Liz Diegutis is an Intentional Dressage rider and trainer based in Hampshire who has recently got her homebred horse, Saskia Hit (Princess) to Grand Prix level.
The 11 year journey has been anything but plain sailing with devastation, loss and heartbreak along the way. But with sheer determination, a huge amount of passion and patience and the will to succeed, she’s made it!
“Riding my homebred Princess down the centre line at the CDI4* in Cappeln, Germany was literally a dream come true,” Liz explains.
“It has always been my dream to breed, back and produce a horse to International Grand Prix level. I don’t have any owners and couldn’t afford to buy a quality horse to take me to Grand Prix level so I looked into breeding and producing my own.”
Having started out, as many riders do, doing a bit of everything including gymkhana, show jumping and Eventing it wasn’t long until Liz realised she loved Dressage the most. “I realised it’s what I could win, jumping always went a bit wrong for me and I enjoyed winning - who doesn’t!”
Liz began lessons with Catriona Moorwood and was soon given the ride of a 12 year old mare called Askona, who was owned by Karen Ryecart. “I competed her at Novice, Elementary and Medium but she never going to progress any further so I then bred my first horse, Alfie, out of her. He was a delight, he went up to Advanced Medium but sadly I made the decision to sell him for financial reasons. He was my very best buddy at the time. He’s now Eventing and I love hearing how he’s getting on.”
With Liz’s extensive Dressage knowledge, choosing bloodlines in which to breed from was the easy part. The following year, Liz put Askona to the superstar stallion of the time, Sandro Hit. “Initially I couldn’t afford the stud fee, but Askona’s owner stepped in and helped, paying half. Askona produced my wonderful mare Saskia Hit (Princess).
“Princess has a huge willingness to learn - her trainability has helped me produce her.”
Whilst Liz had a dream producing Princess, another story wasn’t such a success. “My last foal was by Breitling, a beautiful Chestnut colt with 4 white socks. Unfortunately he was a red bag birth and Askona foaled well over a month before her due date. We tried to revive him in the field but when the vet arrived there was nothing more we could do. It was heartbreaking. Askona coped better than we did. Sadly a few years later, we lost Askona; she suffered a severe tendon injury and arthritis started to settle in. I’m grateful to her as she produced my lovely Grand Prix mare.”
Breeding and producing your own horse can really be one of the most satisfying things any rider can do. It does take lots of guts, determination and knowledge but is so worth it. “If I had any advice to give about breeding or producing your own horse it would be simple - just do it! There is luck involved for sure, but watching your own foal arrive or buying a foal and just working with them all the way up through the levels is really rewarding. They really become your best friend and part of your life. Obviously like mine, some may not be good enough or get injured along the way but with good care, a lot of patience and training you can have a great partnership with a horse you have bred yourself.
Liz also has two youngsters in the pipeline, of whom she’s extremely excited.
“I purchased an in-foal Sandro Hit broodmare a couple of years from a friend. The mare was in foal to DeNiro - that foal is now 3 and so gorgeous! I’m excited to start backing him towards the end of the Summer. The following year I put her to Valegro’s sire, Negro, and she produced a beautiful 2 year old. I’m looking forward to backing that one too!
“During this time, I lost my Mum. I thought I would never be able to compete Grand Prix again but with all the support from my friends and family and my will and dedication to ride again at GP I did it and I am very proud and extremely happy to be competing at this top level again. It just shows you can do it if you keep plugging away and working hard. Dreams do come true.”