Pia Fortmüller and Frieda Get in the Grand Prix Groove

Pia Fortmüller and Frieda are no strangers to the pressures of CDI competition.

Partnered since 2013, the Canadian rider and 2011 black Hanoverian mare first began touring the 20 x 60 in 2015, methodically advancing from green horse to Grand Prix over the past decade. They’ve earned 18 CDI podium finishes since 2016, including nine wins.

On Friday, the pair collected their most recent victory with the FEI Grand Prix CDI3*, sponsored by Wendy Christoff, at Thunderbird Dressage Show, presented by Winifred Steinkopf Hall, Gordon & Wendy Christoff, and Blue Heron Farm.

And it was a decisive one at that.

Fortmüller and Frieda bested the competition by over two percent, garnering a 68.457% score from the judges for their expressive trot tour and quality of movement. USA’s Jennifer Williams and Joppe K took second with a score of 65.913%. Canada’s Rochelle Kilberg and Florentino, third on 64.391%.

“The trot tour, I’m super happy with,” said Fortmüller of their test. “I had a little mistake in the two [tempis]. She just got a little bit tense in the canter and she wants to get a little bit too much in a knot.

“But what I’m really happy with is we were able to undo the knot and we got our one [tempis], which is normally the most difficult thing for her. I’m so happy with her that within the test that we could get a knot undone and then continue building on that.”

Now 12-years of age, Frieda is in her second year in the Grand Prix with Fortmüller. The pair made their Big Tour debut in Wellington, Florida in January 2022 and won their first CDI3* with an impressive 70.457% score. Their marks over that first season fluctuated between 63 to 67% in the Grand Prix as they found their footing. This year, they’re trending just below 70.

“The first season, it’s always green,” said the Foothills, AB-based rider. “And now the second season we’re starting to get in the groove of things. Of course, there’s still tons of things that we want to improve. But I’m really happy with how her confidence continues to grow.”

So has the consistency of their scores. In five Big Tour classes this year, the pair hasn’t scored below 68%.

“Now we’re figuring out she has a really expressive trot and then she gets a little bit tense in the canter,” said Fortmüller. “So I have to try to keep the balance between being able to show off what she can do in trot. But then I still need to make sure I have enough internal balance so that my canter tour stays settled. Those are probably the biggest things that’s stand out to me.”

The Canadian rider credits their longtime partnership and early exposure to stadium atmosphere on the Young Horse Tour in Europe for their current success.

“She’s supersensitive. So that’s why being able to do the whole journey with her, the trust has been huge,” she explained.

“She’s definitely a horse that’s clearly talented, but she’s got a whole lot of heart and that’s probably one of her biggest strengths. She’s a fighter and it’s very, very special.”

A decade into their partnership, Fortmüller is focused on the journey with the striking black mare. After all, it’s one that had an unexpected start. Frieda wasn’t a horse she was hunting for but one that her partner, Lars Busch, discovered and bought at a mare and foal auction in Germany on a whim and good feeling.

“It’s one of those wonderful stories. She was two and a half at the time and I had just lost my top Grand Prix horse, Orion. Lars said, ‘I have something that’s going to cheer you up. I need to show you this horse I found!’ And it was Frieda.”

Fortmüller was understandably dubious of the horse’s Grand Prix potential, given that the mare was only two at the time. Lars, however, had no such reservations.

“He said, ‘You just wait. You just wait, Pia,’ and here we are doing the Grand Prix. I mean, it sounds crazy when you look back.”

FEI Grand Prix CDI3* Results
Rider / Nation / Horse / E / H / C / M / B / Total 

1. Pia Fortmuller / CAN / Frieda / 67.283 / 67.174 / 70.652 / 68.804 / 68.370 / 68.457
2. Jennifer Williams / USA / Joppe K / 63.261 / 65.217 / 66.304% 66.087 / 68.696 / 65.913
3. Rochelle Kilberg / CAN / Florentino / 65.000 / 64.239 / 65.109 / 64.022 / 63.587 / 64.391