Sietske shouldn’t be winning every equestrian championship she’s competed in this year.
In fact, it could be considered a miracle that the horse is still alive.
But the little black Friesian mare is still going strong since surviving a bout of pneumonia earlier this year.
“There’s just something special about this horse,” said Leanne Peniuk, one half of the mother-daughter team that owns Sietske — Sexi for short.
“This mare is pretty unstoppable.”
Last weekend the horse, ridden by Canadian rider Janine Little, became the Freestyle Open Champion and the Overall High Point Champion at the Alberta Provincial Dressage Championship and the Western Regional Dressage Championship. She also earned the distinction of Overall High Point Show Champion.
The contest required Sexi to perform four technical tests and a freestyle competition in which horses perform a variety of highly specialized movements choreographed to music.
Peniuk said the horse, which she and her mom, Liz, have owned since Sexi was a year old, scored 10 per cent higher than the closest competitor.
Sexi was supposed to be Peniuk’s competition horse but a herniated disk prevented Peniuk from competing. Mother and daughter decided to hire Little two years ago, to much success.
“Every show the mare goes to, she wins. She wins every class,” said Peniuk. “These two have had unparalleled success.”
But Sexi’s run almost came to an end last winter. Each year, Little goes to Florida to train and Sietske is sent to Williams Lake to stay with Anthony Lothian, a horse trainer.
She arrived at Lothian’s Jem D Stables just before New Year’s. Lothian said Sexi came off the trailer fine but stopped eating after a week.
“She started getting lethargic,” said Lothian. “Then her symptoms were really up and down. She started getting well for a day and then going downhill for a day or two.”
After three weeks of this he took Sexi to a veterinarian, who diagnosed her with what Lothian describes as “a nasty bout of pneumonia.”
Peniuk said the recovery rate for a horse with pneumonia is about 50-50. And the likelihood of competing again is slim as scar tissue builds up on the lungs.
“Their capacity for taking in air and performance can be limited because of that,” she said.
She credits Lothian’s dedication for getting the horse back on her feet. Lothian stayed with the mare 24-7 and slept in the barn with her, feeding her every couple of hours and giving her injections of antibiotics.
After five days, Sexi started to come around.
“Usually they don’t make a 100-per-cent recovery. They usually labour a bit in their work,” said Lothian. “She’s doing fantastic.”
Peniuk and her mom knew the horse was special when they bought her. She said there was something in Sexi’s eyes that revealed a strong, old soul.
And wherever Sexi performs, people come up to Peniuk and tell her how beautiful the horse is and praise her performance.
“She’s captivating,” said Peniuk.