“Pfreefall”ing in Love with Trakehners

From left to right Pfreefall (Fred), me, Kevin Martin (husband), and Amaretta Di Saronno (Retta)

Renowned for its floating trot, the Trakehner is one of the lightest & most refined warmbloods. We are celebrating this breed as our March Breed of the Month on YourDressage! Join us all month long as we celebrate Trakehners with photo galleries and exclusive stories!

Dressage riders who choose Trakehners as their mounts are eligible for special awards through the Adequan®/USDF All Breeds Awards program – the American Trakehner Association and the Trakehner Association of North America (TANA) are both participating organizations.

We recently asked our social media followers to share stories about what makes these horses so special.  Here, an adult re-rider shares about not one, but two Trakehners who have joined her on her dressage journey.  

By Dawn Petraitis

Me with Amaretta Di Saronno (Retta)

My long and winding road in dressage and, unknowingly, Trakehners started 25 years ago, when I was 15 years old and finally had a horse of my own after more than 5 years of lessons. He was a Quarter Horse gelding who was the same age as me. And since he was boarded at a dressage facility in Pennsylvania, it started my descent into the depths of dressage.

I changed farms a couple of times while in high school and college. Eventually, my Quarter Horse and I ended up at a farm in New Jersey with my trainer at the time, Christie Stillwaugh. That’s where I first fell in love with Trakehners. Christie had a Trakehner gelding at the farm for training, Sudzauber, known as “ZZ” around the barn. She graciously let me ride him for some lessons so I could learn from him. He had the smoothest gaits and was always willing to work, as well as being a character in the barn. I remember one time I was riding the canter loop from First Level, and he did a flying change. That was my first flying change, and it wasn’t on purpose. Needless to say, I was hooked.

Me with Pfreefall (Fred)

After a gap year following college, I moved to the Florida panhandle for graduate school. I somehow managed to find a way to ride while working on my Masters degree in Meteorology. But once I graduated and found a real job, horses took a back seat for a few years.

I was five years into my career when I got the urge to start riding seriously again. Luckily for me, one of my coworkers was friends with a local barn owner here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She invited me over for a visit to the farm to meet the owner, Jodi Waldrip, and the horses. A week after that visit, I was back on a horse.

Once I was back to riding regularly, I mentioned to Jodi that I was looking for my own horse. I had just moved in with my now husband, Kevin Martin, and we were only 5 minutes away from the barn. The five-year break allowed me to save up some money. So, off I went to look at horses.

I tried a few but didn’t click with any of them. Then, on a trip to Tennessee in 2012, I found him. His name was Criss, and he was a green-broke Trakehner gelding. It was love at first meeting. He reminded me of both my Quarter Horse, who unfortunately passed away while I was in grad school, and my Friesian/Appaloosa cross, who unfortunately could not handle the heat and humidity in Mississippi.

Criss (American Trakehner Association registered name “Coriolis”) and I made it up to First Level before he decided he wanted to jump rather than dance. I hadn’t seriously started looking for a second horse in the fall of 2017 when Jodi and I saw the same ad within an hour of each other. I tried both mares from the ad and fell in love with Amaretta Di Saronno, a 20-year-old Trakehner who very much looks like her sire, Impressionist. “Retta” came home with me two weeks later.

Me on Pfreefall (Fred) at the 2021 USDF Region 9 Championships

Retta and I clicked right away. She took me to my first Great American Insurance Group/USDF Regional Dressage Championships in Texas (Region 9) in 2018, where we finished in the middle of the pack in First Level and placed fifth in the USDF Regional Adult Amateur Equitation Final presented by Big Dee’s Tack and Vet Supply. She also introduced me to the world of freestyles. We were on track to qualify for regional championships in Second Level and First Level Freestyle when she came up with a minor injury in the summer of 2020. Four months off killed the dream. But the silver lining was that we finished as the 2020 American Trakehner Association (ATA) Second Level Champion.

I started again looking at horses, knowing that Retta was getting close to retiring, and Criss was up for sale. On one of my trips home to Pennsylvania, I went over to New Jersey to try out Pfreefall, yet another Trakehner. He was sort of in my budget, but I couldn’t pass up at least trying him. My mom went with me, and we reminisced about all the times we went over to New Jersey for my riding lessons. Mom and I talked about “Fred” on the way home. I was honestly on the fence when I found out a week later that he sold to someone else. Okay, the universe spoke. But what I didn’t realize at the time was that the universe had a plan.

Six months later, in May 2020, I had finally sold Criss and it was bittersweet saying goodbye to him. Two weeks after I sold Criss, Fred’s sale ad was back up. I couldn’t believe my luck! I talked it over with Kevin, who told me that it was a lot of money but also knew I was going to do what I wanted. I finalized the purchase and a month later, Fred was finally with me in Mississippi. He was everything I remembered: gorgeous, talented, and the best personality.

Me on Amaretta Di Saronno, 2021 SEDA Schooling Show Champions Second Level

We clicked immediately and went out at Second Level four months after he arrived. We spent 2021 qualifying for regional championships at Second Level and Second Level Freestyle, where we were Region 9 Adult Amateur Equitation Final Champion, Southwest Dressage Championships (SWDC) Reserve Champion Second Level Freestyle, fourth place USDF Second Level Freestyle, and sixth place SWDC Second Level Adult Amateur. We also finished as the 2021 ATA Second Level Freestyle Champion and the Second Level Reserve Champion. It was a whirlwind of a first year with Fred!

We’re now competing at Third Level, and I finished my USDF Bronze Medal in April 2021. I’m so proud to say that all my medal scores have been on Trakehners, with Criss giving me my First Level scores, Retta my Second Level scores, and Fred my Third Level scores. I’m now chasing my Freestyle Bronze Bar, with all that’s left being my Third Level Freestyle scores.

Retta will be 25 years old in April, and she’s still going strong. Despite her age, she does not look nor act older. She has a spark that lights up every time I see her. She’s now teaching the next generation of riders, as well as giving some friends some much needed confidence. I still get on her every so often just to have some fun.

Fred will be 10 years old in May, and I’m so excited about our future together. We’re almost two years into our relationship. I love him so much, and he’s really becoming my partner. In addition to my personal rider goals, I’m chasing our last required scores for his ATA Performance Bronze award.

All those years ago, I never imagined that I’d have two wonderful Trakehners that have introduced me to some wonderful people. I’m hoping to meet more of them in person at the annual ATA meeting later this year. Both the people and the horses have made me a Trakehner fan for life.

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