Behind The Stall Door With: Fiti AL

Sep 30, 2022 - 7:54 AM

Amateur rider Amina Sade’ Bursese was just learning her diagonals when she started riding Fiti AL, but the PRE stallion has given her the confidence to move up the levels to Grand Prix over the past decade.

The pair have been competing on the CDI circuit since 2020,  earning top-10 finishes at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival (Florida) this winter.

Bursese is based in Jupiter, Florida, with her husband, dressage rider Diego Gonzalez, and the couple own a handful of stallions, including “Fiti,” an 18-year-old PRE (Jondo—Lavanda II, Empaque). Fiti typically breeds for Hilltop Farm (Maryland) from March through April.

Go behind the stall door with this powerful but petite stallion.

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Anima Sade’ Bursese and Fit AL. Lindsay Berreth Photos

• Fiti’s oldest crop of offspring are 5 and just getting started.

“He is very much the older style in that he’s small, round, big neck, super easy in the collection but so short that the extension [is tough,]” Bursese said. “As foals, there’s very much a type. They’re very curious, and they’re very people-oriented. They want to be with people. And they all seem to have his face. There’s been a lot of warmblood crosses.”

• He’s a gentle horse and has become more affectionate as he ages. “I wouldn’t say that he loves people, but he loves the people that he knows, the people that take care of him,” Bursese said. “When we go into his stall, he super happy to see you.

“He’s gotten snugglier as he’s gotten older,” she added. “I’m now able to hold his face and kiss him, but it’s really like he’s just given up, like, ‘She’s not going away!’ ”

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• He’s funny about turnout. “We can’t walk him to the turnout,” said Bursese. “I have to ride him to the turnout because, as docile as he is, when you go to the paddock in a halter—we put the bridle on in the stall, I jump on, I ride him to the paddock, open the gate from him, get in, jump off, take the bridle off—sweet angel! We’ve tried so many things, and he’s gotten loose from me so many times, so we were like, you know what? It doesn’t take any time at all.”

• He’s buddies with other stallions. “In the barn, he can have the stall guard,” Bursese said. “All the stallions have bars in between with open fronts, so they get to interact not just visually but touching each other all the time. They become very social with each other and also with people.”

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• While he’s social at home, Bursese keeps him isolated at shows.

“He can be alone at a show and not get attached,” she said. “I think that might be the stallion mentality in that they’re just very confident with life. It doesn’t matter where you put him. But he has his horses he likes. If you put him next to either one of the other stallions, he’s totally fine. If you put a horse he doesn’t know next to him or one of our other horses that’s not a stallion, he loses his mind, and he won’t recover. I have to be careful at horse shows. I always request an end stall, and if for any reason they can touch over the top, I have to move him.”

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• He likes his space. “We try to never clean the stall with him in it,” she said. “Even though he’s small, it’s his space. At home, the only time we’re in the stall with him is if we’re doing carrot stretches or have come to bring him goodies.”

• He has a big appetite. “He will eat anything,” said Bursese. “If you go up to him with a slice of pizza, if it has pepperoni on it, it doesn’t matter. It will be gone. He’ll eat absolutely anything and everything. ‘Is that a hot dog? Oh, I’ll have that, thanks.’ No Fiti, you cannot!”

• He likes to hack on the local nature preserve. “He’s like a manatee; he’ll go right into water,” said Bursese.

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