Carole Lessine: Living the American Dream at Moonlight Sport Horses

Jonsaunier Dwerse Hagen. Photo courtesy of Carole Lessine

BY KARLA CAMPBELL

Originally from Geneva, Switzerland, Carole Lessine and her family moved to the United States in 2011. Although the move was not actually tied to horses, the opportunity that came with it was one that Lessine did not pass up. “We arrived in Los Angeles in 2011 because of my husband’s work, but also because we love the warm weather!” Lessine shared.

Photo courtesy of Carole Lessine

Although Lessine now frequents the jumper and hunter ring, that was not her passion when she first arrived in California.  “At the time I played polo with my husband and we flew the polo ponies with us,” Lessine shared. “Polo was a great experience. We played in Spain and Florida before coming here and playing in Santa Barbara and Indio,” Lessine continued. “It was fun but eventually we stopped, mostly because of logistic complications. In 2016, I decided to go back to jumping. It has been a bumpy road since, but I love it. I am lucky to have amazing horses and a good team.”

Spartacus Second Life Z. Photo courtesy of Carole Lessine

Today, Lessine runs her own small stud farm in California. “Moonlight Sport Horses came together organically over the course of several years,” Lessine explained. “I was always drawn to a particular style of horses, and although I never specifically decided to only own stallions, the type of power and explosiveness I was looking for really came through in them.”

CC Stud’s Key to Success. Photo © GrandPix

“I have a lot of experience working with young or problematic horses, and I learned to take my time and to work with the horse rather than against it,” Lessine continued. Lessine also shared that she believes that there is more than just pedigree when it comes to breeding to make a champion. She believes a focused mindset and a well-behaved demeanor are also important to take into consideration when breeding. “Every stallion in my barn has not only the bloodline, but also exceptional mindset and behavior,” she said. “They have the potential to produce foals that perform at the highest level and are easy to ride.” 

Spartacus Second Life Z. Photo courtesy of Carole Lessine

It was within the past three years that Lessine started making doses available for breeders nationally and in Europe. “I like to think of Moonlight as a boutique operation. In an industry dominated by large stud farms, I try to work on a scale that allows me to have the possibility to personally interact with the owner of the mare,” Lessine noted.

Jonsaunier Dwerse Hagen. Photo © GrandPix

Lessine also believes in giving the best quality she can to her customers. “I impose very strict rules on myself, to make sure the breeder gets a first-grade dose. Extensive testing is done to assure the quality and each dose contains precisely 8 straws of .5ml of frozen semen,” Lessine explained. “The final is of minimum 250million/ml resulting in a total of 800 to 1 billion sperm in the final dose of 4ml. The post thaw mobility of each of the stallions is more than 30% exceeding the industry minimum recommended of 2 million progressively motile sperm per dose after thawing.”

She currently owns four stallions that stand at stud as well as compete from hunters to the Grand Prix jumper ring. This winter, Lessine brought a few of her stallions to compete at the Desert International Horse Park’s Desert Circuit. 

Irish Whiskey Z. Photo courtesy of Carole Lessine

Lessine admitted that jumpers is her favorite ring to compete in, “I grew up doing it in Europe from a pony rider to junior and young rider and, before coming to America. I didn’t know what equitation and hunter was, but I did learn a lot about them these last few years,” Lessine shared. This was her stallions’ first show back after being away for collection during the winter. Lessine competed in divisions ranging from the 1m and 5-year-old classes to the 1.40m, and showed in the hunter ring aboard Irish Whiskey Z.

Irish Whiskey Z. Photo © GrandPix

Riding and showing these stallions is a very special experience for Lessine. “It’s all about the relationship, and I personally enjoy every day trying to learn something new and having a better connection [with my horses],” she explained. “I always need to be careful but with stallions, I really think the moment they like you they will do anything to help. Sometimes I even call them my nannies in the ring, because they are really taking care of me.” 

Photo courtesy of Carole Lessine

Lessine’s daughter also joined her at the Desert Circuit 2020 and has enjoyed getting to share the sport with her family. “She is riding with Balmoral Farm and their short stirrup team is a group of amazing kids.” Managing stallions, riding and showing with her kid at the horse show is not simple work. It is not always easy balancing being a competitor and a horse show mom simultaneously. “Sometimes it’s a little challenging because I have classes and she has to ride too, but I always have someone to give me a hand, my grooms, her trainers or the mothers of her friends,“ Lessine continued. “It’s amazing, it’s very special to be able to share a passion with my daughter,” Lessine concluded.