FHANA’s first Horse of the Year award
By Janice DeBoer VerMerris
Tjaarda 483 Sport-Elite is the first horse to receive the honor of becoming FHANA Horse of the Year. What does being awarded Horse of the Year by FHANA mean? Well basically it’s a notable horse by our members; one that has made a significant impression on us for one reason or another and therefore voted as the fan favorite for the year. Tjaarda has made an impression on our membership. And I think I know why. For most of us the Friesian horse is the horse of our dreams. It draws emotion of awe in its presence, beauty and movement. But as we become owners of a Friesian horse, a most common comment is made – the extraordinary character of the Friesian horse. He becomes not only that most majestic horse to our eye but also our very willing partner.
Tjaarda 483 is such a horse. He had an extremely successful show career in the Netherlands before coming to America. Trained and shown by well know Dutch equestrian Susan Bouwman, Tjaarda earned 3 Sports predicates (dressage under saddle, driven dressage and show driving). He also won the Silver bowl (award given by the KFPS for the top show driving horse). And in 2012 he was voted by the KFPS membership as the “Horse of the Year”.
So, Horse of the Year is not a new title for Tjaarda but this year he receives this distinction from our FHANA membership. His story here in America is likely why. Tjaarda was a very successful competition horse in the Netherlands with a professional rider. We would expect a very talented horse to do well with a very talented and experienced trainer. After becoming a KFPS breeding stallion via the short test and breeding for 2 seasons in the Netherlands Tjaarda traveled to Dorr Michigan to stand at the Friesian Connection Stallion Station, Inc. There his new rider was 18-year-old Ellisa Kroll, daughter of Amy Kroll and granddaughter of Friesian Connection founder Robert DeBoer. Ellisa had been working her way up the levels in USDF dressage and had successful scores with other KFPS breeding stallions but Tjaarda was her first FEI level horse. Tjaarda was just beginning PSG dressage with Susan Bouwman. Tjaarda successfully completed PSG with Ellisa Kroll in the summer of 2016. He was then awarded the new predicate from the KFPS known as Elite. Tjaarda had previously met the qualifications for Elite with his 3 Sport predicates and now met the qualifications with the 2nd possibility – 5 win points at an FEI level of dressage. Tjaarda became one of the first to earn the Elite predicate and is the only “double Elite”. From there this team continued to improve with 2018 earning Ellisa and Tjaarda regional championship at I-1. This year the team is competing at I-2 while schooling the Grand Prix.
Remarkable for a talented horse and talented rider…but this rider is not a professional…she is a junior rider. Tjaarda and Ellisa compete in show rings where the other junior riders are often competing on the fancy Warmbloods their parents have purchase who are masters at levels above the level of their rider. Tjaarda and Ellisa are unique in the show ring. It is something to see an actively breeding Friesian stallion ridden by a junior rider and winning above the Warmblood horses. And not only that. Tjaarda is being trained by Ellisa. It’s not uncommon for the talented horses of junior riders to be trained by professionals and then ridden by their junior owner/rider with their trainers coaching. Tjaarda is exclusively ridden by his junior rider. This team is coached by some of the best (their US coach is Grand Prix rider Brad Cutshall and well-known Friesian trainers Marc-Peter Spahn and Petra Zeelen come from the Netherlands to train Ellisa and Tjaarda) but the work is done by Ellisa.
So, what does this tell us about the Friesian breed? I think it proves what we all already know from personal experience. The Friesian horse is special. He is beautiful but he also wants to work for you, he wants to be your partner. And Tjaarda has represented that truth to us all as we watch this team work and become successful together. Not many moms would send their daughters off to horse shows on their own. Ellisa and Tjaarda often must go alone because Ellisa’s mom needs to be available to collect the other stallions at the stallion station. So, when the crowd at these shows see Tjaarda, they see a well behaving stallion handled by a young girl competing at FEI level dressage and they see what we see, a breed of horse to fall in love with. And that is why the FHANA members voted for Tjaarda to be their first “Horse of the Year”, because Tjaarda represents to all of us what is so special about the Friesian horse.

A mom’s take on her daughter on a Friesian in the show ring.
By Amy DeBoer Kroll
It’s a cool weekend in March 2019 and we are at a dressage show 3 hours from home. My daughter is saddling up, getting ready for her class. I watch the warm up ring as the other horses who are competing at the same level are being warmed up. What I see is that many of the horses are not being ridden by the rider for the test but rather the rider’s trainer. A half hour or more of “tune-up” and then the trainer gets off and the rider gets on for a few minutes of coaching as to which “buttons” to push before going into the show ring. Not every horse is prepared this way, but it is not an uncommon sight.
There is no trainer riding Tjaarda first, it’s only my daughter who will be in the saddle. My daughter gets into the saddle and goes into the warm up ring. The gate keeper is a little concerned. “You know” she says to my daughter, “your test is in just 5 minutes”. “I know”, says my daughter. Then after just a few little reminders to her horse, off she goes to enter the ring. She only needed a few minutes. She knows her horse and her horse knows her. They are a team.
I have pride for my daughter, but I cannot fail to acknowledge that this horse my daughter rides is exceptional. We are honored that the FHANA membership voted to award Tjaarda 483 Sport-Elite “Horse of the Year”. For us, Tjaarda is not just horse of the year, but horse of a lifetime!
I want to thank Jim and Sally Bedeker for purchasing Tjaarda and allowing Ellisa to show this magnificent stallion.