Renowned sport horse breeder and former US Hanoverian Society president Douglas Leatherdale has died on his birthday, at the age of 79.
Along with his wife, Louise, Doug Leatherdale was the owner of Leatherdale Farms in Minnesota, which breeds dressage and sport horses.
Born on December 6, 1936, in Manitoba, Canada, Leatherdale graduated from United College in Winnipeg (now the University of Winnipeg) in 1957. He immigrated to the United States and built a career in business, serving as chairman and chief executive officer of The St. Paul Companies Inc., one of the largest US insurance companies, from 1990 to 2001. The founding member of the University of Winnipeg Foundation’s Board of Directors, Leatherdale also served on the boards of the Minnesota Orchestral Association, Xcel Energy Inc. and UnitedHealth Group Inc.
Leatherdale received the 2015 Governor General of Canada’s medal for building relationships between Canada and the U. in education, commerce, philanthropy, sports and the arts.
With Louise, Doug Leatherdale also made a significant impact through charitable gifts to worthwhile causes. They recently donated $2 million to Assiniboine Park Conservancy in Winnipeg, where the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre was renamed in their honor, and $2.5 million toward the construction of Leatherdale Hall at the University of Winnipeg. Their $5 million gift to the Minnesota Orchestra this year created the Douglas and Louise Leatherdale Music Director Chair in honor of Osmo Vänskä to foster international touring, recording and the artistic growth of the ensemble. The Leatherdales made a major gift that funded the Leatherdale Equine Center at University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
In partnership with his wife, Leatherdale had an immense influence on the Hanoverian sport horse world. They began breeding and showing Hanoverian jumpers from their home in Medina, Minnesota, in the late 1980s. After taking a breeders’ course in Verden, Germany, in 1993, they shifted their focus to dressage and began purchasing mares from farms in Virginia and Ontario and importing mares and foals from Germany. Their first stallion, His Highness, was the top selling stallion and champion of the 2002 Hanoverian licensing.
Leatherdale Farms in Long Lake, Minnesota, also owns several prominent licensed stallions who have been based in Dorum, Germany, at Hengststation Jens Meyer: the premium elite Hanoverians Damsey, First Dance, Hampton and Beltano, the premium elite Trakehner Herzensdieb; and the Oldenburg Fairbanks.
Alongside Leatherdale Farms’ breeding operation, Doug and Louise Leatherdale have supported riders including Canada’s Diane Creech and the United States’ Sue Blinks, an Olympic medalist. Creech rode Leatherdale horses to the team silver medal at the 2007 Pan American Games and the reserve position on Canada’s dressage team at both the 2012 London Olympics and 2015 Pan American Games. The Leatherdales gave Creech’s daughter, junior competitor Vanessa Creech-Terauds, the ride on their stallion Rob Roy after he was gelded for health reasons.
Doug Leatherdale served as president of the American Hanoverian Society from 2001 to 2010, drawing on his business expertise to guide the Society during his tenure. In 2011, he was honored with the Golden Badge of the Hannoveraner Verband and remains the only non-German recipient of that prize. He was named the 2006 Dressage Canada Owner of the Year.
As Creech wrote in a tribute to Leatherdale, “His footprint on this world will be distinct and deep.” He filled his life with experiences and accomplishments in many different realms and leaves behind a remarkable legacy; his dedication to horse sport, business savvy, and kind, loving spirit will not be forgotten.
Leatherdale is survived by his wife, Louise; his sister, Sharon Storey; daughter Mary Jo Emfield and sons Christopher Leatherdale (Rebecca), Tim Schock (Heather) and Tom Schock (Wanloe); grandchildren Kendall, Travis and Austin Emfield, Jeb and Bailie Schock, and Mike, Chase and Joseph Leatherdale; and nephew Scott Storey; (Lori) and Eric Benson (Francesca) and nieces Diana Kissick (Roger) and Sara Benson.