Hello! Thank you for visiting my blog “Il Cavallo Docile”… the sweet docile horse. This blog is an expression of my love for horses during the course of my life and up to the present day. I am a writer and I live in Piedmont, Italy. I grew up in a German-American family and so I have two mother tongues, German and English. I also speak Danish and Italian. I hold degrees in philosophy and biology (anatomy, embryology), and this background over the years has contributed variously to my work and life with horses. My “Horsey Life” is now in northwest Italy, near the French border. We speak Italian here of course, but also Piedmontese which is a mixture of French and Italian though not entirely. Piedmont is a wonderful place to enjoy the natural environment on horseback—the sweet hills of the wine country, the enchanting woodlands, and the mountains. Piedmont has a rich tradition for horseback riding especially in the southwest alps (Cuneo province) where the Mérens horse—originating from the Ariège region of the Pyrénées of France—is a very popular breed for negotiating the mountain trails.
I love horses and riding and have spent a large part of my life devoting myself to this passion in all ways imaginable! I inherited my profound love for horses from my father, and my paternal grandparents who kept race horses and work /driving horses on their farm in East Prussia. Basically, I have been crazy about horses since I was a toddler. I remember my first ride—as a one-year-old child—on a beautiful hand-painted black spring-rocking-horse that my father built especially for me. But that wasn’t enough, soon I was riding ponies.
As a kid growing up in Wisconsin, I had Welsh-cross ponies. Later I was riding mostly American Saddlebreds, Morgans, and Quarter horses—those were the popular breeds where I grew up. My first English riding lessons were spent learning Hunt Seat, my introduction to jumping. But it was not until much later—after having finished university—that I truly learned how to ride. I’m so grateful to Auriol Hay-Drummond-Hay Mann, a British instructor who helped me develop my independent seat. Auriol was a gem because, in Mississippi where I was living at the time, dressage instructors were quite difficult to find on the Gulf Coast. I was quite impressed with Auriol’s way of riding and teaching, as she strictly adhered to the classic British tradition which I so admired and wanted to emulate. Eventually, Auriol introduced me to her mentor Col. Howard Morris, in Hope Hull, Alabama, with whom I trained further. I remember the very first time I set foot in Col. Morris’s tack room—he had a large collection of Passier saddles, he only rode in Passier—and what a beautiful sight that was. He insisted that I ride in a Passier for my lessons, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Eventually, I found my way to Major Jeremy Beale—superb cross-country and dressage coach—who gave me great inspiration. Lucky for me, he was giving clinics in Louisiana and, since I was based in Mississippi this was most ideal. Major Beale was someone I wanted to train with for some time already. I had come to know of him already years earlier through one of my close friends, Brad Gordon, at the Ohio State University where we were both students (Brad, an equine veterinarian for many years now). And it was Brad, and his family, who took me along with them to see the World Championships of eventing… When I was at the World 3-day Championships at Lexington, Kentucky in 1978, it impressed me so profoundly that I decided it was the sport I wanted to pursue wholeheartedly. And it was there that I also first laid eyes on, sat in and fell in love with the County Competitor dressage saddle. I vowed to myself, as I stood on the Kentucky blue grass, that I would one day buy a County (and I certainly did, and it was the best dressage saddle I ever rode in). Naturally, it goes without saying: several of my instructors competed at Badminton and Burghley. I must also thank Joseph Hansler, father of event rider Tara Hansler Cox, over in Texas, who pushed me beyond the limits—jumping heights I never thought possible for myself—and he was such a devoted teacher who always gave me excellent Thoroughbreds to ride. Moreover, there are so many other trainers with whom I worked over the years. Later I ended up studying dressage in Denmark, where I also worked with young warmblood horses.
There were a number of very special horses in my life. One of my most beloved was my Morgan gelding Horseshoe’s Rhythm, with whom I shared many intense hours of dressage instruction with Auriol, as well as intensive training session with Major Jeremy Beale. And my two Thoroughbreds, Ravenwood and Petit Mon Chou, who were very intelligent, hardworking, loyal steeds. Ultimately, it was Edeltraut, the Danish Warmblood filly that I raised and started under saddle myself in Denmark, who has left such a lasting impression on me. I realized after several years of patiently observing young horses for hours and days on end (and before ever riding them), that one will learn more about horses than one could whilst riding them.
At the present time I don’t have my own horse, rather I’m riding various Italian horses who belong to other people. I’m devoted to spending time with them and caring for them, and mostly working on the flat.
Years ago I competed in dressage and horse trials. I certainly miss it. I also hunted and competed in hunter-pacer races. Would love to start competing again—I’m working on it. It’s a lot of hard work and one must be wholeheartedly dedicated to the effort. In the meantime, I’m concentrating on good basic flatwork—it’s the foundation for everything—and getting myself strong and fit for future competitions and trekking trips.
One of my passions is attending 3-day horse trials as a spectator whenever I can, because I absolutely love the sport! Once you have competed in horse trials, you are can understand the addiction! I also love to watch endurance races and gymkanas here in Piedmont. I’m a big fan of international event riders Ingrid Klimke, Mary King, Sir Mark Todd, Andrew Nicholson, Jock Paget, Jonty Evans, Paul Tapner, and Italy’s Vittoria Panizzon and Stefano Brecciaroli. It’s exilerating to see these riders perform. This year’s Badminton and Burghley 3-day events will again be exciting to watch! I also love to watch British dressage riders Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester, and Italy’s Valentina Truppa.
I enjoy sharing horsey information, advice on horse care and health, equipment, equestrian sportswear, competitions, news, etc with other horse folks.
You can follow me on Twitter @CavalloDocile for all the latest horsey stuff. Or contact me via email: email@example.com
Karin Susan Fester