father at Seahorse. Larry was my groom when I was competing. Our life revolved around horses then, and it still does. Now we’re Danielle’s grooms, and Larry trailers her competition horses instead of mine,” says mom Nicole Lean with a smile.

Adversity and disappointment often stare athletes in the face when they least expect it. Such was the case for Danielle when her Holsteiner horse and show partner, Quantum Leap, suffered a leg injury in March that took him out of competition for the rest of the year. Danielle had her heart set on the Long Beach competition and had worked hard to save her show winnings to pay the entry fee.



So with less than three months to train, the Leans added a new equine member to their family in July: another Holsteiner named SIG Careful (“Big C”). Danielle and her longtime trainer and coach, Devon Gibson—also a childhood friend of Nicole’s, immediately began to prepare for the biggest competition in Danielle’s youth riding career.

Her training regime has consisted of riding Big C six days a week, with two days of jumping and participating in other shows. When not riding her own horse, to stay on top of her game and lend Devon a hand she also rides two or more other horses each day.

“I have known Danielle since she was a baby, so she is like family,” says Devon. “She started riding with me when she was 11 years old, and she was always driven to learn, improve and compete. She and Big C had an instant connection and are a great fit, which wasn’t surprising because Danielle is good at understanding horses and creating partnerships with them. Watching her grow up and also grow as a rider has been very satisfying.”

Danielle will be competing in the Prestige Trophy division of the Longines Masters, with a field of riders vying for more than $100,000 in prize money. “I am excited to be competing at an event with the people I have looked up to for years and to finally achieve one of my biggest goals,” she shares. “It also means a lot to me to represent the South Bay. I want to give the younger riders on the peninsula the confidence to follow their dreams no matter how wild or outrageous they seem.”