Riding Kaboom, a 2003 imported Hungarian-New Forest Cross, owned by USEF 'S' judge, Sara Schmitt, Frederick Win impressed the U.S. Team coaches and trainers with his debut at the 2011 NEDA/USEF Para Equestrian National Championships held in Saugerties, NY. Robert Dover praised him as a quick study catch-riding at a recent training clinic. With Kaboom headed to driving CDIs, Win is searching for a competitive mount, Prix St. George or above, to borrow for two CPEDI3* at the Gold Coast Opener Festival, January 19-22, 2012 and the Wellington Classic Sunshine Challenge, January 25-29, 2012 to be held at the Jim Brandon Center. Meet the charismatic Frededrick Win and you quickly sense he enjoys a challenge and embracing big goals. Two months before competing last summer, Win wasn’t even aware of the looming London 2012 Paralympics preparations but his confidence, equestrian background and recent contacts helped him put it all together to launch his bid.
In quick order, he had to find an appropriate mount (with a passport per FEI rules), file all necessary paperwork, join all required memberships, memorize multiple Third Level tests (equivalent to Grade 4 Para), squeeze in rated shows to get qualifying scores and be classified to ride as a Para.
Win was born missing a knee and thigh on his right leg. His lower leg and foot are attached at the hip but the hip bones are only joined to pelvis by muscle. He walks with a prosthetic leg but rides without it. He uses a normal saddle with the stirrup modified for safety. His posture is straight enough to have a steward in the CDI warm-up mistake him for a trainer until the horse changed direction. Classified as a Grade 4 rider, the least disabled, Win says that it’s very different from a rider who becomes disabled, where what someone once had or learned is taken away or changes.
Horses Need No Translation
In his native Burma (also known as Myanmar), Frederick Win started riding at age six for fun. By eighteen, he was taking part in jumping competitions as a selected member of the Myanmar Equestrian Federation, jumping up to four feet. He also performed Burmese traditional trick riding routinely, doing headstands or hanging upside down on the side of galloping horse. At age 23, as he studied law in Burma, he decided to pursue his education in U.S. He had learned basic reading and writing British English at school in Burma but only started speaking once in the U.S. Attending Stockton College, N.J., Win tried to organize an intercollegiate team out of a nearby trail riding stable but he had little free time. He graduated with a political science major then worked as a legislative intern at the U.S. Congress in Washington D.C. He was there September 11, 2001 and was the only intern who stayed despite his office being closed down for possible terrorist attack. During the Anthrax mail threat, Win volunteered to open hundreds of incoming pieces of mail every day to the congressional office without any protection. “I wasn’t afraid, if it happens then let it be me. Someone had to do it for our constituents,” Win said.
"During my law school years in Michigan, I really wanted to ride but law school was so hard I had to focus 100%." After he graduated with a Jurist Doctor Degree and passed the bar exam in 2007, Win thought - mission accomplished. "Now I was ready to ride again but I graduated with a huge student loan, so it was back to work, work, work."
Aware of his horse background, friends often invited win to join them on trail rides but he refused. "I can’t ride a horse like a taxi - I can’t just go on a trail ride knowing I won’t be there tomorrow. I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the moment because I would miss not having it every day." About 10 years ago, a friend and Para competitor, Kathy Whelan, took him to show in Virginia holding Para Dressage classes and told him, "You’re gonna see something!" There he met Hope Hand, another serious Para competitor who is now the Director of the USPEA.org and the idea took hold. Finally in 2011, Win decided that now or never, he would ride again. Driving around N.J. he stopped at farms and introduced himself as a para rider. "They’d pull out a retired horse from a pasture that barely moves. They think handicap means I can sit only on a safe horse." Win googled dressage judges in the area for leads and found rated 'S' judge, Sarah Schmitt, who was willing to assess his skills on a school horse. "It’s not called dressage at home in Burma but we know it exists in America and other countries from watching videos. But when we jump, we teach flat work. The horse’s basic training is universal." After Win demonstrated some lateral work and half-pass, Schmitt told Freddie, “You have a very good seat and harmony with the horse but you need to be refined. If you improve, you can ride my horse, Kaboom. I was so happy! I appreciate every single word of her advice. She’s a tough trainer and almost never gives compliments,” Win says laughing.
Sara Schmitt - A Quick Study
"I was impressed with his balance and recognized his 'go for it' attitude," said Schmitt. She agreed to coach Win at the beginning of the summer with the goal of competing at Saugerties. As a USEF 'S' judge, Schmitt has judged Para tests at USEF shows but this was her first time coaching a Para rider. She paired him with Kaboom, a 15 hand gray gelding that schools Third Level movements and Schmitt plans to take to the CDIs to qualify for the 2012 World Combined Driving Championships in Portugal.
"Freddie accomplished his goal of qualifying for the championships in a very short time period. I think Freddie's experience encouraged my other students to push themselves a bit harder to go after their own goals," said Schmitt. Under deadlines, the paperwork and dispensation from USEF was rushed so Win could show to qualify. He rode Kaboom three times before trotting down centerline at a USEF-rated show but nailed the blue ribbon and qualifying score of 65 at Third Level-1.
"Kaboom is an amazing horse but I don’t feel I know him well enough to gain his talent," said Win. As a busy lawyer, he had to reschedule to get classified for his official Para ID days before the Nationals. He only had one day to practice his freestyle. He listened and watched it ridden first. "The music-me-the-horse together only one time - but it went smoothly so we quit. I’m a very confidant person but I still make mistakes. I have everything to learn, so I was a bit frustrated." He knows with more time, he can deliver a higher caliber performance. Still, Win said it was very exciting at Saugerties to see more young para riders and experienced riders. He noted how much the level of riding has improved since the show he attended years ago. “Without prompt help from the FEI classifiers and USPEA.org, I wouldn’t have been able to make this show,” he says. For Win, time is of the essence.
An Ultimate Honor
Win has waited a long time to return to his horse passion and has real concerns about future spinal problems, so he is ready to seize the window of timing and competitive opportunity. He says riding not is necessarily a physical benefit for him but advocates doing many different activities. Certainly, the unique movement of the horse is better than an office chair but its the bond of riding, competing, sharing horse talk or just breathing in their scent that nourishes Win's spirit. "Horses are my emotional therapy," he confirms.
His busy practice includes immigration law, criminal defense, and Equine law. He also has a wife and son who is part of his motivation. "I want to show my son that with a positive attitude and commitment, anyone can do anything." Win strives to go beyond the example of someone who is handicapped and has a normal life. "I want my son to think that his dad is handicapped but achieved success in moral character, education and athleticism." Win is thankful he can now support his mother in Burma and grateful for having opportunities.
"I’m fortunate enough to come to the U.S., which gave me education, freedom, and success if you work hard. I want to give back. To represent the U.S. as a citizen would be an ultimate honor." He hopes to fulfill that ambition by competing in Palm Beach if he can find a four-legged partner.