Spotted and special! February is Appaloosa Month on YourDressage! Easily recognizable for their colorful spotted coat pattern, this American breed finds its origins with the Nez Perce Native American people. Join us as we celebrate these beautifully marked horses as our Breed of the Month, where we will share stories and photo galleries from Appaloosa enthusiasts across the country.
Dressage competitors who ride Appaloosas have the opportunity to earn special awards through the Adequan®/USDF All-Breeds Awards as Appaloosa Horse Club is a Participating Organization.
We recently asked our social media followers to share stories about what makes these horses so special. Here, a rider in Region 3 shares about finding the Appaloosa cross colt that had once captivated her in a sale ad years before, and bringing him home to her family farm.
By Alix Fleischauer
Vesuvius BEC was bred by Blackshire Equestrian Centre in Minnesota. His sire is the late Friesian stallion, Hessel, and he is out of the foundation Appaloosa mare, Fantasia MM. I first saw Vesuvius’ sale video while scrolling online in 2016. I was mesmerized by the spotted foal floating around the paddock on my screen. After a quick consult with my trainer – who saw the video and replied, “CALL NOW!” I eagerly contacted his breeder to inquire further. Unfortunately, I was informed that the colt had already been sold and they were not expecting more like him in the future.
So for the next few years, I focused on my then-16-year-old gelding, an Appaloosa x Thoroughbred by Chokolate Confetti. As we worked on earning the last scores toward our USDF Bronze Medal, the thought that he only had a handful of years left in the show ring lingered in my mind. So when he was 18 and his career was winding down, I decided to resume the search for a second spotted dressage partner.
One morning before barn chores, during my, by then, well-established routine of checking the online horse classifieds over morning coffee, my jaw dropped as I stared at the same spotted colt from the video years prior. Now an impressive 16.2 hand coming four-year-old, he was offered for sale -shockingly-only two hours away in Florida. Needless to say, Vesuvius BEC came to live at his forever home on my family’s small dressage farm soon after.
Vesuvius, who quickly earned the barn name “Spots,” arrived at his new home with very little handling due to his previous owner’s drastic life changes just after purchasing him as a weanling. Because of this, he spent most of his life following weaning growing up on his own in the dry lot at his owner’s home. There he made friends with the joggers and UPS drivers who were regulars in the neighborhood, and got admiring pats and the occasional carrot from his owner and neighbors over the fence.
Despite his limited education, Vesuvius quickly proved to be affectionate, curious, and ready to start learning.
In the early days I often compared the playful, brave, sometimes clumsy gelding to a Great Dane puppy. I’d never seen a horse have so much fun chasing a ball or keeping pace with a golf cart until I met Vesuvius! To this day, my instructor affectionately greets him with “there’s the neighborhood gossip” because he always wants to be included in, and observe intensely, whatever his humans happen to be doing. Tractor work on the farm? Setting up a new jump course? Going for a walk with the dogs? There he is, fascinated, right alongside you “helping” and enjoying the company.
As groundwork and his first rides began, Vesuvius quickly proved to be a sensible, bold partner. As a fairly timid adult amatuer, I couldn’t have asked for a more reliable horse.
Under the watchful guidance of my instructor, our first rides in the round pen progressed to the arena, then the field and trails within the first forty-five days of owning him. Funnily enough, I didn’t have a saddle in the barn that would fit his Friesian physique, so for the first few months, almost all of his rides (walk, trot, canter, trails, and swimming!) were done in a bareback pad. Happily, we had no misadventures while waiting for our custom saddle to arrive, and the brave, steady four-year-old took great care of me. Even now, while work is becoming a little harder, I still dedicate one fun day per week to switching out the dressage saddle for a bareback pad and going for a canter in the hay field or the woods. I’m not sure who enjoys it more, me or him, but it’s a fantastic feeling to feel perfectly safe doing that kind of thing on a green five-year-old and knowing he’s thoroughly enjoying himself too.
Vesuvius turned 5 on August 25, 2021 and has been under saddle for approximately one year. Though we haven’t competed yet, he has been on two overnight schooling trips to the World Equestrian Center (WEC), where he settled in and behaved like a seasoned pro. Much to everyone’s surprise, he came out of the stall his first time away from home so relaxed that we skipped lunging before riding into the first indoor arena he’s ever seen and marching through WEC’s indoor tunnels. In fact, all the while we were in the tunnels to get to the ring he marched eagerly with his ears forward as if to say, “This is so cool! Let’s see where these are going!”
He’s like that a lot in his daily training too; he loves an adventure and a fun challenge, so it’s up to the rider to make it interesting. At the moment, we’re having a great time perfecting the walk to canter transitions, and are playing a little bit with half steps when he offers them. It’s wonderful to see how proud he gets when he’s figured out a new movement and begins offering it more and more easily. In that way, he’s a really quick learner and seems to enjoy getting better and better at each task.
I’m hoping to enter him in his first show in early 2022. At home, we’re currently riding the Training Level tests with the green light from our instructor to compete.
Aside from our dressage training, he loves a good canter through the woods, and greeting the neighbors and various farm animals on hacks around the neighborhood. He also really gets a kick out of jumping, and seems genuinely thrilled to cruise around a small course when you ask him.
Probably most of all, Spots loves the water. If I ride out of the arena on the buckle, 9 times out of 10, he heads straight for the pond with no intention of stopping until he’s chest deep in the middle; splashing, sipping, and taking in the aquatic scenery. I can always count on his goofy antics and in your pocket personality to keep me chuckling, and I couldn’t have imagined a more beautiful or reliable partner when I began searching for a spotted young prospect years ago. Whether I’m in the saddle or watching him gallop through the pasture, I can’t help but marvel at how lucky I am to own my dream horse.