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That Special Bond – with Dirk Demeersman

Tuesday, 27 September 2016
That Special Bond...

Dirk Demeersman on Clinton: "I am happy I got to ride Clinton, it was a dream to ride a horse like him." Photo (c) Dirk Caremans/Hippo Foto. Dirk Demeersman on Clinton: "I am happy I got to ride Clinton, it was a dream to ride a horse like him." Photo (c) Dirk Caremans/Hippo Foto.

WOSJ introduces a new series to highlight what our sport truly is about; that special bond between a horse and its rider. We have created a series of exclusive interviews with some of the top names of the sport, to discuss the horses that have shaped their careers, fulfilled their dreams – and sometimes even broken hearts.

To start with, we sat down with one of Belgium's most successful riders ever – now current Chef d'Equipe – Dirk Demeersman to talk about which horse that crossed his path was 'The Money Maker', 'The Special One' and 'The One That Got Away'.

The Money Maker and The Special One…

"I have to say the one that won the most for me moneywise for sure was Clinton. He was not really a big winner; we didn't win so many classes with him, but most of the Grand Prix competitions we jumped we finished in the top five – so in this way he brought in the most money. Clinton also won me my most prestigious placings; we were second in the Grand Prix of Aachen in 2005 and fourth at the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004.

Clinton is also the horse that has been the most special to me. I got him as a 5-year-old and after the first fence I jumped with him, a small vertical, I said ‘This one is going to take me to the Olympic Games’.

And he did, but there was a lot of struggle between that first moment with him and being fourth in Athens. There were days where I really hated him; he has such a strong character. He was really difficult, and it took me a lot of time to handle him. Being rough was not an option. Every mistake I made, I got an answer from him straight away and he did not forgive me for my mistakes. On the other hand, I truly believe he made me a better rider because he forced me to think much more than before.

We really worked hard with him and in the end we became a team and I felt he wanted to win for me.

I have two children, and I think of Clinton as my third. Our relationship was very special. He gave me everything I ever dreamed of; I am just a farmer's son and growing up I didn't think I would get to ride at the Olympic Games. Clinton made all my childhood dreams come true.

He retired at the age of 13 after the World Equestrian Games in 2006 and has been breeding since. It is wonderful to see what for example his son Cornet Obolensky has done and how successful his offspring have been. They are not horses for everyone, his strong character is inherited, but I think that is also what makes them so good. It is not often you find an easy horse that is also very good. I am happy I got to ride Clinton, it was a dream to ride a horse like him."

The One That Got Away…

"Ugano Sitte, a son of Clinton, was a very promising horse – a stallion I believed very much in and we had a special relationship. I really liked him; he had all the quality and scope. I think he would have been a horse for all the championships there is; World Championships, Olympics, you name it.

I saw my future in him. However, the year he was eight – in February 2012 – just longing while doing a vet check, he broke his leg and had to be put down. It was quite dramatic and for the years that followed what happened to him was a big reason why I wanted to stop riding. I don't want to say there was anything wrong with the other horses I had at that moment, but he was the one I saw my future in. He was a really special horse for me and I still can't watch any videos of him. His passing touched me really deeply.”


As told to WoSJ by  Dirk Demeersman // Text © World of Showjumping by Nanna Nieminen // Picture © Dirk Caremans/Hippo Foto

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