Billionaire Malone Family growing large transatlantic equestrian activities with purchase of two horse properties in Florida
By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
Billionaire John Malone and his wife, Leslie, are growing an already large transatlantic involvement in equestrian activities with the purchase of two horse properties in Florida–one in Wellington and the other in Ocala.
Although the size of the properties is meaningless in the 2.2 million acres (890,000 Ha)–that’s twice the size of the state of Delaware–as America’s biggest private landowner, the purchases increase the impact of John and Leslie in dressage along with their partners in the dressage pursuits, Suzanne and Scott Hassler.
Suzanne, who with her husband Scott are longtime friends of the Malones, ramps up her return to the competition arena as their daughters are now out of high school.
Hassler Dressage, the venture of Suzanne and Scott, the U.S. Equestrian Federation’s young dressage horse coach, is based at the state of the art Riveredge Farm at Chesapeake City, Maryland that is owned by the Malones.
The Wellington farm is part of what Scott describes as part of a “fun transition” to step up competition riding. The Palm Beach circuit of seven CDIs over three months in winter is the most intensive lineup of events in North America and possibly anywhere in the world.
He did not disclose whether the Ocala propery would continue to breed Thoroughbreds for the race track, whether there would be some breeding from their German stallions or used to keep German-bred youngsters and thus add to the crop of young horses available to American riders in the future.
The 72-year-old John Malone has extensive media interests in the United States and Europe as the base of a fortune that Forbes magazine estimated this year at $6 billion (€4.53 billion).
The land holdings are mostly in America’s northeast and southwest and place him among the top 15 owners in the world, most of the rest being kings, queens and other assorted rulers who inherited their property.
Puchases of the two Florida equestrian properties have sparked speculation about the plans of Leslie Malone, who is active in horse sports from the family’s home base in Elizabeth, Colorado as she has been for much of her life, and her husband.
The Malones paid $12.5 million for a 123-acre (50 Ha) farm in Wellington’s Equestrian Preserve as well as a 12,653-square-foot home for $7.8 million in the Palm Beach Polo Golf and Country Club, about a mile from the farm.
Then, just a few weeks ago the Malones paid $14 million for the 800-acre (324 Ha) Bridlewood Farm in Ocala, about 250 miles (400 km) north of Wellington.
Bridlewood was founded in 1976 by Chicago businessman Arthur I. Appleton as a Throughbred breeding and training center. Over the years, the farm produced more than 100 stakes winners and also trained 2004 Kentucky Derby and Maryland’s Preakness Stakes winner Smarty Jones.
The horse flesh owned by the Malones is impressive at Leslie’s own operation in Colorado, at Riveredge in Maryland and with Ingo Pape in Germany. Several hundred breedings have been booked with their horses, primarily for dressage, in Germany.
The relationship between the Malones and the Hasslers goes back many years–Suzanne and her mother, both active in dressage all their lives, are from Colorado where Leslie was involved in horse sports.
Scott and Suzanne managed operations at Hilltop Farm, a breeding and training facility at Colora, Maryland, not from where Riveredge has since been built. The two families remained close during that time.
When Suzanne and Scott wanted to go out on their own, the Malones offered Riveredge as a base and to partner in Hassler Dressage.
“The four of us are in costant communication,” Scott said. “Leslie and John are very active, very directly involved.
“It’s very important to us to be doing the things they’re proud of, to represent the best way we can how they want things to be.”
Their first trip to Europe together was when Suzanne competed Rousseau at the World Young Horse Championships in Verden in 2004.
“They met all of our close friends, the Klimkes and the Papes,” Scott said. “They felt as we do that relationships are critical and they supported that.
“In leaving Hilltop to go on our own, they felt education about horses was vitally important. Hence, Riveredge was built as an education and training center, reaching out to the community both locally and to trainers and breeders across the country.
“They love the relationships and to make a difference. They want to support the best horses, bring really great breeding stallions to help make the sport better. It’s all about making a difference.
“In education we bring in clinicians in breeding, nutrition and veterinary practices who are not just great horsemen but are great people who have the character to best represent the values that are important to Leslie and John.
“This is very genuine. They have a true passion for education and making a contribution.”
A signature event produced together is the annual trainers young horse symposium for the past 10 years.
As many as 60 trainers make it to Chesapeake City but once they are there everything is paid for including hotels and meals.
The idea is to create an atmosphere where trainers can concentrate in learning and their horses.
Throughout the life of the event it has had virtually no publicity with only trainers invited–“no owners, no press, no promotion, just education,” Scott said.
One of the goals now is to add to the string of quality horses and provide really good education to bring up the next group of riders, the structure of a private school to produce well rounded and well educated horsemen and women, and not focus on technical aspects of training.
“We always consciously took the approach to build the center and take things one step at a time,” he said, “not get too crazy, too big, but to do the things we do well.
“We did not want our daughters to be tagalong kids at horse shows when they were growing up–now we will get serious with competition.
“It will be a fun transition, stepping it up a notch. We’re looking for some special horses that will be owned by Leslie.
‘It’s going to be a real fun ride.”