Lexington, Ky. - It’s an accomplishment for any adult amateur to place third in the Grand Prix Freestyle at the U.S. Dressage Finals, but when a retired equine veterinarian from Auburn, Maine, can achieve that aboard a 10-year-old PMU rescue horse, it’s an amazing feat. Candace “Candy” Platz and her own Fynn placed third with a 64 percent in Saturday’s Grand Prix Adult Amateur Freestyle at the U.S. Dressage Finals presented by Adequan. “He’s a miracle horse,” Platz said, trying to hold back the tears. “This is our third season together.” This was the second year that Platz qualified for the Finals and the duo placed third in the Grand Prix Adult Amateur Finals in 2013. They compete in just three shows a summer to qualify. Fynn was rescued from Canada by a group of women who banded together to help the PMU horse outcasts. In fact, one of the rescuers, Adaire Hiestand, from Cincinnati, Ohio, who rescued Fynn from the kill buyers, was there to cheer the horse and rider on. Hiestand saw Fynn on a postage stamp-size photo via a dial-up Internet connection and decided to rescue him along with other PMU foals headed for slaughter.
“There were hundreds of them,” Hiestand said. “We knew that if they hadn’t been rescued, they were going to be shipped off to kill. This is the first time I have him since he became a dressage rock star. He’s pretty amazing, isn’t he?”
PMU stands for Pregnant Horse Urine, used to make the women’s hormone replacement drug, Premarin. Often, when the pregnant mares foaled out, the babies were sold to kill buyers, particularly the males. Fynn was rescued for $550 from the trailer as a 5-month-old just minutes before being carried away and, after a stint as a horse at a Christian children’s summer camp, he has found his niche performing dressage at the Grand Prix level.
The music for the freestyle, compiled by Platz’ coach Ruth Hogan-Poulsen, was all about the rider’s relationship with her horse.
“What I wanted was something that made people understand how I feel about this horse,” Platz said, as tears welled up in her eyes.
She and Hogan-Poulsen started working on the freestyle late last spring. “The freestyle is about friendship with the horse,” Hogan-Poulsen said. “I wanted something unique and special.”
The trainer said that she has been working with Platz a little more than two years and that the rider went down centerline in competition for the first time in June that first summer.
“He keeps getting better and better and Candy going down centerline, she’s also getting better,” she said. “Candy is more than dedicated. They spent that winter getting to know each other and we took our time. She got an idea how I was and who he was and how we were all going to work together.”
Platz counts herself lucky to have a trainer like Hogan-Poulsen. “I can’t tell you enough about what a wonderful coach she is,” she said. “She’s an absolute stickler for the mental and physical health of the horse. I am not allowed to drill. If I don’t do it right the first time, I have to go back and do exercises so that my feeling is better. I have to get better, not him.”
Her husband Jim watched proudly, taking photos as Platz wavered between smiles and tears. “He’s a miracle horse,” she said.