Love of horse riding is in the family

2008-11-27 00:00

Like horses, some of which are specially bred for competitions like showjumping, dressage and horse racing, it takes a person born with a certain talent to be able to ride them, explains 12-year-old Kirsten Wing, who won her class in dressage with her horse Foresyte Fortune Finder at the 2008 FEI World Dressage Challenge held at the Durban Shongweni Club recently.

“Dressage is like gymnastics or ballet on horseback. Although there are no jumps involved, it takes a lot of control, obedience, suppleness and a good relationship with your partner, your horse, to complete tasks such as walking sideways, in circles and, goodness, a whole range of other movements,” says Kirsten.

The champ, who has been riding horses “from the moment she learnt how to walk,” says despite her achievements (she has been winning competitions for nearly as long and has boxes of medals to prove it), it was all about team work and she has to share all credit with all four of her horses.

Kirsten explains that horses come from different bloodlines and have different abilities. For that reason she has four horses for different specialisations. She uses Foresyte Fortune Finder for dressage, Bridesdale Raindragon and Toronto Bitterbos for eventing and Sanasha’s Makayla for showjumping.

Although only practising two to four times a week, Kirsten spends time with her horses every day, brushing them and feeding them.

“Fortune loves compliments. When he does something right he gives me that look that asks ‘Have I done well?’ Raindragon won’t ride until you greet her and Bitterbos shakes your hand before you feed her,” says Kirsten about the different personalities of her horses.

“Working with an animal takes patience and compromise. You need to understand that the horse has good and bad days, and when the horse doesn’t perform as well in competition you need to understand that it may just be having a bad day. So sometimes you compromise on getting the moves just perfect for the sake of keeping the horse controlled,” explains Kirsten.

The love and passion for equestrian training, riding and interest runs in the Wing family. Her grandmother Riva has been coaching Kirsten in events, showjumping and dressage for the past 10 years and was a dressage and showjumping champion preceding her coaching career. Her mother also participated in dressage and attained her Springbok colours. Her father Craig raced horses.

Riva coaches both young and older riders and admits that it takes a special innate understanding of horses to be able to excel at the sport. “Also, the younger the rider starts, the easier it is to teach them. I have been coaching Kirsten all her life and absolutely love it. As her grandmother, it means spending time with my granddaughter and as a coach it makes me incredibly proud.”

Kirsten’s brother Jonathan, an amputee, who lost his leg in a lawn-mowing accident, has taken to a motorised form of riding and has won the title of Rookie racer in go-karting. He races with able-bodied participants.

“My brother is an inspiration,” says Kirsten, “his determination and drive to continue doing what he loves despite his disability is admirable and he has always supported me in everything that I do.”

Although she will be starting high school at St Anne’s next year, Kirsten believes that her equestrian training has given her the discipline to work hard academically without compromising on her commitment to horses.

“The work load will increase dramatically. The competitions will increase also. But I believe that I am disciplined enough to handle both. It is a choice that you make,” she says.

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