When I initially spoke with Adequan Global Dressage Festival competitor, Candace Platz, about her plans for this year I didn't have any idea the direction that this story would take. I'd received a tip about Platz, who is a veterinarian and adult amateur, and was told that she and her horse shared an interesting history that could make for a compelling interview. So with only that limited information, I decided to give Platz a call. She eagerly answered the phone, and within a few short minutes the lifelong equestrian had me entirely engrossed in the story of her Grand Prix wonder-horse, Fynn. I listened as their incredible journey unraveled from there.
(Candace Platz and Fynn celebrating his 50th Grand Prix ride. Photo by Sue Weakley)
"Fynn is a rescue horse. There's not another Fynn on the planet and I don't know if there ever will be," Platz declared right off the bat. "He's a PMU foal. We don't know his birthday, but we have a photograph of his dad, who doesn't have a name. He was 3/4 Belgian, 1/4 Quarter Horse, and 16.3, and his momma was a 14.3 quarter horse mare. That's all we know about him."
As a PMU foal in an industry that took the lives of countless horses, Fynn's outlook looked grim from the start. However, as Platz continued it became obvious that her ordinary gelding had a talent for finding himself in extraordinary circumstances.
Fynn was one of small number of foals plucked from the PMU farms by a rescue group called Foal Quest. "I know the woman that rescued him out of Canada. She arranged a shipment to try to save some of the foals. Foal Quest went out and looked at likely horses that might make it and he was kind of a nondescript foal but he had an interesting marking on his forehead. She told her husband to just help her pick one, and they liked the markings on Fynn's forehead."
It sounded like a an unbelievable stroke of luck for the foal, but as Platz explained, landing on his feet is just a natural exercise for Fynn. "He was always a horse that found people that loved him and believed in him."
While passing through the hands of several owners Fynn got a solid start in dressage, eventually making it all the way to Grand Prix with the woman who would inevitably sell him to Platz. "When I learned of him he'd done a couple of Grand Prix shows by eight years old, and his owner decided that it was time to move him on. I got him very early in his life as a very green Grand Prix horse."
To many, Grand Prix might sound like the top, but for Fynn and Platz it was only the beginning. Together now for over five years, Platz and Fynn have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with at the amateur National Grand Prix level. "At this point Fynn has gone down over 65 Grand Prix centerlines. This year he'll turn 14. He's been to the National Championships three times and has always finished second or third. He was the Adult Amateur Grand Prix Freestyle Champion this year at regionals," said Platz proudly. "For a little PMU horse, Fynn makes himself known. He drops jaws because you just don't see it coming."
One might surmise that it's Flynn's ability to "surprise" spectators with his performances that makes competing such thrill for Platz. Even among a sea of fancy warmbloods at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, Platz thoroughly enjoys Fynn's uniqueness. "Is it a little intimidating to go down centerline on a horse like that? No! First of all, I'm an adult amateur and I know my place in the universe. I'm a real adult amateur, I'm not someone who has a stable of horses and a body to die for, that's enormously talented. I'm an ordinary woman that gets up every day and goes to the gym for an hour and then does pilates before I go out, because at my age (66) I can't do this if don't. In short, I work on myself a lot. That being said I also have to remember that I can do what I can do, and of course while I can always do better, that may never be as good as someone else."
Platz may be aware of her and Fynn's limitations, but that doesn't mean she sets the bar low by any means. Lofty goals are how this pair operates. "This is probably our fifth year at the Global Dressage Festival. The judges that are judging our classes are often the same judges as the CDI classes, so I know they aren't going to cut me any slack. We're going to rock a new freestyle this year. Our freestyles have always been very sweet. In the beginning they were about best friends, you count on me, and it was really a reflection of where we were at the time. And I think we've kind of outgrown that. The kind of Grand Prix horse that Fynn is now, is proud of himself. He's a little 15.3 hand horse that thinks he's Totilas."
"Of course my long term goal is to hit 100 Grand Prixs. Part of that though is keeping Fynn healthy in his job and happy to do it, and as a veterinarian that is very dear to my heart. Let's be honest though with health, some of it is just luck."
For a horse that often seems larger than life, the unstoppable Fynn proved the relatable reality of his own story just days after my conversation with Platz. On a Sunday morning, Platz sent me a frantic email asking me to give her a call as their winter show plans had been derailed. Holding back tears, Platz explained that while in Wellington Fynn had trotted leisurely across turnout, only to catch the tip of a hind hoof and stumble. In a split second moment Fynn's Peroneus Tertius tendon was ruptured, rendering his hock useless. With her veterinary background Platz knew all too well that the injury, although not necessarily career ending, would entail up to a year of rehab and posed the terrifying question as to whether Fynn would ever be fit and sound enough for Grand Prix again.
For anyone that has ever loved horses, they know that our equine friends come hand in hand with heartbreak. Victories often follow setbacks and vice versa. When Platz told me of Fynn's injury she said she understood if I no longer wanted to write an article about Fynn. After all, the plan was to cover his incredible journey from PMU foal to his 5th year competing at Global, and the promise of him reaching his 100th Grand Prix. Platz's comment caught me off guard though. Sure, the story wasn't taking the trajectory we had imagined, but I don't think that this new path makes Fynn's life any less remarkable. In fact, I'd dare to say that it makes this little wonder horse a little more real.
Horses are constantly teaching people that the future isn't always up to us. All too often they write their own stories and it's up to us to adapt. Fynn was born into an industry that literally had no future intended for him at all. He made it out of a dead end and destitute situation into the care of people who gave him a shot, and with that he showed them that a rescue horse can go to the top, and win too. No one expected Fynn to be stopped, especially by something as inane as a misstep while casually trotting, but if we've learned anything so far from horses it's that there's no place for assumptions. Platz knows that Fynn has a tough road ahead of him as he recovers and fights to regain his spot in the Grand Prix ring. She's honest about the fact that there is no guarantee he'll make a full comeback, but a comment she made in our first conversation before he was injured tells me that whatever happens, Fynn will be OK.
Platz explained, "It's not about the medals. It's about the relationship, and if I ever lose sight of that I don't deserve to have a horse like Fynn. "
However, I caution anyone against counting Fynn out of the game just yet. Platz believes, "If any horse can come back from something like this, it's him." When it comes to this little gelding that could, I have to think that Platz is right. And whatever happens in the future it will most certainly be on his terms. He's the author of this fairytale, and a startling reminder that no sooner than when we think the story is over, do we discover that it's still being written.
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