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WoSJ Exclusive; Eric van Grunsven – a successful owner

Wednesday, 04 May 2011

Eric van Grunsven. Photo by Jenny Abrahamsson.Behind most successful riders there is also a very supportive owner. WoSJ sat down to speak to one of them; Eric van Grunsven – one of the men behind BMC Van Grunsven Simon (Mr. Blue x Polydox and BMC Van Grunsven Whisper (Querelle x Wendekreis).

The two horses are familiar names on the international circuit, and together with Jeroen Dubbeldam Simon won the Grand Prix at Spruce Meadows, the World Cup qualifier in Verona as well as being overall third in the World Cup final in Leipzig as one of only two horses with a double clear on the final day. Whisper won the Dutch championship in 2009, and has several Gran Prix prizes on the record.

A success story; BMC van Grunsven Simon and Jeroen Dubbeldam. Photo by Jenny Abrahamsson.Eric van Grunsven comes from a family full of horse traditions; horses have been in the Van Grunsven family for the last 40 years. Eric has been a rider himself, as has his brother Wilco – but the most famous name of the family belongs to their sister Anky van Grunsven who is one of the world’s best dressage riders. The passion for horses has been passed on to the children of the two brothers; all of them are eager and talented riders.

Eight years ago Eric and his brother set up a showjumping stable in Erp, which is about an hour from Amsterdam. “Our goal was to produce top quality horses,” Eric says. “We buy young horses at the age of three or four and keep them in training at our stable until they are older. Our stable jockey Teun Voets usually brings the horses up to 1.40 level before we decide what to do next. If the horse is talented and good enough, we look for a top jockey for it. If it is not good enough for top level, we sell it or pass it on to one of our children. And I like to buy cheap and sell expensive,” Van Grunsven smiles. “We keep around 20 horses in our stable. About 10-12 of these are for Teun, the rest belongs to my wife – who rides dressage at grand prix level – or to the kids,” Eric explains.

So, what does Van Grunsven look for when he selects his young horses? “They need the right temperament, they need to be fighters – and they need to be big, but yet with enough blood in them,” Eric says about his preferences. “Such horses might take some more time to produce to top level, but that’s how it is with quality horses,” he continues.

Simon was overall third in the Rolex FEI World Cup final in Leipzig. Photo by Jenny Abrahamsson.Simon – or Simon Says as he was once named – and Whisper caught the eye of the Dutch horseman as five year olds. “They were jumping at one meter level, and it’s difficult to say what it was about them that made us choose them – but I saw them in the ring and they had something. And it could go one way or the other; it’s always a chance to take, but I like a challenge”.

How did the Van Grunsven brothers come to the choice of Jeroen as the rider they would sponsor? “At that time – which is about two years ago – Jeroen didn’t have the right horses for top level. And when such a rider doesn’t have a lot of other top horses to choose from, you know your horse will be the first horse in that stable,” Eric explains. “We told Jeroen to try out Simon for a period, and if he didn’t like him he could bring him back. After a week Jeroen called back. And Simon has been with him since.”

What does Eric think about the facilities for horse owners on the international shows? “It could be better, usually you just get the accreditation sign around your neck and that’s it. In Calgary they had a lounge for both owners and riders where we could catch up, which was good,” Eric points out.

The sport of showjumping demands a lot from the owners, and as Eric puts it, “It’s quite hard to say what you can do to bring new owners in. A lot of money is no guarantee for success.” Another thing that is required is stamina; “Most of the time, it does not go well – so as an owner you need to be patient. It takes years to succeed,” Eric says.

The Van Grunsven brothers do not interfere much with what Jeroen does. “But we sometimes give advice,” Eric explains. “We can say to Jeroen that he should take it easy on the number of competitions he goes to, because you can’t ride every one of them. And there is no point in going to a show if the horse is not a 100 %. But that’s the only things we sometimes talk about,” the sympathetic Dutch says. “And Jeroen knows what he’s doing with the two horses. They are not the easiest – so they need a good and professional rider like him.”

Eric doesn’t follow Simon and Whisper on every show, but goes to the most special ones. “Most of the time I’m with my children on shows in the weekends. Then I have the role as driver, groom and owner, so they keep me busy,” he laughs while joking about the nerves of watching your own children ride.

As we round up our talk with Eric he says; “We have a company that gives us the opportunity to do the sport at top level, and I’m lucky to be able to do this.”

To read more about Van Grunsven Paardensport, go to· 

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