Many of you know about my passion for horses and riding. A friend passed along the book “Renegade Champion,” the true story of Jane Pohl. Jane transformed Fitzrada (Fitz) from a stubborn, unpredictable and dangerous horse that was slated to be destroyed, through a five-year journey that culminated at the 1946 Jumper Championship at the National Horse Show in Madison Square Garden. Fitz was considered too small for jumping, and Jane, well Jane was a woman, so she wasn’t taken seriously in this male-dominated and dangerous sport until she started to accumulate record wins – a total of 37 jumper and 6 hunter championships over her riding career.
Jane helped to break down barriers against women riders in the Olympics, but she was not permitted to compete in the 1948 Olympics, even though her record was unmatched by any other rider – man or woman. The Federation Equestrian International (FEI) would need to remove their ban on women competitors; the 1952 Olympics were the first that allowed women to compete in equestrian events. It was too late for Jane and Fitz – he had retired in 1950 at age twenty (a ripe old age for a horse to be competitive).
I love this book because it highlights the importance of patience, persistence, and doing what you love and loving what you do – even if the ultimate prize might not be an option for you. Jane took a mean, scrawny horse that most thought had no future and transformed him into a champion. The bond between humans and animals can be transformational — for both.