WHITEFIELD — A successful show year turned out to be a dream come true for a Friesian horse trainer in Whitefield.

Two of Jennifer Grady’s horses were crowned World and National champions in early October against Friesian horses from all over the world at the 2011 Friesian World and Grand Champion Horse Show in Lexington, Va.

Those wins were followed up in December with United States Equestrian Federation National Horse of the Year Awards. To commemorate her achievements, she will be recognized in a special Horse of the Year issue of Equestrian magazine in March.

Grady said this program recognizes excellence across nearly all of the federation’s recognized breeds and disciplines and is regarded as an ensign of achievement within the equestrian community.

Grady, 53, who owns Acorn Hill Farm on Jewett Lane in Whitefield with her husband, Steve, rode Sorcsha, a 4-year-old half-Friesian mare. Her student, 21-year-old Mandy Potter of Whitefield, rode a 6-year-old Friesian gelding, Rhoherrin, who won the National and World championship in Hunter Pleasure by unanimous decision of all three judges.

In all, the pair brought back to Maine seven World and National championships, three Reserve Championships and three third-place ribbons.

“Winning was especially great for me,” Grady said this week inside the log cabin she and her husband built. “I’ve had a lot of health issues and problems with my hands. I had osteopathic arthritis and it required I have two joint replacements in my thumbs. It’s been really hard, so the winning thing was very satisfying.”

Grady’s horses won Reserve National and World Champion, second place in the Sport Horse in Hand division, and third place in both Hunter and Dressage Sport Horse in Hand.

Friesians were in great demand in the Middle Ages throughout Europe as war horses. Their size enabled them to carry a knight in heavy armor.

The horse is black, 15 to 17 hands high — a hand equals 4 inches — and powerfully muscled with a thick mane and tail and feathers on their lower legs. They weigh between 1,200 and 1,400 pounds. An average horse weighs 1,000 pounds or less, she said.

They are popular circus and carriage horses, seen often in movies, and are known for their brisk, high-stepping trot.

In a corral outside her kitchen window, Grady’s four Friesians graze peacefully in the sunshine.

“They’re a rare breed,” she said. “They’re very powerful. I call them the black lab of horses. They always want to know what you’re doing and constantly want your attention.”

Horses at the Friesian show in October were judged on conformation, their walk, canter, gallop and trot.

The judging is based on criteria for the rider and the horse as a pair and how calm and collected they work together, along with how they negotiate the gates, she said.

Grady and her husband started out in the 1980s breeding Arabians for show and sport. She was introduced to the Friesian breed in the 1990s by a client and bred them until the economic downturn.

“The market isn’t great in Maine, so I just kept a few of my own and show and train horses of all kinds,” she said.

Grady said she has loved horses since she was a little girl. She begged her parents to buy her a horse, but they wouldn’t do it until she could support it herself.

“What started the whole thing was my father’s mother had good friends in Hermon who had Morgans,” she said. “I would visit them with her and just loved it. My father was a marine biologist and his secretary also was into horses. She would go to local horse shows and I would go with her and pass out ribbons. Her name was Toots Adams and she’s still alive.”

She said Acorn Hill farm has produced many champions at the national, regional and local levels in both hunter pleasure and western pleasure with Friesian, Arabian and Morgan horses.

The farm’s facility includes a 14-stall barn attached to an indoor arena, a separate six-stall barn, turnout sheds and a large outdoor sand ring with access to miles of trails, she said.

Grady said training horses has been her life for 30 years. Some horses are a challenge, she said, but patience and perseverance along with love and understanding helps build a solid foundation, which is key to horse and rider training.

“You establish a partnership with the horse,” she said. “You become a team. A horse-and-me-team.”

 

Mechele Cooper — 621-5663

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