Kirsty and Wypkje

Date posted: 9th June 2014

When I first met Janine at Friesians Scotland some 4 years ago I’d just sadly sold a lovely horse (Arab) as he was proving way too much for me and I’d lost my bottle.  I tried out a lovely Friesian mare but she was such a change from my previous horse and felt way too big for me – little did I know what the future held in store if I thought this one was big at 15.3hh!  I then went on to buy a much smaller horse at 13.2hh but sadly although I tried for 3 years, that partnership also didn’t work out for entirely different reasons and I was on the verge of giving up entirely.


Whilst pondering over my next move and seriously considering throwing the towel in on being a horse owner, I decided that I would give it a few months before even thinking of looking for another horse. The ideal being a 15.1hh gelding c.8-12 years old with a been there done that and bought the t-shirt kind of guy that I could have some fun with.  Well that’s what I thought and having never been able to dismiss the idea of a Friesian I was back at Janine’s and fate has a way of intervening as I found myself riding out one day last spring on a 16.3hh eye wateringly huge black angel of a Friesian mare ‘Wypkje’.  Did I mention I am averse to big horses?????? Mmm it had been a real thought to mount up but armed with my body protector, plastic caged stirrups (dodgy ankles!) and my ‘oh feck’ neck strap, I convinced myself I could cope.


I really wasn’t considering her as a potential purchase but once I was onboard – WOW – I felt transported.  There was what seemed like a whole Shetland pony between me and her head as she was so huge however, I felt a wonderful sense of calmness sitting there (perhaps it was a lack of oxygen up there in the clouds?).  Suffice to say we had a lovely hack and I didn’t want to get off at the end and not because of the distance it was to the ground either.  I’ve always been cynical when I heard of people say they just knew when they’d found the right horse but I’ve eaten my words as it happened to me!


Shortly afterwards and after much soul searching, I became the very proud owner of Wypkje – my very own black beauty and I still have to pinch myself each time I see her.  She is such a gentle giant and I believe there’s something magical about the Friesian but maybe I’m just biased.


Now what was I going to do with her?  I am not really a competitive person preferring to stay in the background and in all my years (be kind now as there’s a few decades in there) I have never been on the competitive side of the arena although only too happy to help on the outside of it. Wypkje has changed all that in our short time together so far and despite my almost crippling nerves, we have shown in hand and also under saddle in a novice class – and won!  How stunned was I and such a huge confidence boost for the nervous ninny and her 16.3hh tank lol!


Wypkje is the daughter of the late Arjen 417 (RIP) and her maternal father is Teunis 332 so unsurprisingly she looks a real candidate for dressage, something I love to watch but never felt good enough to actually have a go at myself.  With the wonderful help of Janine who has supported and encouraged me, I’m still not sure how I managed it but I found myself at my first Prelim dressage test last year.  My aims apart from controlling these blasted nerves (it’s ‘excitement’ I tell myself which seems to work) were to stay within the white boards and reach 50%.  The warm up (if my wandering around constitutes a warm up – need to

work on that part) was amazingly relaxed and well behaved.  The adrenalin kicked in by the time I realised we were next – our moment had come.  Just as the judge’s bell rang, some plonker banged about at the end of the arena out of our sight and succeeded in spooking Wypkje resulting in a highly adrenalin fuelled snorting dragon beneath me.  How the blazes do you control that?  One of the test elements was to go from trot to walking a few strides down the centre line – some hope!  We did make our way through the test and I don’t think I breathed once and managed to halt at the end rather than land on the judge and yes, we had remained within the white boards  . I don’t think anyone could have been happier than I was when I found out our score of 51.75%  .


Our next dressage competition was 2 weeks later, an Intro and a Prelim class at a different venue being outside this time.  A much more settled affair during our tests and resulted in 2 scores of 62.5% and amazingly a 4th rosette too.  Not bad considering we’d never had a lesson together.


Then came the dilemma, for those of you new to dressage, you can join British Dressage (BD) and compete ‘Affilitated’ or compete ‘Unaffiliated’ for which you don’t have to be a member.  BD is set up to take you through the levels of dressage starting at Intro and Prelim right through to the grand scales of the ultimate dancing competing horses such as Valegro at Prix St. George (PSG).  Affiliated competitions have certain standards of judging too.


When competing in BD the percentage scores convert to BD points which determines which level the horse is at to make it fairer so people and their horses should be competing broadly speaking against others at a similar level. For owners of horses imported to the UK there is however, a BD rule or rather in my view a handicap system in place, to consider wherein imported horses are automatically awarded points subject to their age at import or when it can be proved they were in the UK. The points level increases with age and as Wypkje was imported in her 6th year she was awarded 160 points that equates to competing at the 4th level of dressage “Elementary” which we are most definitely not anywhere close to competing in.  Think of us in basic walk, trot and sometimes our sometimes wall of death canter that realistically puts us at Intro/Prelim level.  There are several options to deal with these automatic points:-


* Do nothing and compete at unaffiliated or until progressed enough to compete at affiliated

* BD allows a downgrade which would mean dropping to 49 points and would allow us to compete at Prelim level but there are restrictions on certain competition class entries

* Ask BD for an assessment of the horse to establish their level of training.  Note this is the horse’s level and not the rider


Did I therefore, continue to compete in unaffilitated classes or immerse myself in BD affiliated to hopefully begin to work my way through the levels as high as we could go?  I felt that the affiliated route would make me more focused on our progress so decided to go for it and have Wypkje assessed because if I did it at this early stage there was more chance of having the points reduced or removed before we started to progress in our training.  Decision made, assessment form completed and money paid. Fortunately we didn’t have to wait long and in the end didn’t have far to travel either with the news that Paul Hayler (International Dressage Rider and trainer) was giving lessons nearby.


I was a bit concerned considering myself not good enough to warrant a lesson from someone so experienced but I was wrong.  Paul couldn’t have been nicer or indeed more helpful and I learnt so much.


The assessment itself was straightforward, being asked simply to walk, trot and canter on both reins.  Nothing fancier than that. In our case, Paul didn’t ride Wypkje and think it was obvious from the initial spooks in the ‘scary corners’ (they were full of plastic flowers in tubs and discarded jump stands that a tiger could have been hiding in and jumped out to eat us at any moment) that Wypkje and I weren’t capable of producing any intentional piaffe/passage movements.  Our assessment flowed into our lesson which was a terrific learning experience if exhausting for us both – note to self not to wear a bright pink top next time as my face was the same colour at the finish.  By the end of our lesson it felt like Wypkje and I were much more in harmony, much softer, suppler and just lovlier to ride with both of us relaxed and I thoroughly enjoyed it. My non horsy husband said that Wypkje looked like a cart horse to begin with but looked like a proper dressage horse to finish – high praise indeed!  The assessment form was completed and signed by Paul who said we were to go out at Prelim, enjoy ourselves and have some fun. Points reduced to ‘0’–Result J  Never have I been as pleased as to have points taken away from me……


So what’s next? If nothing else, the aims are still to keep within the white boards and reach 50% lol.  We’ve had a mixed start in 2014 with the spook monster appearing at first dressage outing and me forgetting the tests at the next event (still managed >50% though J) however, we scored an amazing 68.75% on third attempt at Prelim this year and with some positive thinking, plenty practice and more lessons, I aim for us to go further, learning to contain my ‘excitement’ along the way too.


Thank you Janine for having faith in me and agreeing to sell Wypkje to me. She really is my dream girl.

Winning FS Novice ridden class 2013

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