From Recreational to Elite: Can it be Done with a Friesian?

Have you ever been that person standing on the sideline of a dressage ring, watching a Friesian horse perform at Prix St George level, giving you goosebumps? That horse could have been Quillin F.C.

[ (photo: Mark Muilwijk)

In 2009 Janneke Poot, from Sylvan Lake, Alberta, Canada, joined a group of AFHA members on their trip to Reno, Nevada, U.S.A., to attend the FHANA 25th anniversary celebration. Her attention was drawn to a 4 year old stallion, ridden by a lady, showing his impressive gaits in an arena filled with loud music and many distractions. Ten days later, Janneke brought this horse (now gelded) home to Alberta. Quillin F.C. (Rintse 386 x Jasper 366) was young, full of energy, willing to work and above all: a trustworthy friend! [please insert image 2021-09-01-20-30-07] Janneke remembers, “My initial goals were simple. I wanted to use Quillin at the recreational level.” She enjoyed participating in the local parades and trail rides. Together they joined the AFHA musical ride group. They showed at the Calgary Stampede. “But I also wanted to become a better rider myself,” Janneke says. “I started to see Quillin’s potential and decided to take on the challenge for both of us.”

Janneke found a professional trainer in Rebecca Cade (Red Deer, Alberta), an experienced dressage rider. Both of them worked with Quillin. Rebecca’s expectations were high. Janneke acknowledged all the needs a top dressage horse has. She did build a team to monitor Quillin’s wellbeing, including a veterinarian, a farrier, a massage therapist, a nutritionist and the professional trainer. Besides that, Janneke participated in clinics offered by three international dressage competitors: Lindsey Stroh (Edmonton, Alberta), Chrystal Kroetz (Calgary, Alberta) and Marc-Peter Spahn (The Netherlands, clinician at the AFHA for many years).

(photo: Mark Muilwijk)

The training schedule was consistent and demanding. Five times a week they practiced in the arena and above that, they took on long drives around the province and beyond to show Quillin. Everything possible was done to come closer to their goal. They built on to his natural movements.They worked hard to improve Quillin’s gaits, especially his canter. The “step by step” approach made it possible for Quillin to handle it and not get injured during the process. Janneke, Quillin and their trainer took their time. Starting at training level in 2010, they gradually moved up to the Sport Qualification level in 2014. After that they started to work on the Prix St George level. That resulted in the Elite status in 2018.

Rebecca rode Quillin for those tests. After that, in 2018, Janneke started to show him herself at the Prix St George level. The Elite Status qualification made this horse remarkable; Yes, it can be done! Quillin F.C. is the first horse, trained in Canada, that moved up from the recreational status to Elite through the work of both his owner and trainer. An accomplishment that deserves to be acknowledged as an outstanding performance of a Friesian horse in North America.

(photo: Carrie Wagner-Meades)

Today Janneke looks at the future, “I have to be realistic. Quillin is 16 years old. I hope he will stay sound. I will keep working with Quillin because that is what he loves to do. I will keep showing him myself as I have done since 2018. Moving up from PSG to higher levels will be hard for both of us, but you never know: We made it this far and time will tell.” In conclusion she adds, “Looking back I had a great time working with this amazing horse. He became my best friend, through thick and thin, with ups and downs. It is all about the journey. We have learned a lot and I hope to enjoy Quillin for a few more years. After that I will retire him to a pasture!” Today Janneke has no new horse plans for the future. “I will wait and see what comes on my path again.”

Submitted by: Enny Van Aken.

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