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- Meet a Friesian Stallion
Meet a Friesian Stallion
To me, all horses are beautiful. But there’s just something utterly special about a Friesian. It doesn’t really get much more magical than galloping a stunning black horse along the beach, with the long flowing mane and the water splashing up, not that I’ve done it yet, because riding Kitkat is like trying to ride a trampoline! And I’m pretty sure I’d be in the sea in the first five minutes. But from my experience of having a Friesian, although hugely expressive and sometimes a little quirky to ride, they have a heart of gold.
I was initially drawn to Friesians because of their looks. They’re the ultimate dream horse in my book. There’s always just been “something” about them. They have the most magnificent presence, but with the kindest and softest eyes and temperaments. They’re just different, and when you see one, your attention is just completely captivated by them.
Where my love for Friesians started
I crossed paths with Kitkat five years ago, and I’ve had so much fun with him since. He’s a living fairytale horse. I’ve learned an awful lot about the breed in that time, and also about myself. He’s taught me about how important it is to be in the moment with your horse, and how we should respect our horses’ intelligence. Kitkat is the kind of horse who, like many, will try his heart out for you, as long as you set him up for success. What I love about him is if he doesn’t understand what you are asking of him, he will just stand there with a look on his face as if to say sort yourself out and ask me again! But if you take the time to help him understand what you want, he is that in tune he will do it before you even anticipate it. That’s how intelligent he is. He’s so sensitive and in tune, your training sessions can be polar opposites, depending on you. If you’re not feeling it, neither is he. But if the energy is good, he gives you the most magnificent experience ever! He’s a great reminder of how privileged we are and how we shouldn’t take our horses for granted or expect them to know what we want without teaching them in a way they understand.
It’s natural that as riders we all get things wrong. But this horse has been the only one of mine that’s made me sit back and really think about myself and what kind of rider I want to be. You can’t push this horse, you have to reason with him. And in my opinion that’s the best way, because how they feel matters too, if not more.
Trying a different approach to training
I follow the teachings of classical dressage master Manuel Jorge de Oliveira and the Oliveira stables in Germany. I spend a lot of time on the ground with Kitkat, setting him up correctly to be able to carry out the work asked of him in the saddle. In doing this work, I’ve really learned to embrace his power, rather than be fearful of it. Because I’ll be honest, I have had quite a few “uh oh” moments in the saddle where my confidence has plummeted, simply because his movement is so expressive and powerful. As a riding horse, Kitkat is very different but no less wonderful. I’ve found myself having to adopt certain skills to be successful riding him. I also love to do in hand showing with him, but keeping up with him can be a little tricky, he’s not far off 17hh after all!
It’s really great to see Friesians being given more of a platform these days, they are very deserving of it. I feel that they are quite underrated when it comes to talent. For example, from a dressage perspective, Kitkats movement is ever so uphill and balanced, you watch him move and he glides with such elegance and perfection. I’d love to see them be accepted more inside the whiteboards. In the show ring, however, he brings the wow factor and is regularly a winner.
What is a Friesian horse's temperament like?
Their temperaments are fabulous. Although big, strong and powerful horses, they are very kind and gentle. Kitkat could be classed as “not your typical stallion” as he’s so easy in all ways. I can take him for a walk in a head collar like a big dog, hack out with other horses including mares, play with him and fuss him in the stable, door open with no concerns. I do my best to give him as natural life as I can, after all, he’s still a horse. He enjoys living out most of the year in the company of two other geldings on our farm, and the three have a great friendship together. Not forgetting Kitkats best pal of all, Twix the guinea fowl who is always close by in the field!
For me, Friesians are the full package, although not without their quirks, they are truly amazing animals and Kitkat reminds me every day how special these wonderful horses are and just how privileged I am to have him.
Thank you to Taryn Hardman for telling us about KitKat and pulling this blog together.
Images with thanks to Ciara Doone Rush Photography - visit Ciara's website here.