Monday, 27 October 2008

My Life with Horses - Episode 7: Year 1996/1997 Meet Fetas - My very first own horse

Episode 1-6

Everything I know about show-jumping I learned from this horse. There were others of course but Fetas taught me how to fly and although his navicular syndrome and RAO problems stopped me from reaching my dreams with him he will always have a very special place in my memory.
I first started riding him at my trainer's yard - Boguslawice stud and didn't even plan buying him. He was a show-jumper with an FEI passport which meant he went places I hadn't even dreamt about yet.
We didn't get on very well to start with. I liked horses quick over the jump and he was really slow and careful. I liked fast powerful canter, his was elevated, ground covering and intimidating. I couldn't see a single stride on him to start with.
On our first training we had to jump a long grid with no reins and no stirrups - he carted me through it and proceeded to rear at the end depositing me onto the ground.
Half a year later we were jumping over 1.20m and I knew I had to have him.

Fetas, 16.2hh, 13yrs old Trakehner stallion - the first day at my yard (1996)

My joy was short-lived as Fetas was a horse that didn't stay sound for long. He was 13 yrs old when I bought him so not overly old as per today's standards but he felt his age. It took us a while to figure out how to manage his RAO.
The best life for him would have been one based on living out 24/7 and doing dressage - unfortunately he came to me - a show-jumping mad teenager at a yard with no turn-out...
We did try our best to find him as many grassy patches as possible and he did go out whenever possible. At one of our training camps I even negotiated a little space for him behind tennis courts; it wasn't really designed for horses but he loved walking around and watching everything. The below video shows him on the last day of the camp - you can see he is ever so slightly unlevel in front - his navicular again - he had a month off work following the camp.
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Not long after Fetas was bought, two other girls and I moved yards to be closer to our trainer's base. We ended up at a lovely, small livery yard where we basically had whole infrastructure to our disposition.

The building behind me on the above picture was our indoor school where I learned how to ride the most tight of courses! Grzegorz Kubiak would set an 6-8 fences course in that tiny space but boy did that teach us to ride our turns correctly! There weren't tiny courses either - we jumped up to 1.30m there.

Showing off ;) Yes, we did jump that :)


Fetas's lovely trot


I rode in draw reins a lot in those days, partly because I could not connect Fetas from leg to the hand and partly because that was what my trainer and every show-jumper on the block did. I have since learned that you really don't need them and am keeping mine in the bottom of the deepest cupboards.
To be fair we were never allowed to ride horses too deep and round and as you see on the photo above, Fetas is in a rather long outline and is allowed the freedom to stretch his neck in this 'extended' trot. Oh, how I wish I wasn't so stubborn and tried pure dressage with him...

We continued to ride our trainer's horses too and competed a fair bit. I loved going places and if there is something I really miss in my instructing life it is those away shows. The atmosphere was always great and apart from having loads of fun we also learned so much by watching numerous classes throughout the days.

And here is one of the pages from my teenage diary ;) No laughing please! I used to draw every course we jumped so I could learn on my (frequent!) mistakes. The comments below say that I forgot about keeping good rhythm (I mentioned that a few times in that little text ;).
The write up is from an equestrian magazine called 'Konie i Rumaki' - I was so proud of Fetas to be placed out of 51 horses. I guess you can compare it to being mentioned in Horse & Hound!



Good old days. Shame they didn't last that long...

Above: some pictures from a show - one of many, not really sure what I won there but we were placed (standing & waiting for decoration in between chestnut and a grey).

It must have been around autumn 1997 when I dislocated my knee yet again, this time really badly. Ended up in plaster for 8 weeks, was told I should give up show-jumping and riding in general too and prepare myself for a long and painful rehab.
Well, the day my plaster was taken off I went back to the yard and rode my horse - not something I should have done but I never liked being told what to do...

To be continued...
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