The mighty Friesian! We are celebrating this fairytale-looking breed as our May Breed of the Month on #YourDressage!
Dressage riders who choose Friesians as their mounts are eligible for special awards through the Adequan®/USDF All-Breeds Awards program, as Friesian Heritage Horse & Sporthorse International, Friesian Horse Association of North America, Friesian Horse Society, Inc (FHS), Friesian Sport Horse Registry LLC, and Friesian Sporthorse Association – FSA are all participating organizations.
Here, a Region 2 mom shares the story of her daughter and their dream-fulfilling Friesian stallion, and the obvious bond that was created when Klaas chose Addie as his person.
By Shannon Hansell
Friesians have been my dream for many years. The regal stature, expressive trot, and amazing hair have always drawn me to the breed. When I started working with the breed I fell in love with their sweet and calm nature. They want to please, though sometimes can come across as lazy, and they will try hard to understand what you want and give an answer without getting upset.
We purchased Klaas when he was seven months old. So excited that we had our dream horse, we started out trying a little of everything with him. At four years old, we started mounted shooting. He did it, but it was not his favorite. Then we tried tricks and liberty – he loved this – and this is where we found his personality and learned who his person was. Addie, my 15-year-old daughter, started working with Klaas when she was eleven years old. He would search her out, and always worked harder on all his tricks when she was there. Sometimes that was the only way we could get him to learn a trick – let Addie teach him. When Addie rode him, he had such pride in his little girl, he would look like he was floating. This is when we decided that dressage was the way for him. He loved it.
Addie has grown up with horses and, like Klaas, did not know what she wanted to do. She has worked with a few different trainers, and when she went to a clinic with Brad Cutshall, she found a path. I have never seen her so excited to ride, and excited to set goals and feel she could accomplish them, as she did in dressage. She blossomed in her riding.
Last year was Klaas and Addies first year showing together. Under the guidance of her coach, Brad Cutshall, Addie showed and trained Klaas from Training Level to Second Level. Together, they qualified for the Great American Insurance Group/ USDF Regional Championships and US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®.. This year, Klaas and Addie have goals of getting Klaas’s Sports predicate, and Addie’s USDF Bronze Medal. Over the winter, Addie and Klaas worked on their flying changes, which is another thing that can be difficult for Friesians. With determination, understanding, and working together, Klaas accomplished it, and is so proud.
Dressage and Friesians work together, but not without challenges. Friesians are not known for their stamina, especially in hot weather. So learning to train early in the morning or in the cool of the evening helps. When it is really hot, it’s also important to make sure we don’t warm up too long.
Another consideration is the amount of hair that Friesians have, knowing how to braid and planning enough time to get the hair done. He takes longer in the “bathroom” than Addie does. Managing Klaas’s hair adds about 30 extra minutes, compared to other horses we ride.
Showing a stallion can be difficult, especially with a junior rider. People do not think he is a stallion, and want to walk up to him, or walk really close to him, with their mare. He is very well behaved, but always being alert to his surroundings is important for his human team. Spring can be a challenge sometimes to keep his mind in the game, but because of his love for his little girl, one “no” from her and he puts his head on straight.
I think the story of Klaas and Addie is just beginning. I am so excited to watch them in the show ring and see them grow together. Dressage really does help kids learn to work together with their horse, lset goals for themselves, compete against themselves to improve, and not worry about who has the best horse. Hard work shows in this sport. I love that.