Githa Saarberg and Casper on a beach ride (Photo: Cally Matherly)
Dutch-born Githa Saarberg has lived in Costa Rica for over 25 years. In 2004 she imported the first three Friesian horses to this Central American country. With stallion Casper from the Fr. Connection (Ouke 313) she has competed at Prix St. Georges level.
Githa well remembers her first acquaintance with American-bred Casper: ‘Casper arrived in Costa Rica in 2007 with a group of thirty Friesian horses. I was charmed by this stallion who had been trained at freestyle dressage. His Costa Rican owner allowed me to train him and he was stabled in my yard. He obviously knew no right canter but he did all sorts of tricks for which I didn´t know what button to push. It was usually pretty funny. Rein back resulted in a Levade and the halt would produce stretching so that he lowered himself one meter. Dressage-wise we quickly progressed and even became Champion of Costa Rica, but there were just very few competitors, mind you.’
End of story?
After a year the combination was separated. Githa explains: ‘I was so keen to buy Casper but I couldn´t because the owner asked too much money for him. To my greatest dismay Casper was sold off to Nicaragua. I knew the new owner however, this man was wildly enthusiastic about him and at least I knew where Casper was. End of story, I thought. A year later I got a phone call from his new owner asking me if I had a horse that I could trade for Casper so that I would get him back. Via a friend who wanted to sell her stallion I managed to get Casper back with this deal. I was over the moon!’
Githa Saarberg and Casper out competing (Photo: Alejandra Gonzalez)
Above all having fun
‘Casper was nine at that time and we simply picked up training from where we left. Riding competitions is not always straightforward in Costa Rica. Distances are substantial, temperatures high and entry fees quite considerable. We couldn´t achieve many starts. Casper was seventeen by the time we attempted the Prix St. Georges. The first time was hard because we had little competition rhythm but it still gave me a taste for more. Our last start was last year, Casper was nineteen and we nearly realised the result we were hoping for. For that last competition we spent a long time in a traffic jam with temperatures rising to 37 degrees. That´s when I told Casper he was getting too old for this kind of drama. No more competitions and simply carry on training at home, just for fun. Casper is healthy and strong and that´s all I can wish for for my first proper Friesian dressage horse and great love Casper,’ Githa Saarberg concludes.