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adventurous


Leslie Berndl has a professional life packed with perilous obstacles, barn. While she spends her time as a California Highway patrol combined driving competitor in the United States, somehow she


eighteen years, airlifting ill patients and the injured from remote areas of the Sierra Mountains, medevacing car crash victims, enforcing the law and carrying out search and rescue. With only eleven years driving experience, her accom-


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plishments have led her to represent the United States (for the second time) in the World Driving Singles Championship, held this year, September 12–16, in Lezirias, Portugal. There she will drive Fritz Grupe’s eleven-year-old Dutch Gelderlander Uminco, nicknamed Travis (Manno x Marinka by Waterman). He has become one of her favorites in her many years with horses.


Destined to be Together Nearly two years ago at the 2010 USEF National Singles Championship at Live Oak International in Ocala, Florida, Leslie had just fi ve days to learn the ins and outs of the sensitive Travis when Fritz took ill and couldn’t compete. (The prior year Fritz had won the USEF Single Horse National Championship with him.) “By my bootstraps” is literally how she describes her fi rst competition with Travis. Remarkably, they ended up reserve champions. “The fi rst time I saw him, I loved him,” she says of the


upright and handsome 16.2 bay. “He is very sensitive. After I drove him that week I knew he needed a lighter hand. I would


22 September/October 2012


his USEF combined driving team member is the most senior CHP fl ight offi cer in California and is a paramedic who has fl own on lifeline helicopter missions for


say to Fritz, ‘this is a lady’s horse.’ Then I’d get my friends to keep telling him that.” After his recovery, Fritz took Travis on to win the 2010 USEF Singles National Championship in Kentucky but also competed him in pairs later in California, winning at Shady Oak. However, while Fritz’s passion is pairs, Travis simply didn’t enjoy it. “Pairs horses feed off of one another. If one horse needs a correction, the other horse thinks it’s him too. And they’re always bumping each other. Travis just didn’t like that,” Leslie explains. At last Fritz relented, and a year ago Travis arrived at Leslie’s Whispering Oaks Performance Horses facility in Newcastle, California.


“He’s a great horse. He had never had a person of his own.


He came from some big stable in Europe, and Fritz has grooms that care for the horses. I don’t mean to pat myself on the back, but he adores me. I come up to him and he licks me, puts his head in my chest—things he had never done before. He loves having his own person who respects him and treats him as he likes to be treated,” Leslie remarks. “Travis can not take a strong hand. He will do anything for


you, but he becomes really upset if you’re too strong with him. He’s not a horse you can force. He has to be relaxed or there is just a bunch of crazy leg movement,” she adds. “When I took him to Florida to compete this year, a groom asked with surprise, ‘Is this the same Travis? I used to hate him. He’d stand in the cross ties and look like he was going to blow up.’ And I said, ‘Travis? He’s such a character now.’”


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Photo by PicsofYou.com


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