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 8 rider shares how she met her unicorn – disguised as a recently gelded 5-year-old Friesian x Arabian!
By Stephanie Williams
It was the beginning of November 2011, I had lost my 7-year-old half Arabian to colic months prior, and while still mourning the devastating loss, was lucky enough to free lease a beautiful purebred Friesian named Thor.
I remember it like it was yesterday, I stopped by the barn to say hello to my barn family and ran into my trainer who was excited to check out a 5-year-old half Arabian, half Friesian, named Garcia for a client of hers. I couldn’t help myself, and blurted aloud the first thing that came to mind: “Well that’s an interesting cross!” I was immediately embarrassed by this seemingly rude comment. Without skipping a beat, my trainer spoke up and said “He’s a nice looking horse, you just never know.” Little did I know what life had in store for me.
A few days had passed, and I received a call from my trainer Karen, who was beyond excited to tell me more about Garcia, a beautiful, feisty, strong, and very green horse that would be the PERFECT fit for me! While Garcia sounded lovely, buying a horse at the time wasn’t something I was interested in; I mean, I had a FREE lease going on, why would I want to buy a horse now?
From that phone call, Karen continued to call and pressure me to at least check Garcia out – she just had a certain feeling about him. (To note, while Karen felt guilty about pressuring me to look at horses after losing my previous mare, she knew there was something special about this one). After about a week or so had passed, I finally caved and decided to make the trip to Rhode Island and meet this horse, and frankly, my mother and I only went because Karen had asked us if we could pick up a potential lesson horse for her named Bubbles.
My mom and I were driving up to Pond View Stables, and Karen called me to discuss what to expect. She went on to mention that I shouldn’t be intimidated by riding Garcia, and just show everyone what a brave rider I was. I think she was trying to give me some words of wisdom, but it ended up making me more nervous than I originally was! What was I about to get into?
We arrived at the barn, greeted the barn owner Becca, and she walked me to Garcia’s stall, giving me additional information about him – “He’s only 5, and very green, and we just gelded him a few months ago, we had intentions of keeping him a stallion, but decided not to”. You know, all great things a young rider wants to hear before she rides!
The time came to saddle up and ride, and although Garcia was only 15.2 hands tall, his massive gaits made it feel like I was riding a 17+ hand horse! He was green for sure, but had a kind attitude and seemed willing. His greenness was truly shown when I asked for him to canter, I couldn’t do it! It was so bad that the trainer of the farm actually asked me if I had ever cantered a horse before! I was beyond embarrassed (I had about 10 years of 2 & 3 phase eventing under my belt and more recently focused on dressage). After saying that I had, the trainer told me how to canter Garcia, outside leg behind the girth, inside leg at the girth, etc…I left the barn that day feeling distraught and uninterested in Garcia.
A few days later, while cleaning stalls with Karen at her barn, she asked me how my visit with Garcia went and what my thoughts were. I simply stated that “It was ok,” to which she told me “Well, bring him here to the barn for a trial period and see what happens”. Within a few days, Garcia was at the barn and, 11 years later, the rest is history!
Garcia officially became mine in January of 2012, and by April 2012 we were attending our first breed show. I’m sure this memory still haunts my trainer to this day, but I had just come out of my first ever Training Level test with Garcia, and my trainer, my mom, and a few other friends were walking back to the stall while I rode on a loose rein. Garcia, of course, had other plans; he saw his barn friend up ahead and wanted to catch up to him ASAP. So the next thing you know, Garcia took off at a full gallop, while Karen had a mini heart attack, and my mom simply stated “she’ll be fine”. When everyone finally caught up to me by the chain link fence, (the only thing that stopped Garcia from running halfway across the world) I was simply laughing and smiling from the whole ordeal. Karen still blames me for the gray hairs she got that day.
Through the years, Garcia and I have competed in numerous breed shows at the local, regional, and nation level, even earning a National Championship at the Sport Horse National in Show Hack (a dressage-based class that horses are shown at a walk, trot, and canter with collected, working, and extended gaits), a Reserve National Championship title in Second Level Dressage, and numerous top ten titles at the national level. Garcia and I compete in Half Arabian Sport Horse under saddle classes, Third Level dressage, have tried our hand in low level eventing, and even cow sorting. When Garcia is not strutting his eye opening extended trot in the show ring, he thoroughly enjoys trail riding and going for a swim at the beach.
I’m convinced Garcia is secretly a unicorn in disguise, he has a puppy dog personality and is down for whatever I throw at him. He is truly my heart horse and I am so lucky to be able to call him mine.