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WoSJ Exclusive; Niels Bruynseels on NASA and new challenges for Belgium in the Super League

Monday, 11 April 2011

Niels Bruynseels. Photo by Jenny Abrahamsson. Niels Bruynseels is a rider you definitely will see more of this season. With Belgium back in the Super League, and some really exciting horses – the 27 year old rider is bound to become a familiar face to the crowds on the international scene.

To the Belgian’s Niels is well known already; he was a three-time contestant on Belgium’s team for the European Championships for young riders – and his merits include a silver team medal from the championship at Vilamoura in 2004. In his first year as a senior Niels took the bronze medal at the Belgian Championships, and last year he climbed all the way to the top – capturing the gold medal. Bruynseels has also been a regular on the senior teams, and has several nations’ cups behind him.

Niels with his top horse NASA. Photo by Jenny Abrahamsson. “NASA is my best horse right now,” Niels says of the ten year old SF-mare by Cumano. “But she is still green with only three world cup starts under her belt, so she needs more experience at top level. I got her as a seven year old, and at that point she had competed with an amateur in France,” he continues. Many of us have fallen in love with the beautiful grey mare that bares some resemblance to her famous father who won the world championships in 2006, and Niels can reveal that she can be a handful; “NASA has quite a temperament, and she never gets tired – I have to ride her twice a day to keep her on the ground,” Niels smiles. “She doesn’t like being in the stable, she prefers to go out in the fields and be ridden – although she isn’t a typical mare,” Niels explains.

“I also have another good mare in Aluna, who is a 12 year old BWP-mare by Polydiktus van de Helle. Aluna is your typical chestnut mare; amongst many things she needs an extra space when she travels in the horse truck. But in the ring she is super competitive,” Niels smiles.

Bruynseels is excited about the season ahead and Belgium’s comeback in the Super League. “We recently had a meeting with the national federation, and our focus this year will be to stay in the Super League. We qualified for the Olympics during the World Championship in Kentucky, so for that reason the Europeans are of less importance to us compared to many of the other countries,” Niels tells us. “As many of the other teams we will use our best riders and horses for the first legs of the League and try to collect as many points as possible early on. You will probably see our WEG-team from Kentucky in the first round in La Baule,” Bruynseels reveals. 

Aluna and Niels. Photo by Jenny Abrahamsson. It is obvious that Belgium’s team captain Philippe Guerdat is doing a good job; the team’s results from the WEG speak for themselves – individual gold and team bronze is quite an achievement. “Guerdat is a real horseman; he knows our horses and he is straight forward with the riders,” Niels says. “I think he has all the qualities needed to bring our team together.”

So, does Belgium have what it takes to stay in this tough series? “Well, we have some good riders and horses to choose from – including Philippe Le Jeune, Jos Lansink, Gregory Wathelet, Judy-Ann Melchior and Dirk Demeersman. Last year we saw 24 different riders in the Nations Cup riding for Belgium. Most of our riders only have one horse that is good enough at this level, but Judy-Ann is amongst those who have at least two.” Niels thinks it will be tough, and refers to France and Germany as favorites to take the overall title in the series.

“I hope to get to ride at some of the Super League shows, and I will start my outdoor season with two weeks in Lummen,” Niels says. “I will not ride any Global Champions Tours,” he continues.

NASA and Niels in action. Photo by Jenny Abrahamsson.With an exciting future ahead, Niels also have some promising horses at home waiting for the outdoor season to start. “I have the ten year old Holsteiner Carpallo. Then I have two really nice eight year olds; one by Diamant de Semilly and one by Cassini,” Niels tells us of the horses home at his father’s yard right outside Antwerpen.

And if Niels could choose any horse in the world, who would it be? “Presley Boy, who was Khaled Al Eid’s WEG partner. That horse jumps amazing; at the WEG he really impressed me! Also I don’t want to say ‘Hickstad’ or ‘Shutterfly’ – like many seem to do,” Niels laughs before he heads off to the stables.

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