2011 was a good year for Rik Hemeryck. To mention a few achievments the Belgian rider won the Grand Prix at the Sauté Hermes in Paris, was third in the World Cup qualifier in Mechelen and in the Sires of the World in Lanaken – as well as being picked for the team for Rome, St. Gallen and Aachen. Could 2012 be even better? WoSJ sat down to talk to Rik about his background, horse power, his family, breeding – and of course; his Olympic hopes.
“I come from a family with a great interest for horses. My parents were breeders and I grew up at our yard where they had about ten stallions and a breeding business. I have been riding since I was ten years old, and as a junior I won the European Championships for Belgium. At 18 I decided to quit school, and it has been all about showjumping for me ever since,” Rik smiles. “In the beginning of my career I stayed with Peter Charles for one year. My parents told me I had to learn English,” he laughs. “Then I went on to work for Albert Voorn for two years and then another two years for Hans Günter Winkler.”
Rik then moved on to work for Haras de Laubry, and stayed there for seven years. But as the best horses tended to be sold, Rik eventually decided to move on. “For a period afterwards I worked for Stephex Stables, but I didn’t compete – I just looked for horses for them. Then my father decided to sell our family home where my parents had been running their breeding business for decades and I decided to buy it. It’s been my base for ten years now,” Rik says happily about how he found back to his roots.
Rik’s top horse Quarco de Kerambars is a horse he has had since he was four, and build up from scratch to international Grand Prix winner. “I started off with only young horses when I had bought my parents place, and Quarco was one of them. As a four year old he was a little too hot, and being a stallion as well back then he was a handful. But I knew right from the start that he would be a good competition horse, and he was always clear as a youngster. Quarco has a lot of blood, he’s sensitive, awake and careful. Almost too careful actually, and as an eight and nine year old he tended to scare himself a little and could throw in a stop here and there. Now he’s more experienced, and jumps without problem anywhere,”Rik says of the 12 year old gelding.
And there’s a little breeding fairy tale attached to Quarco! His owner – Suzanne Gagliani – bred him herself, and he was one of only three horses that she bred. “After advice from my father, Suzanne used Darco on her mare and Quarco is the result! He is her baby, and they often go for hacks together in the woods,” he smiles.
Another promising horse for Hemeryck is the 10 year old Papillon Z. “I’ve had him since he was five. Papillion’s owners originally bought him for their daughter, but she stopped riding as she started to study. So I took him over. He did a few small Grand Prix classes when he was eight, and he has been getting better and better over the last six months. In December he was placed in a lot of classes in Mechelen. I really hope he will be good,” Rik says.
Hemeryck has about ten horses at home in Belgium, “but not more as my top horses take a lot of my time,” he explains. “Then my wife Anne-Sophie has about another six additional horses; she rides at two and three star level. She actually won a two star class in Mechelen,” Rik says proudly. “Our son on three years – Alexi – also does a little riding, but he only sits on for like five minutes and the gets off. Actually he can forget about the pony for a month and then he remembers that the pony is there and wants to ride,” Rik laughs. On the question that Rik’s parents must be very proud of what their son has achieved, he answers humbly; “Yes, for them it’s also a dream. They don’t come with me so much on shows, but they watch on TV,” he explains.
And what about his parents’ passion for breeding, has Rik inherited that we ask him. “Absolutely! I have two mares that I breed from, and I work a lot together with Joris De Brabander [one of Europe’s top breeders based at Stal De Muze in Belgium]. We also have a few good young horses together, like the eight year old Erco van’t Roosakker. Joris is a great guy, who’s a little like ‘If you want to keep it, keep it – if not you can sell it’! Joris has a fantastic ability to place the right horses with the right riders; it’s like he sees through the horse and knows exactly what it needs. He is truly an amazing breeder, and has access to all the stallions you could wish for,” Rik says enthusiastically while we chat about the state of breeding in Belgium.
Will there be a place for Rik on the Belgian team heading for London we ask before we close off. “It’s not going to be easy. We have some really good riders in Belgium! Jos [Lansink] and Philippe [Le Jeune] will for sure be on the team, they are our two best riders. But with Judy-Ann not riding at the moment it’s more open when it comes to who else will be on the team,” he says. “I will just do show by show, but I need to be good – especially on the Nations Cup teams. My horse of choice would be Quarco, he’s the most stable one and has been clear in a lot of big classes” Rik smiles.
“It’s a chance though, but other riders like Ludo [Philippaerts], his two sons Oliver and Nicola, Maurice [Van Roosbroeck ] and Niels [Bruynseels] will all be strong competitors. Our Chef d’equipe Philippe Guerdat makes the final decision. He does a great job with the team, and has been with us now for two years. He really makes everybody work together,” Rik explains before concluding; “For me it’s a dream to go to the Olympics; I’ve never ridden at the Games before!”
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