From ‘farmer’s horse’ to dressage star: farewell to 30-year-old ‘Fjord who could do everything’

  • Tributes have been paid to the “Fjord who could do everything”, a farmer’s horse who held his own at the top of his sport.

    Super Guus, who became the first Fjord in the Netherlands to compete at subtop, the highest national level of dressage and appeared at an FEI World Cup leg, has died aged 30.

    Grand prix rider Jolanda Adelaar, who owned Super Guus for 27 years, said he was “an inspiration to the common man”.

    “A ‘farmer’s horse’ who held his own in the top sports world was an enormous inspiration,” she said. “He never became an Olympic horse, but he did have a huge impact. He encouraged people to also start to do dressage with their horses. Those who did not have a sport horse; Haflingers, Fjords, tinkers, crossbreeds, were inspired by Super Guus to appear in the competition arena. Because ‘If Super Guus can do it, my horse can do it too’.”

    Jolanda does not come from an equestrian family; she started at a riding school and met Guus at a summer camp when she was 12. She wanted to buy him but her parents were wary of the costs of owning a horse. It took her a year to convince her father, and she found a field where he could be kept for €30 per month.

    “At the beginning I trained Guus in the cow pasture,” she said. “I rode bareback because I did not own a saddle yet. His first bridle I made myself.”

    Jolanda joined her local Pony Club, which was close enough that she could hack to weekly lessons, and it was when she saw a dressage freestyle on television that she knew what she wanted to do.

    “I wanted to start competing dressage with Guus but I was told I needed a sport breed for that,” she said. “My father bought a one-horse trailer to connect to his car for €1,200 so we could travel to competitions. Within two years I became regional champion in the Z2 level with Guus and got in the newspaper. We were invited as a special act at the FEI World Cup dressage in 2006 at ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Here we showed that a draft horse can do piaffe and passage. Guus also became the first Fjord horse in the Netherlands competing at subtop. People started to call him Super Guus. He got his own fan club and book, Guus, published in 2006. It fascinated me how telling the story of an unknown animal can make an animal loved by so many.”

    Jolanda said Super Guus “made dressage pop”, which had not been done before, in the early 2000s.

    “He paved the way for new ideas,” she said. “I was the first to start a YouTube channel in the Netherlands about my life with my horse. At that time, there were no horse influencers active on the internet as they are today. My company has carried his name for almost 20 years. His life came with an important message and I will continue to carry it forward. He is a Dutch legend.”

    Jolanda added that from her perspective, Super Guus was her best friend.

    “He was my indestructible rock who literally and figuratively carried me when life was difficult,” she said. “Super Guus moved with me to Italy in 2013, where we lived for five years, in Rome and Milan. He had never officially said goodbye to the Dutch public.

    “When Super Guus returned to the Netherlands in 2019, he was already retired. He gave a farewell show at Equiday on 8 April this year. He was still so healthy and full of zest for life.”

    Jolanda said she had thought Super Guus would live to at least 40, but he deteriorated during the two weeks before he was put down, on 7 October.

    “I am grateful that we were able to say goodbye at my home,” she said. “Super Guus is part of me and his loss feels like a big hole that can never be closed in this life.”

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