By Jan Westmark
Professional riders work hard and the opportunity to be recognized is always a thrill. So when Michael Britt-León captured the World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) Pro Finals at Capital Challenge recently, it was a dream come true. “I’ve watched some of the greatest hunter riders compete and win the Pro Finals, so finishing at the top is a true honor,” Michael said. “I think the best part was the support I felt from my peers. All of the riders who competed had an excellent chance of winning and it was anyone’s night. I feel so fortunate that in 2020 it turned out to be my night.”
Michael rode Kelly Sims’ Private I to the WCHR title and raved about his winning partner, known as Elliot. “Whether he’s going into the international derbies with me or the amateurs with Kelly, he just wants to please and always wants to win!” Michael said. “Kelly is my best friend who I get to spend most of my days with. She’s not only a huge supporter of me but a huge supporter of our sport!”
Michael owns Windsor Stables LLC, a show barn located on 30 acres in Alpharetta, Georgia, with riders competing in everything from walk/trot to the Junior Hunters, A/O hunters, equitation and jumpers. Recently, Windsor Stables opened a riding academy with school horses and ponies, giving beginner and intermediate riders a great start to their riding career.
How did your horse career start?
My family relocated to Southern California from New Orleans when I was 7, and there were three little girls on my street who took riding lessons every Saturday. I wanted to hang out with them, so I convinced my parents to let me tag along. I was hooked after my first lesson! I was fortunate to have wonderful trainers along the way that saw my passion and supported me. Making my way through the ponies and junior ranks in the hunters, equitation and jumpers, I turned professional at the early age of 17, where I started Windsor Stables LLC in Los Angeles, California.
Did you grow up in a horse family?
Horses are in my blood as both my parents were born in Cuba where our family had horses. My mom was, and still is, scared of big animals but will come feed the horses treats when she visits. Dad loves the horses and will ride on rare occasions, but can mostly be found cheering me on from the sidelines or from the live feed on his computer.
What do you like about being a trainer?
I love watching my horses and riders grow into what I believe they can be! The journey is so beautiful and rewarding.
Do you like teaching students, or competing?
I love both! I think that the only thing better than competing myself is watching my students compete and meet their goals. Being a part of someone’s success is one of the best gifts.
Favorite shows you have traveled to?
I would say Devon and all indoors would be my favorite. It’s a feeling of being where so many great riders have been before at a show I’ve loved since I was a kid. Capital Challenge is special to me because I made so many wonderful memories there.
If you were not involved with the horse world, what career do you think you would have picked?
I think I would be a therapist! I love helping people and I think I’m a good listener and problem solver.
If you had a week off, what would you do?
A week off? What is that? Haha. Kidding! I would definitely take my husband to Hawaii! He’s never been and I’d love to take him there.
What talents do you feel you have?
I’ve been told that I’m an excellent teacher and friend. I think I have a talent for pairing riders and horses together and making them successful.
Do you have a personal motto or catch phrase?
“Watch this!” When anyone doubts me or thinks I can’t do something, I always say, “Watch this!” and do everything I can to show that I’m capable of doing whatever I put my mind to!
What’s your favorite item of clothing to wear?
A baseball cap!
What three items can usually be found in your refrigerator?
Essentia water bottles, peanut butter and Brie (I love crackers and cheese!)
What’s your favorite meal?
What would be the best gift in the world?
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
What’s something everyone should try at least once?
The black cod at Nubu Malibu
How would you like people to remember you?
As a kind soul who just wanted to help others and have a good time doing it
Michael Britt-León took home the World Championship Hunter Rider Pro Finals at Capital Challenge.
Photo by Madison Orr