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Lad's Black Buster walking under side-saddle, rider Maryan Zyderveld - year 1992 - place: Woudenberg, province Utrecht

Itís gaited horses we go for, considering them a great asset for humankind. Horse riding being about the oldest form of fast travelling, riding a gaited horse always contributed much to the travellers comfort. Of course we want to include interest here for other domesticated equines: the donkey and various hybrids like mule and hinny, as they are often enough gaited too. Not to forget other animals we can ride, doing a four-beat gait: camels and elephants.

As to how it all came to this being on the outlook for these gaits all over the world, hereís some personal history.

Born in the U.S.A., my parents soon gave me a rocking horse. I enjoyed it then but it didnít take long for my folks to find out that I couldnít be pacified forever with a fake instead of the real thing! It was living creatures I was drawn to, and as I was told one of the first words I could say was ďdoggieĒ.

Me and my rockin' horse!
Me and my rockin' horse!
 

My brothers started riding early - fake again! Picture taken at Knott's Berry Farm, Ghost Town, California
My brothers started riding early - fake again!
Picture taken at Knott's Berry Farm, Ghost Town, California

After our move from New Jersey to the Netherlands, vicinity of Rotterdam, I had to switch to Dutch but I donít remember that, I was too young. Then there were exciting visits to our uncleís dairy farm, with a dog and piglets to cuddle!

At our uncle's farm, the dog was a favorite.
At our uncle's farm, the dog was a favorite.

Next move was to the beautiful town of Middelburg, capital of Zeeland province. To my delight, a much more rural region, and my brothers and I found horses in the streets during the traditional tilting at the ring competitions. The horses used were preferably the heavy Dutch Draught Horses, of Belgian stock.

We found horses in the streets of Middelburg, with "Long John" in the background, the tower of the "New Church"
We found horses in the streets of Middelburg, with "Long John" in the background, the tower of the "New Church"

My father was well acquainted with another Dutch horse breed as his father favored them. They were the Gelderlander type with Hackney influence which evolved into the Dutch Tuigpaard of today.

A family picture with a horse! My daddy with his father.
A family picture with a horse! My daddy with his father.

My mother was a city girl from Utrecht and she had the idea that horses were old-fashioned. Her father, Iíve been told, was the first to start transport for delivery in Utrecht city with trucks, instead of horse and cart. So she was mightily embarrassed when the father of her suitor came to fetch them for a visit with horse and carriage! Whether he had a lively partbred Hackney with elevated gaits in the harness or not, for my mother it was just old-fashioned!

In the backview, Gerald and I all dressed up
In the backview, we are all dressed up
Our Friesian mare Ant ready for tilting at the ring
Our Friesian mare Ant ready for tilting at the ring

In Zeeland province we later participated in the tilting at the ring with horse and cart. For this we had our Friesian mare ďAntjeĒ, of another native Dutch horse breed. The cart had to be decorated with live flowers so we plundered our parentsí rose garden. Also, we had to dress up in the traditional costume of the peninsula of Walcheren. Actually, we went there as a married couple, because I wore the cap reserved for married women!

My first close encounter with a horse, a beautiful Dutch Warmblood (KWPN)
My first close encounter with a horse, a beautiful Dutch Warmblood (KWPN)

Now Iím jumping into the future while I should yet tell about the first horse. After our first conquest was done - a dog at home - other wishes did emerge. I had been riding horses at odd places, mostly enjoying the bareback riding of a traderís horses, but after less than ten hours on horseback I decided to start earning money in order to buy a horse.

Oriante ready for a drive through the tiny harbour town of Veere, as a tourists cab. Our Boxer dog is with me too.
Oriante ready for a drive through the tiny harbour town of Veere, as a tourists cab. Our Boxer dog is with me too.

I was sixteen then and one year later I had earned enough to buy my Norwegian Fjord mare. This breed appealed to me because of itís original looks, and itís size was just right for me. My mare ďOrianteĒ was ridden already and I went with her to the rural riding club, but I wanted to drive her too, and when a driving course organized by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture was offered, I became the youngest participant. We learned the German Achenbach driving system, devised for safety when driving horses single, as a pair or even a four-in-hand or a tandem. I could use more safety, as I had been driving the mare already, with less than good results: her cart was too small, with the single tree touching her legs. The horse went through and I ended up in an apple tree, wounding my knee.

This asked for more schooling of the mare which she got at the livery stable of Jan Koppejan, who drove her paired with another Fjord through the town of Middelburg with the carriage crowded with tourists! This was hard work and Oriante learned it well. Later we participated in tours for wedding parties at the Koppejan stables.

...Continued

Last Updated: February 09, 2010