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 USDF Gold Medal trainer shares the story of a horse that made a lasting impression, and living up to his name, became a shining star in the arena!
By Kristin Mills
I started riding at the early age of three, began competing in dressage shows in Hamburg, Germany at the age of seven, and by 18 had decided to pursue riding not only as a sport, but as a profession. For five years, I apprenticed under the mentorship of Juergen Boekmann, a well-known dressage trainer and judge in Schenefeld, Germany, where my education focused on classical German riding principles, promoting harmony between horse and rider. This formal apprenticeship included didactic, classroom education on equine anatomy, nutrition, health management, and husbandry, as well as intensive experiential practicums, riding an average of eight horses per day, preparing sale horses for potential buyers, training competition horses for shows, and competing these horses throughout the year.
In 2008, I moved to California and founded Kristin Mills Dressage. I currently train a select number of dedicated students and their horses, and continue to compete at the regional and international levels. I have had a few Friesians in my training program over the years. I met Orion in 2013 when I was sought out to help with his training. Foeke Sport, around the barn known as “Orion” is owned by Robin Schriver (of Rio Linda, CA). Orion was trained mostly for driving in the Netherlands before he was imported to CA and acquired by Robin.
Orion is one of the sweetest horses I have worked with. He always wanted to please the rider, and tried his best to accomplish the demanding tasks required in upper-level dressage tests. Only because of those attributes was I able to train him from Training Level to Grand Prix in five years.
Orion had a lot of talent for dressage. He had very nice movements and the character you need for an upper-level dressage horse. It is not easy to compete a Friesian in dressage. They are bred for carriage driving, with a very high headset. I spent a lot of time teaching Orion to stretch forward and downward over his back to lengthen his frame, which is one of the more difficult, but essential, movements for the success in riding a Friesian.
I started his training under saddle, and by 2015 Orion and I showed, and won, at USDF/USEF/CDS shows at Third and Fourth Levels. He earned his Sport Predicate, the Adequan®/USDF All-Breed Award Reserve Champion at Fourth Level the Friesian Horse Association of North America, and won the FHANA/CDS Friesian High-Point Award.
In 2017, Orion suffered a severe ocular ulcer and had eye surgery at UC Davis. The veterinarians did fantastic work and he recovered quickly. Orion and I were back in the show arena in May to earn our first scores at Prix St. Georges and Intermediate I. We competed at the Region 7 USDF/USEF/CDS Championships that year. Orion won “2017 FHANA Dressage Performance Award Winner”. He placed third in the 2017 Adequan®/USDF All-Breed Awards in both Prix St. Georges and Intermediate I, and was the 2017 USEF Silver Stirrup Award Zone 10 Champion at Prix St. Georges and Intermediate I.
In 2018, Orion and I rode a couple of Intermediate II and Grand Prix tests to get Orion his Sport Elite Predicate for performing exceptionally well in dressage.
Orion excelled at the peak of his career, but his owner decided that it would be a good time to retire him from the demands of the upper levels of the sport and let him enjoy lighter work for a couple of years.
Kristin Mills is a FEI (Federation Equestrian International or International Federation for Equestrian Sports) competition dressage rider from Germany who is now based in Sacramento, CA. Competing internationally in Europe and the US, Kristin holds Bronze and Silver Medals from the Deutsche Reiterliche Vereinigung (FN) and Bronze, Silver, and Gold Medals from the United States Dressage Federation (USDF).