I have always had a passion for working with Friesians. I wasn’t afraid of anything and could also be a bit stubborn. The inspection came in sight and I wanted to practice for show trotting classes in the afternoon. My dad didn’t always have time. Who to take? I had my mind made up I was going to work with Wieskje (Freark 218) grandmother of Mintse 384. She wasn’t driven much. My dad helped to put her in front of the training cart and then I was on my own. He wanted to put the reins in the middle or the bottom hole of the Liverpool bit. Stubborn as I was, I said that is not necessary, I can easily control her in the top hole. (Less leverage). Well I still remember it to this day. I got her in the field. And then we started trotting. And then we started cantering.. That wasn’t really the plan. In the Netherlands the fields have ditches.. I was hanging on the reins. I could still steer, but barely, let alone slow her down. My uncle Tjitze happened to drive by and saw us fly up and down the field. He parked his car, waited when we rounded a turn and managed to climb on the cart. Now together hauling on the reins we were able to slow down the mare.
Show trotting at the Inspection with my “dressage” star mare Gelbrigje (Hearke254)It had its advantages growing up in a Friesian community! Another time when I was practicing with our gelding Wiebolt (Jochem259) in front of the cart for show trotting, the late Mr. Siebren Bangma, the owner of Hearke 254 Preferent asked if I wanted some tips for show driving? Of course!! You don’t say no to that! Hearke254 the most successful show trotting stallion at the time, trained and driven by Mr. Bangma. And now I got a show driving lesson, at home in our own field from Mr. Bangma. Great times!
Before I was allowed to compete at official shows, I had to get my KNHS (Equivelant to the Dutch Equestrian Federation) driving license. In order to get your show driving license you had to take the exam with the cart you were going to use at competition. It was summer and my parents were busy. So we hitched Wiebolt up at home in front of the sjees (two wheeled antique gig) and I drove him to the location of the exam, 8kms up the road, a narrow road with a tiny shoulder and ditches on both sides.. No problem! He was a lot of fun. His leg action was very good with a long moment of suspension. He was the kind of gelding that was up for anything and had lots of go. The first Friesian I trained by myself to saddle. I rode him bareback, wanted to teach him tricks, and did some jumping with him for fun. If I remember correctly there was a test with 4 jumps of 2 feet. This must have been a pilot project that was soon abandoned because I was unable to find any data on it.
From my favorite gelding growing up to my favorite gelding in Canada, Sierk.
Sierk (Mintse 384 x Remmelt 323) was born in June 2005. Remember, he came to us in utro with Ylse. I tremendously enjoyed every step of the way, seeing him grow up and maturing into a beautiful, smart, kind gelding. Yes, I decided to have him gelded at 3 years of age. Even tough lots of people asked me to stand him at stud. And I did consider keeping him a stud for a while. But with a busy dairy farm, a non-horsey husband, children, that didn’t really work. I also wanted to compete in dressage. There was simply not enough time in a day to accomplish all of that.
Sierk was the kind of gelding who always gave it his all, right from the start. I trained him myself. He just had this willingness to please. At the dressage shows, when we were in the ring, he would be totally focused. He thrived on people watching him. When a groom would take care of him, he would still try to see where I went. He wasn’t a tall impressive horse. But he had tremendous heart, a trustworthy partner. We competed successfully and advanced up the levels. At shows he was nicknamed Howard Stern for his curly long forelock and long manes. At that time (2009- 2014) Sierk was the only Friesian competing in dressage in this area. Even when we qualified to compete in Bromont , Quebec for the Canadian Equestrian Championships, Sierk was the only Friesian there.
Needless to say we ran into the same comments as in the Netherlands when I competed with Gelbrigje ster (Hearke 254) at second level dressage in the late eighties, early nineties. “What is this horse doing in the ring? Isn’t that a cart horse?” Etc. But the nice part was that most judges were usually saying things like that before my ride, and then afterward they would have a change of mind. Not all of the time of course, but it happened a lot. We all know that now many years later, the Friesian horse is making strides in dressage all over the world! And it’s unthinkable to not see them at dressage competitions now.
Difficult flying changes
Sierk and I were competing at third level when his meniscus tore. We were working towards our sport predicate. To obtain the sport predicate in NA you need to use third level tests. They are considered equal to the Dutch Z1 tests. But in the third level tests you need to be able to execute flying lead changes. Those are not in the Z1 tests. Later I learned that it is possible to use the Z1 tests in NA, if you submit them beforehand to the show secretary. The upper level judges have no problem with judging those. This is happening a lot because the flying lead changes are often the most difficult part of the test. The meniscus tear was bad enough that this meant the end of Sierk’s dressage career. Prognosis for surgery wasn’t good. Sierk now has the best retired life a horse can wish for as a recreational horse. He is owned by Jackie and luckily is still on PEI.
After Sierk I have been busy training various Friesians and warmbloods from this area, some for resale some for potential dressage horses. It’s just wonderful to be able to work with these magnificent animals. But I still haven’t found “another” Sierk!
- What about inspections?
- Breeding challenges…..
- First Friesian mare in PEI, Canada
- From living to working in Canada
- Memories of my youth with Friesian horses