Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Unlikely and Unknown Story of the Incredible Horse Fitzrada

A dear friend loaned me a book a few months ago about a horse named Fitzrada and his rider and owner Jane Pohl.  It's a wonderful horse story about a rouge cavalry horse who was eventually owned and ridden by Jane, winning at the top shows of the day in both the jumpers and the hunters - the Garden, Warrenton, and other well-known shows in the East. I had not heard of the horse or the rider, sadly.  It's a story that should be remembered. 

It is all captured in a very good book, "Renegade Champion, The Unlikely Rise of Fitzrada."  If you like a good horse book, this is one you should add to your library.  Richard Rust is Jane's son and thankfully he has captured this wonderful story.

Jane's father was in the military and she learned to ride on military bases and at West Point at a time when the Army still had active cavalry operations.  Fitz was a horse that no one could deal with and Jane eventually was given the horse.  She moved to Virginia (near Middleburg and Leesburg) and there she spent years with the horse, gaining his trust and eventually showing him.  He became one of the very best show jumpers of his day beating the immortal Cappy Smith and his string and the top jumpers.  Jane rode him in the working hunters too quite successfully and she also fox hunted with him.  This was a time when women did not ride in the jumpers.  She competed in classes of 50 in which she would be one of two or three women in the class.  And she'd win.

There is a great short video clip here that shows photos and videos of Jane and Fitz.  Love that she showed at Warrenton, at Washington, Hagerstown, MD (they actually had a major horse show there?) and Meadowbrook, MD (which is now Meadowbrook Stables in Rock Creek Park).  Love this history lesson in old horse shows!

Jane and Fitz also have a Facebook page full of old photos.  See it here.

There is also a documentary about Jane and Fitz but it is out of stock.  If anyone has one of these let  me know!

Fitz died in 1952 in Virginia from a pasture injury, a broken hock at the age of 22. Jane competed him until very late in his life.   He is buried there too but I am not sure exactly where his grave is or if it is even marked.

The combination of Jane and Fitz is akin to McLain Ward/Sapphire or Meredith Michaels Beerbaum/Shutterfly today.  This is a team that was so good together in their day, that if they were together now they'd be on any US Team. They were that good.  It's a great story.  Jane struggled to keep afloat in the years with and without Fitz.  She had one son and unhappy marriages in a time when getting divorced would label you an outcast.  Her happiest times were the years with Fitz. It's heartwarming that this horse brought so much joy and success even if for a short period in Jane's life.  Lesson learned - cherish the good years - you never know how long they will last.  Great story!  Needs to be remembered often!

Here is a link to additional remembrances of Jane.  Her son, Richard, has now passed away, I am told, but thank goodness he captured his mother's story for all of us to cherish.

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