Sport and breeding have to go hand in hand

Foto: Digishots

Quite petite but grand performances, that’s a fair description of the talented Wende van de Zunne Crown (Alwin 469). A mere six weeks in training she won the Overall Championship of the Horses2fly KFPS Sport Competition Showdriving at the 2020 stallion Inspection with Henk Hammers holding the reins. The petite Wende made a great impression on the audience and her American owners FHANA Chairwoman Dr Rosanne Palermo
and her spouse Dr Kirk Steehler.
‘When Wende, being the youngest of the mares and only so recently introduced to in-harness work, won the mare category I was already pretty surprised and happy,’ said Rosanne Palermo. ‘We quite frankly had given her little chance among the stallions in the overall final, but she gave a fantastic performance and that was a heartiI-warming experience. I couldn’t hold my tears back when it turned out she had won. For me it’s important that our horses are happy and Wende definitely was happy in the final: every round she kept getting better. She simply enjoys the work in front of the carriage.’


The 5-year-old Wende van de Zunne was bred by Johan Onderdijk from Zwolle. Her granddam is Floor Brechtsje StarPreferent (Teunis 332). From her daughter Corrine Z. Star (Loadewyk 431) Onderdijk bred the stallion Tiede 501, who just like Wende is a son by Alwin 469 (Felle 442). In February of this year Wende achieved an IBOP score of 79 points and became Permanent Crown.

Chairwoman FHANA

After having been Vice-Chairwoman for two years, Dr Rosanne Palermo became Chairwoman of the FHANA in 2018, the largest KFPS daughter association with nearly 1,500 members. She is a great lover of the Friesian horse and in her position as Chairwoman operates with a clear vision for further growth and development of the breed in the United States and Canada. She lives in the state of Pennsylvania where she and her husband Dr Kirk Steehler bought a stud farm last year which comprises 86 stables and two large indoor- and outdoor arenas. Palermo: ‘At present we have
twenty horses stabled in our stud: ten German Warmblood horses and another ten Friesian horses, including some young stallions.’ These are not their only Friesian horses. ‘Several of our horses are in the Netherlands,
with Wende being one of them. She’s stabled in the yard of her trainer and rider Henk Hammers.’

Wende van de Zunne (Foto: Digishots)

Stimulating dressage sports

‘Here in our region we don’t have as many trainers available as in the Netherlands.’ Rosanne Palermo continues. ‘The horses we expect to do well in the sport usually stay in the Netherlands because they have more competitions there the year round. We live in Pennsylvania with winters being pretty cold and there aren’t so many competitions. In summer we often have to travel large distances to go to events as well.’ This is part of the reason why Palermo and her husband intend to organise competitions at their own stud. This initiative ties in with the vision Rosanne Palermo and the FHANA have. ‘We stimulate our members to organise competitions with good prizes.
It’s our belief that when more people start Friesian horses in dressage the number of people, and that includes Jury members, who will discover the beauty, reliability and qualities of the Friesian horse for dressage sports, will go up.’

Hunger for knowledge

Palermo is convinced that sport is the way forward to increase the popularity of the Friesian horse in North America. ‘The long-term effect will be a rising demand for Friesian horses which also stimulates breeding. Sport and breeding have to go hand in hand. So in terms of vision we’re on the same page as the KFPS.’ According to Palermo the profile of breeders in North America is changing. ‘Before, most of them used to be breeders with Friesian roots but that is changing too. Moreover, we see that more and more breeder thoroughly study dam lines and breeding values and enter their horses for IBOPs. Our members are really hungry for knowledge.  Rosanne Palermo has noticed that Friesian stallions who perform well in the sport at a young age rarely push through to the Central Examination. Her own stallion Totilas van de Olde Mette Moate (Beart 411) is an example. ‘When our Studbook needs young sport horses to keep growing then we need to select more young stallions who prove to have lots of sport aptitude.
Young stallions with heaps of potential for the sport but maybe scoring a bit less on exterior should be given more chances than is the case now. The KFPS pilot to replace the in-hand presentation of the Third Viewing by presentation days under saddle or in harness is a step in the right direction, according to me. It shows that the sport goal really counts.

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