The mighty Friesian! We are celebrating this fairytale-looking breed as our May Breed of the Month on YourDressage! Join us all month long as we celebrate Friesians with photo galleries and exclusive stories!
Did you know that 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, Friesian Sport Horse Registry LLC, and Friesian Sporthorse Association are all participating organizations?
We recently asked our social media followers to share stories about what makes these horses so special. Here, a Region 1 trainer shares the journey from eventing to upper level dressage with her Friesian x Appaloosa, despite being told that he would be limited in his career by “a bad right hock, and an even worse attitude”.
By Courtney Swars
See Spot Run, affectionately known as Pig, is a 15.1 1/2hh (the 1/2 is important!) 2005 Friesian/Appaloosa by Biense, out of FM Coinage Gem. His technical name is “Picasso”, but the proper name never stuck as he was constantly covered in manure stains, snorted to preface his bucking fits, and had a rather voluptuous hind end that looked to be more of the porcine variety.
Pig came into my life in January of 2009, when he came to Reddemeade Farm in Silver Spring, MD to be sold. I had been a lesson student, turned working student, turned instructor at Reddemeade, and that summer I was in need of a horse to event. My trainer at the time, Melissa Smith, came up to me one fateful day and said “You should ride the spotted thing”. I had zero interest in that, as I had seen the young, weird looking horse leaping around on the rare occasions someone chose to ride him. Unsurprisingly, a green-broke rank 4 year old wasn’t a super popular ride in the Equishare program Reddemeade offered. Eventually I gave in and started to ride the half wild animal, a decision that I can now look back on as the greatest decision of my riding career.
I trained and competed Pig for two years until I went away to college. While away at college, the worst situation happened- Pig’s owner wanted him to return home as he hadn’t sold. After many tears and desperate calls to my mom, the process started for Pig to officially become mine in March 2011. After the semester was over, I transferred to Maryland and never looked back. While I finished college we dabbled in eventing, making it as far as Novice, before the jumps started to get as big as he was. Even then, Pig showed me his incredible heart and his willingness to do anything I asked of him.
In 2015, I graduated college with a teaching degree, but felt a “real adult” job just wasn’t for me at the time. One day, scrolling Facebook I saw an ad for a working student opening and on a whim I applied, beginning the start of the most amazing journey and the second best decision for my riding career. That fall, we moved into Peace of Mind Dressage in Waterford, VA, and began training under the tutelage of Jaclyn Sicoli. What a culture shock that was! Being around real dressage horses while Pig and I stuck out in our eventing garb and general feral-ness. Jackie never made us feel inferior because Pig didn’t have fancy bloodlines and I didn’t have the dressage rider’s physique, she pushed us every day to be better and to stand out and hold our own. My grand goal of my working student tenure was to get to First Level, but by the summer of 2016, Pig and I had earned our USDF Bronze Medal. Jackie gave us so many opportunities as we learned and moved up the levels together, and I will forever be grateful for her giving me a chance all those years ago.
The past couple years have been a whirlwind, but here’s a brief synopsis:
- 2018 had me starting my own training business, All’s Well Equestrian, and branching out on my own. I also got married!
- In 2019, I earned my USDF Silver Medal and earned one score towards Gold.
- My son was born July 2020
- In 2021, we moved ourselves and my training business to a beautiful farm in Poolesville, MD, where, of course, Pig is king.
People used to ask me if I got Pig for his coloring, and the easy answer is no. He always had the most incredible personality, even if it was very naughty to start out with. I may be biased, but I think Pig is just the most amazing animal. He puts on a big tough front, but really he’s just a big momma’s boy who would walk to the ends of the Earth if I asked him to. Pig’s body was not made for upper level dressage: he’s built downhill, his front feet don’t grow properly, and he’s small. But what he lacks in stature and athleticism, he more than makes up for it in heart and sass. A funny anecdote I always tell people, is that in Pig’s prepurchase exam the veterinarian made the comment that he would be limited in his career by “a bad right hock, and an even worse attitude”. So far neither of those things have stopped us!
I never intended to have a Friesian cross. I didn’t have any experience with Friesians, and only minimal experience with Appaloosas from the lesson horses. From meeting breed enthusiasts from both sides, I’ve decided Pig got the best of both breeds. Obviously the Appaloosa spots are amazing and draw a lot of attention, but thankfully Pig was graced with the mane and tail from the Friesian side! He can be cheeky and stubborn, but he’s also a show off, and gets incredibly noble when there’s a crowd around. Plus being an easy keeper with good feet is always a positive! I really just adore everything about Pig and the other Friesian crosses I have met. They are definitely my type!
For the future, Pig and I are working toward Grand Prix. He shows a great aptitude for piaffe, and absolutely loves tempi changes. Even if we can’t make it all the way to the top, Pig has surpassed all of my wildest dreams for him and has been a great ambassador for his breeds. Every day I get to spend with him is a favorite moment in my life. He is the best dancing partner a girl could have and everyday I look forward to #mylifewithpig.
Courtney Swars is a USDF Bronze and Silver Medalist. She is the trainer and owner at All’s Well Equestrian in Maryland.