On July 9, 2021, Nikolaus Leckebusch-Peters made headlines here in Canada when he was honoured during the Salzetten National Showjumping with the Golden Reitabzeichen (Riding) Badge of the National Federation of Germany. He was presented with this prestigious honour in a ceremony with his parents, the Halton Place team, and friends proudly looking on.
The 22-year-old rider, who was born in Toronto and now resides at Halton Place Europe in Wittendorf, Germany, started collecting the 10 necessary victories in classes 1.40m and higher in showjumping competitions in 2019. It only took him 14 months to accomplish this feat, with the finale achieved on his father Timur’s birthday, August 16, 2020, in Killigen, Germany.
The young rider was able to add three more 1.40 m class victories to his resumé during the 2021 competition season, above and beyond the Golden Badge requirements. On July 31st of this year, Nikolaus won the CSIU25 EY-Cup at the International Immenhofe Germany Showjumping riding his feisty 13-year-old grey mare C’est la Vie 145 (Check In x Calato). His horses Curly Sue and Alicante 44 have also been reliable partners who contributed to his list of victories. With his renowned trainer Berndt Noske coaching him at home, and his dad filling the role at shows, he is successfully developing a young team of well-bred horses, and his goal of representing his native Canada at a future Olympic Games certainly seems on the radar.
The German Connection
But first, a little history: Halton Place Europe was established by Nikolaus’ grandfather and was revived and renamed by his dad, Timur, in 2017. Explains Timur, “My father was a young entrepreneur, starting his construction business in 1964 ending up building over 100 indoor riding and sports arenas as well as many more industrial and commercial buildings. In 1966, my parents decided to build a house in a small Black Forest village named Wittendorf near Loßburg in the municipality of Freudenstadt. In 1970, my father acted on his childhood dream and build our equestrian facility in the same village, which he eventually expanded over the next few years to accommodate 65 horses with a 60 x 200 indoor arena. He named it Stall Rotkäppchen, which means Red Ridinghood Stables.
“For 25 years he (and myself until 1986 when I moved to Canada ) competed at national and international showjumping competitions. After his retirement from showjumping, he crossed over to the dressage camp and for that reason hired a leading and renowned German dressage trainer, Bernd Noske, who was also a very successful jumper rider in the younger years of his professional career.”
Timur says that following his father’s riding retirement for health reasons, the facility went dormant, “into a sleeping beauty” stage, with Noske, who had settled in the village, giving occasional clinics there to a few select clients.
Halton Place Ontario
Meanwhile, on this side of the world, Timur was getting established. “I purchased Halton Place in Halton Hills, Ontario, in 1989 when it was a very poorly-maintained hog farm with 15,000 pigs. The farm was originally settled in the Scotch Block in 1832 when the limestone house and original barn were constructed. I immediately began the transformation into a horse farm and competition venue. Halton Place remains my main home and lifetime project and dream ‒ even though I have been spending a lot of time away from it in the past years.”
Following the birth of twin sons Nikolaus and Alexander in 1999, Timur backed away from his competition career. While his boys began riding early on ponies at the Halton Place horse shows which Timur ran from 1990 – 2010, “their riding was rather casual,” he remarks. “Then in 2014 I leased my newly-built stables to James Gillam, trainer at G&G Sport Horses, and Nikolaus became very interested in seriously competing and started training with him.”
Following his first full show season in the fall of 2015, Nickie advised his mother and father that he was fully intent on becoming a professional rider. This announcement triggered some battles with his mother over school attendance, but he prevailed and subsequently spent the winter of 2015/16 in Wellington, FL.
After good results and training sessions with Nelson Pessoa in Florida, Nickie had moved up to the 1.25m level. “He was very excited, but didn’t really know much,” says Timur. “At that time I shared with him my opinion that if he was truly serious about becoming a top rider, he needed to move to Germany into a much less expensive and more competitive competition environment.”
Nickie agreed and in September of 2016 he moved to the heartland of horse country, in Oldenburg near Osnabrück, and trained with a former Paul Schockemöhle apprentice, Nicola Strube. “We purchased three rather talented but inexperienced younger horses for him (really a classic no-go to pair inexperienced horses with an inexperienced rider!) and we focused on building the horses rather than the rider. This kept him from rising too fast in terms of height of jumper classes because he needed to improve the rideability of his horses first. While he always was eager to compete at the next higher level, he understood that the horses weren’t ready.”
Timur admits it was a risky experiment that might not have worked despite Nickie’s talent and ambition. A decision to move south into their own stables in the Black Forest in January of 2018 may have made all the difference. “We struck gold by pairing an impatient and restless 18-year-old with an 80-year-old, highly-decorated Master Riding Instructor who made German and Olympic champions by teaching the basic principals of the traditional riding education of the likes of a Bert De Nemethy or a Willi Schultheiß.”
It was a match made in heaven. Bernd Noske agreed to come out of retirement after “an initial rather skeptical assessment of Nickie’s riding and his horses and following intense begging on my part.”
Almost four years later, the two men so different in age have become best friends in a relationship governed by respect and admiration on Nickie’s part and deep caring on Noske’s part for his student and his love for the horses. The successes speak for themselves; international victories up to the CSI 3* level and invitations to the 2020 CSI Aachen U25, where he competed on the same hallowed ground as his idol Eric Lamaze; the Aachen Youngstars shows; a recent puissance win, not to mention the Golden Reitabzeichen.
Focus on Quality
All of Timur’s ventures are with his sons in mind. “The main focus of the European facility and all my horse-related activities these days are for Nikolaus. I enjoy coaching him at the shows; I enjoy managing his career while teaching him the financial and business side of things. I do the same thing for his brother Sascha (Alexander) back home. He manages Halton Place and I teach him the ropes in my real estate development and property management business, Swisscan Properties.”
Starting in 2015, Timur began buying talented foals with top jumper pedigrees the likes of Kannan, Cornet Obolensky, Comme Il Faut, Nabab de Reve and Numero Uno and others. “I was having fun!” he says. “After the initial wait of four growing-up paddock years we started riding the first crop of foals, creating the necessity for Nickie to ‘must learn quickly how to work with babies in order to take them to the show ring!’ He admits that once again it was a possibly impulsive move on his part, but “I put Nickie under the gun and he excelled.”
And the young horses continue to excel. Nickie recently placed second in a 1.40m youngster class at CSI 3* Donaueschingen, Germany, with the home-raised six-year-old mare Canadian Club (Canstakko x Catoki) and also won a national 1.30m Sunday Jump-off Final with another home-raised six-year-old mare, Excentrique Z (Echo van Spieveldt x Hamlet, sire of Eric Lamaze’s late stallion Hickstead).
“I am amazed at today’s quality of breeding of jumper warmbloods in Europe,” says Timur. “We are certainly in the right place and have been blessed to find top talented foals. Here we can now develop them cost-effectively for the sport. We will sell some once we raised and trained them to a 1.30m level or higher because unfortunately we cannot afford to keep them all … even though each one of them feels like family!” In addition to a number of young horses coming up the ranks, “the Prince of Halton Place” is their five-year-old stallion Krown Royal HP ( Kannan x Quidam de Revel x Landadel), who has recently become licensed to breed and has been jumping at national shows up to 1.20m.
About a year ago, a new member of the Halton Place Europe team was welcomed – a young rider from Canada named Olivia Baird. “While she is mainly working with our babies and five-year-olds, she is learning herself from our master instructor Bernd Noske and competing with an experienced schoolmaster mare up to the 1.30m level,” says Timur. “And progressing in leaps and bounds. I am very proud of her and extremely happy to extend this opportunity to a wonderful hard-working young woman from our home base.”