Everybody has “that” horse that they fantasize about one day getting the opportunity to ride. Often it is a horse that is so far from the one they normally ride. For example, I was talking to an accomplished dressage rider a few days ago and she wants to ride a cutting horse and experience chasing a cow. Other friends have talked about driving in a sulky behind a Standardbred. Maybe you would like to ride a school master horse in the same sport you ride.
My fantasy horse is the Friesian. Yes, I know they are black, hairy, popular and very pretty. But trust me it is about more than just that. My dad was born in Friesland in the Netherlands. The thing about Dutch people is that they love their knick-knacks and many of ours were decorated with Friesian horses. So of course, to me, the Friesian is THE horse.
Friesians are becoming more popular in Canada and they are no longer considered just carriage horses. Sometimes you see them being ridden in dressage. They are also very popular in movies because they are so pretty. Were you also distracted by their appearance in the latest “Planet of the Apes” movie? Yes, me too: “Look, the apes are riding FRIESIANS!” “SHHHH….”
Last summer, I started following a horse rescue on the Internet: Horseplay Sanctuary. They do some very good work and I am also writing a blog about it. The owner, Lillian has Friesians as her personal horses. In addition to agreeing to be interviewed about her farm, Lillian also graciously allowed me to meet and ride Wilby, her 14 year-old Friesian gelding.
Initially, she free-lunged Wilby and Mila (the 2 year old Friesian filly) in the arena. The lunging quickly turned into the two of them sniffing me, receiving scratches and cuddles from me, and then playing with the Velcro on my gloves. I’m trying to remember who told me that Friesian horses were not very bright. I saw two very inquisitive, intelligent horses. Later Mila went back to join the herd and Wilby moved to the cross-ties. He was appreciative of his grooming and continued to be very social. Lillian said that every Friesian that she knows is people-oriented like this. One of the challenges with the Friesian is finding saddles that fit correctly because of the sprung ribs, the upright shoulder and the short back.
So, when I did get to ride Wilby, the best way I can describe the movement is that it felt like a 4-wheel-drive armchair. You could feel the power coming from the hind end. This surprised me because I was expecting it to be more in the front because of the high-stepping action. Everything felt smooth and the trot was as comfortable to sit to as to post to. His canter also was extremely smooth. Throughout the entire ride, I felt very safe. Lillian described Wiby as “a great ambassador for his breed”. I agree.
What horse would you like to ride if you had the opportunity?