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Choose Your Horsepower
Kevin Fiegen has a need for horsepower. Whether it has two wheels, four wheels, or four legs, it’s never enough. Horses and hotrods are this Audi and VW consultant’s passion.
Horses and Hotrods
“When I was growing up, we farmed, and I wanted to play football, but the high school I attended did not have the budget for a team. As a diversion, I talked my dad into buying my first horses, an Appaloosa mare and a half Arabian/half Appaloosa filly. She had foaled 6 months previously, and right away we bred the Appaloosa mare to a local quarter horse stud, so eventually three horses were on the farm. Sundays, between morning and evening milkings for our dairy herd, and some weekday evenings, were my off-time from working on our farm. I started spending more time with those three horses, and soon immersion into 4H and some local horse shows followed. Around the same time, I was actively searching for my first muscle car, which ended up being a 1972 Chevy Camaro Z28. I’ve always had an interest in horsepower and horses.”
When Fiegen graduated from high school and started working 60-plus hour work weeks in 1983, all three horses were sold. For the time being, life became focused on the kind of horsepower with four wheels. Yet, his interest in horses never went away. The desire to own a horse again resurfaced in 1995, and he bought a six month old colt, Knight, by the versatile performance stallion The Big Fix.
“I really liked that horse. Initially, he didn’t have much chrome and did not really stand out, and was slow to grow, even though we did not geld him until he was three years old. Shortly after, he filled out and shot up to almost seventeen hands. He had a great disposition and was easy to handle,” says Fiegen. “At the time, Knight was boarded with some friends of mine. They used him quite a bit for handling and moving cattle, but he later on developed navicular disease, which his sire also had in his later years. Eventually he was in so much pain that he had to be put down. That was a tough blow because Knight was such a good horse.”
According to Fiegen, the year 2000 was a momentous turning point in his life. He was involved in an accident which left him with two shattered tibias and the distinct possibility of losing his legs. Fiegen was involved in the fitness industry as a career and as a passion, and the thought of losing his mobility brought about a stark realization: life needed to go in a different direction and with a little more variety.
“I was immersed in the fitness lifestyle in my everyday life and career. I was in high-end fitness equipment sales six days a week and had other physically demanding jobs on the side. I was also in the gym 5-6 days a week. Life was literally 100 miles per hour, and the accident took me back to zero. The next 3 months were spent in a wheelchair, reflecting on my life, and literally and figuratively, getting back on my feet. I decided I wanted to enjoy life more than I was doing, and horses and hotrods were two things that needed to be a part of it. Since then, whether it’s stress relief or just to get out of the house, I hop on a motorcycle, in a muscle car, or on a horse and go for a ride. It’s in-the-wind therapy.”
A Remuda of Four
Fiegen spends most of his evenings at CK Stables, the boarding facility near Harrisburg, South Dakota, where he keeps his four horses. Fiegen jumped at the chance to own a horse again a year and a half ago when the opportunity arose to buy “Sam”, a 15.1 hand, 11 year old Arabian gelding whose bright show career was coming to an abrupt close.
The bay gelding was on a fast track out of the show world when Fiegen acquired him. Formerly an accomplished competitor on the national circuit, Sam became arena sour and consequently unseated two of his riders. When Kevin went to “test drive” the previously unseen Arab gelding, his overall weariness and stubbornness towards the show ring surfaced immediately. Yet, Kevin thought he was a great prospect in need of a little R and R. Upon pick-up, Fiegen took Sam to a less regimented lifestyle board at a large roping barn and arena near Hartford on a hunch that maybe Sam simply needed a break from the rigors of the competitive show world. His plan was to slowly ease Sam away from the world of box stalls and arena walls and take him out of a closed arena into large, open spaces, ride him down the road ditches, and generally, give him new and different experiences. Sure enough, Sam settled down and his demeanor relaxed almost instantly.
“Sam is an amazing horse. Sam is a registered AHA horse and has competed in national Arabian shows. Now I do not ride English, but even I can tell he has a lot of ability, in and out of the ring. He’s taller and rangier than many Arabs, because he is a Polish Arabian, but when he collects himself, drops his head and settles in a lope, I can feel how good of a show horse he is,” says Fiegen. “I can go for two weeks without riding him, and when I saddle him and ride him, he behaves well. I believe he’s had enough of a break now that he could go back in the show ring; but I don’t plan on showing him, unless a good prospect wants to lease him and give it a chance.”
Because of his demanding career as a salesman at Graham Automotive in Sioux Falls, Fiegen must prioritize which type of horsepower gets his attention for the day.
“On Sundays, I’ll drive out to the barn early in the morning and won’t leave until nine or ten at night. On weekday and Saturday nights it depends on available time and who needs attention. I try to ride each of my horses at least a few times per week,” says Fiegen.
“I learn from everyone and everything I can. Pat Parelli, Craig Cameron, Chris Cox, Monty Roberts, Buck Brannaman, Julie Goodnight, Clinton Anderson, (all on TV, training videos, or print) and others locally. Everyone has a different style and way of doing things, but all have their individual merits. Basically, I’m trying to get that horse to trust and bond with me. When I have their respect, everything else can fall into place.”
Fiegen’s current remuda includes Sam, the aforementioned 11 year old Arabian gelding; Harry, a 5 year old, 16 hand palomino Quarter Horse gelding from the Two Eyed Jack family; Phoenix, a 7 year old, 16 hand grade buckskin Quarter Horse mare, and Casey, with Doc O’lena and Sunfrost lineage, a recently purchased 11 year old, 15.1 hand Quarter Horse mare trained in cutting, roping, and team penning and sorting.
According to Fiegen, his favorite part of owning multiple horses is grasping their various personalities and learning styles. “Harry’s learning style is slower. He needs to be shown something two or three times before he gets it, but he is also very forgiving in his nature if I am not doing everything right. Phoenix was found on Craigslist and a subsequent YouTube video. She was started as a roping horse, and now a well accomplished South Dakota high school rodeo competitor, who also boards at CK, has started her on barrels. Phoenix is my current ‘pet project’ because she is not an easy horse to connect with. She’s coming around though. She is very athletic and nimble for her size, since she is all of 16 hands high. The trainer I picked her up from, Jared Lynch, also spent 90 days with Harry, and has been a big help in my understanding and learning both Phoenix and Harry and the interaction and signals that go both ways between a horse and its rider. Jared takes my phone calls whenever I need a little help, and has since become the farrier for all my horses.”
The most recent purchase is Casey, a bay Quarter Horse mare out of Piedmont, South Dakota. Casey was acquired from David Horne, a good horse trainer from West River, as a team sorting horse (and whatever else she excels at---time will tell), and is very athletic. According to Fiegen, she’s about 15.1 and built like a tank with short cannon bones, dark, hard hooves, is sensitive to all cues, and stops and turns on a dime.
“She is a great cattle horse---her athletic abilities and acquired training surpass my limited experience. It will be fun learning about her and how she ticks.” Some Friday nights now are spent at a local ranch where timed sorting of cattle has become a good way to test the abilities of the three quarter horses.
Fiegen reclaimed the title “Horse Owner” just over a year and a half ago, and he’s in the process of investing in the right equipment for this kind of horsepower. Next on the list is a horse property to call home.
According to Fiegen, the best consequence of being a horse owner is sharing them with those who aren’t horse owners and are not able to ride often, but enjoy it
when they can. While local friends come out and ride occasionally, one recent Sunday ride stands out.
“One of my friends, Greg, has a brother, Tyler, who is a Special Forces operator, and is deployed abroad. Tyler’s job is incredibly intense, and he’s not able to be home much and spend time with his family. His wife and daughters do not get to see much of their dad because of his dedication to duty. Tyler’s oldest daughter had come out to CK with Greg last winter to ride and enjoyed it. This summer, Tyler, his wife, his younger daughter, along with Greg and his wife and daughters, came out and rode when Tyler was home on leave. Tyler was able to put his very young daughter on the horse with him in the indoor arena, take photos of it for future memory, and they had a blast. It was also great to see Tyler and Greg? getting to ride together, ?as ?being active military, they are both brothers and brothers-in-arms, and rarely get to see each? other?. In addition, I have ?the ?u?pmost respect for our service members and ?this ?was a little way to say ‘Thank You’ for the appreciation for their service and sacrifices they grant us all with their time spent. Tyler emailed me a few days after and said, ‘That was the best time I’ve had in a long time. Thank you.’ Those kinds of emails, and the interaction of ‘Horse People’ and ‘Car People’, are the best.”
Horses Under the Hood
Fiegen has always had a need for speed. Thankfully, his job at Graham allows him an outlet for some of this addiction. His job with Audi and VW means he and other salesmen from around the nation gather at racetracks like: Las Vegas International Speedway, Road Atlanta, Firebird Raceway in Phoenix, Infineon Raceway outside of San Francisco, Autobahn Raceway in Joliet outside Chicago, Chuckwalla Raceway outside of Palm Springs, Germany for new product launch and time on the autobahn, and even some off-roading at Gila River in AZ. Audi and VW want their sales consultants to know the vehicles they are selling inside and out, and these high speed trips around the track count as “On-The-Job Training” for Fiegen. “If only we were all so excited about continuing education,” laughs Fiegen. Though it may sound as if Fiegen spends all of his time “horsing around” at work (pun intended), he’s certainly earned it. He began working with Graham January 15, 2001, and has ranked as one of the top twenty Audi salesmen in the country the past two years.
“I’ve always been a car guy. It started with Matchbox cars and a subscription to Hot Rod Magazine. My first car was a black with orange stripes ‘72 Z28 with a 4-speed. I bought it just out of high school. From there, I bought several Camaros, a 1970 Mustang Mach 1, a Super Sport big block El Camino, and a mid-70’s Chevy truck with 12” total lift and 44” tires under it.”
“I enjoy tinkering with my cars and working on them. It’s a release and a diversion for me,” adds Fiegen. In 2006, Fiegen began buying muscle cars. After buying and selling several classic cars, he settled on his current hotrods: the Oldsmobile 442, and the 1973 Z28 RS Camaro Pro touring car.
“I had a fixation with the 1970 Oldsmobile 442. It’s a 455 ci/4-speed/12 bolt rear end/Ram Air car, Red with black stripes and a beautiful interior. It’s the type of car you just really enjoy driving. I really wanted a 442. Some of my buddies had Chevelles, but I wanted something different.”
“The Camaro came out of Texas. It’s black with white stripes, 355 Chevy small block with 11:1 compression (and likes 101 octane race fuel), angle plug aluminum heads, Turbo 350 with 3500 stall, a prepped 10 bolt posi rear end in the back, Hotchkiss suspension, 18” alloys on the front and 20’s on the back, Wilwood disc brakes all the way around, AutoMeter gauges, B&M Billet shifter, and a Harwood steel cowl hood.”
Horses on Two Wheels
Fiegen truly gets to ‘choose his horsepower’. He also owns a Harley-Davidson Fat Boy and a Big Dog K9 chopper. The Fat Boy has H-D Screaming Eagle Stage 3 internals & Harley race tuner, 2 into 1 pipe, Performance Machine rims and brakes, chromed out everything, LED accent lights, forward controls, and a shaved rear fender. “I bought it new in 2002 after my accident and started customizing from there. It has less than 7,000 miles on it.”
“The Big Dog K9 chopper was purchased from Strokers Dallas, a bike shop owned by Rick Fairless, a custom bike builder, which is connected to Ma’s Roadhouse, a restaurant/bar featured on TruTV. The graphics on the tank and fenders were rumored to be hand painted by the same gentleman who did all the graphics for Indian Larry, a now-deceased legendary custom bike builder out of New Jersey. It is satin black with a 113 S & S carbureted motor, Martin Brothers shorty pipe, right side drive, Baker 6-speed, and a 300 rear tire.” “The K9 fits the best, it’s a shade over 9 feet long. It’s nicer to drive down the road than the Fat Boy because it’s stretched out and has good balance from the right side drive and 300 rear tire. This bike is more raw, guttural, and loud, but both of them are obnoxiously loud. Both of my bikes are just fun to hop on and drive. They’re great toys to enjoy and appreciate,” says Fiegen.
As Fiegen invests more time into his four legged horsepower, he’s toying with the idea of downsizing his two and four wheeled remuda. “I am looking for one big project to dive into. A 1967 Chevelle with a 572 big block /Tremec 6-speed/9” Ford rear end recently caught my eye. It’s started as a project but needs to be finished out,” says Fiegen. “No matter what horses, or cars, or bikes I own or will own in the future, I love having them in my life. Horses and hotrods are good therapy and my hobby, and they always will be.” TMM