Off the Clock: Leslie Painter Trains Horses for Art of Dressage

Posted: November 18, 2003 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Erick Soricelli

Pictures of two prized horses line a shelf in the back of the Johnson Center’s Patriot Computers store. While the typical customer may not notice them, the horses are the pride and joy of Leslie Painter, manager for Patriot Computers in the Information Technology Unit (ITU) Project Management Office. The horses are part of Painter’s practice of a horse riding form known as dressage, pronounced similarly to “massage.”

“Dressage is the study of the classical art of horse training and riding,” Painter says. The word dressage is derived from the French word for “training,” and it is a centuries-old art form that involves a set series of gymnastics-style exercises.

Leslie Painter
Leslie Painter on one of the three horses she owns

Painter has practiced dressage for eight years now and trains at Frying Pan Park in Herndon, a Fairfax County equestrian park open three nights a week. She owns three horses: SK Shadow Dreamer, an Arab trakehner; Zoom, a Hannoverian; and Fury, a black-and-white Paint horse.

She was, however, interested in horses before she took up dressage studies. Born in North Carolina, she and her family moved around the United States growing up, but the frequent travel did not squelch her love for horses. “I rode very limitedly as a child with hunter-jumpers, and I also did a little western pleasure riding,” she says.

Although her position at Patriot Computers keeps her busy, Painter is able to pursue her passion almost five days a week and meets with an instructor two days per week. There are several dressage shows held around the metropolitan area that she typically enters once a month.

She talks about the effort and dedication it takes to practice dressage. “It is a lifelong study,” Painter says. “It is about gaining respect and trust, and building a bond to work together. It is easy to get people started on the right track, but you are continuously learning and testing yourself.”

Painter has worked at George Mason for 13 years and holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland, but she finds her work in Patriot Computers as a justifiable means to an end. “Dressage is my passion; I work so I can play,” she says. “I like this job but I really enjoy riding; it keeps me outside during the winter.”

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