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WoSJ Exclusive; Lais van Deventer – on best friend & super star London, and the love for her horses!

Monday, 22 April 2013

A happy team at the Olympics last summer; Lais van Deventer walks with London and Gerco Schröder. All photos by Jenny Abrahamsson.She looks after London, one of the world’s best horses. She might be lucky – but so is he, and also his stable mate New Orleans. Because Lais is – we discover – all about the love for her horses, proud to look after them and genuinely adore London and New Orleans – who she calls ‘her best friends’ in the stable. Get to know one of the most sweet, charming and genuine girls in the sport.

We meet outside her horses’ boxes, current location at the Champs-Élysées facing the Grand Palais. Lais is busy cleaning some dirty boots, but quickly sets it all aside and there we are talking about how she ended up travelling around the world with Gerco Schröder’s horses. “My family was into horses and I started with riding ponies, not international or anything, it was just for fun. Later on I went to school, and while I was there I started working for Roelof Bril. I was there for first a week, and then I really liked it and started working there for weekend and holidays – and spend all my time off there. Then I was there for one year and worked full time, before I moved on to do something different,” Lais explains of how it all started.

“Then I went to Gerco’s brother Ben to work. I was just 18 and far away from my mum, so I only stayed for four months. But it was really nice there! After that I worked at Hank Melse for one year and did some shows for an Italian guy. Then I did some freelancing, and I did one show with Wim [also Gerco’s brother] and he asked me if I would like to come and work for Gerco – so that’s how I ended up with this job,” Lais tells us.

As the super sweet 23 year old has been working for Gerco for the past three and a half years, our guess is she is pretty happy with him as a boss – something Lais confirms quickly. “He’s super,” she says. “Gerco is very relaxed, and really nice. I can always talk with him, he’s really easy to communicate with and he’s a person who’s really listening. I’ve always said that I could never work for somebody else, he’s so easy!”

It's not hard to understand that Lais is proud to look after her super star London. As to Gerco’s super star London, he is of course one of the biggest topics of our conversation and we ask Lais about some inside information about one of the sports’ biggest stars, “London is the best stallion ever; he is so nice and quiet and he is never screaming or being stupid,” Lais explains. “You don’t need a chain when walking him, and you can hardly notice he is a stallion. Without him I almost feel like it’s not so fun going to the shows,” Lais laughs. “London can be a bit of a naughty boy though, pulling down blankets or playing around when I hand walk him – just to get attention.”

Does London know he is a star we ask Lais; “Sometimes I think he does. What I find a bit funny about him – not so fun for others maybe – is that when people come up to him he just turns his head away and plays a little hard to get!“ Lais takes a little pause, smiles and says “I must also say that I’m really proud to take care of London at the moment! I remember like with Hickstead, thinking it must be really great to take care of one of those horses – one of the best in the world. You saw him and everybody were talking about him and that he would be the winner. Now I come with London, and people come up and act the same way,” Lais smiles. “London and New Orleans are definitely my best friends in the stable. It’s really special with those two!”

Lais came to Gerco when London was only a seven year old, and started doing the youngster classes. “So by the time we got to the Olympics, we really felt like a team – which is really nice,” she explains of her journey with the 11 year old stallion. “We went to the Olympics thinking and hoping we had a chance, and it was all so amazing. As to the individual final, I wasn’t so sure after the time fault in the first round and when he was clear in the second round I thought maybe we would finish 6th or 7th. Then when the other riders started to have one down, I started to jump in the air – maybe not so good of me, but…,” Lais smiles. “Then when Cian also got a time fault, it was like ‘Oh my God’! It was a great experience!”

Lais and New Orleans - who has a real character and likes you or likes you not.Lais also has another super star in the stable, the grey 14 year old gelding New Orleans; “He is really special, and a bit more sensitive than London. New Orleans is really quiet and really sweet. When I came to Gerco’s yard though, I was not allowed to take New Orleans in from the field because he didn’t know me yet – so he had to get to know me first. He has a real character you see; he likes you or likes you not. Now when I arrive at the stable and let him know he reacts straight away – it’s really nice now. I would like to take him home with me the day he doesn’t do shows anymore!”

Travelling the world with Gerco’s horses, Lais has a life that’s a little different from most of us – and we wonder what a normal week looks like for her. “Normally I come home Monday morning, and have the day off. Then Tuesday I pack the lorry again, and do a bit of normal things and normally Wednesday we leave again. Usually I have a show every weekend, but if I cannot make it to the next show we have a home groom that steps in. That’s quite nice actually!”

Lais at work at the Olympics with her beloved London.Having visited the best shows in the world, we ask her what her favorite shows are; “There are quite a few good shows; Saut Hermès is really nice – we just have two horses with, and this year they even had this guy who came around to the grooms, gave us his number and could go and get whatever we needed for us – food, coffee, whatever we need. That you don’t see every week! Aachen is also always really special, as is San Patrignano where they always think about the grooms. The food is good there, there are people that help us unload, the boxes are bedded when we come and they organize so we can go to the beach – it’s really nice,” Lais explains. Not on her list of favorite shows are those with timetables that go from early morning and finish late at night – that’s one of the least glamorous parts of her job.

“The best part of this job is of course when your horses do really well! I mean, you have all your love for your horses that you take care of 24/7 so when they do a good job and perform – well that makes you really proud. New Orleans and London are really what is pushing me in this job, without them I would maybe not have the same feeling about what I do,” Lais smiles. “Without the love for your horses you could not do this job I think!”

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