World of Showjumping
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Juulia Jyläs and Herman van Triest: For the love of the sport

Thursday, 04 January 2018

Photo (c) Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.
Juulia Jyläs and Herman van Triest. Photo (c) Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.

Placing second in the five-star Grand Prix of Oslo with her home-bred mare Courage T Z and 12th in the five-star Grand Prix of Helsinki on the stallion Finishing Touch Wareslage, 44–year-old Juulia Jyläs made sure the Finnish flag was flying high on the international showjumping circuit last year. Based in Netherlands for over 20 years, Juulia and her long-time partner Herman van Triest have built a strong team with a string of horses that have been the talk of the 2017-season. World of Showjumping sat down with the couple to learn more about what it takes to jump into the world scene from a remote country such as Finland.

“It means the world to me that along the way I have been lucky to meet these people that I have been able to build a good co-operation with,” Juulia tells about the team around her that has helped her to where she is today. “After 24 years together with Herman, we have built this all on our own until the very point we are at now. The horse owners we have, they also started small; from a few breeding mares that I should ride for them and it all got going from there. First, we bought one horse together, then we bought another,” she explains. “You cannot do these things alone – you need a great team around you. And it is all based on mutual trust, to be able to build something like this.”

Herman and Juulia get asked on a daily basis if their horses are for sale. “For me, refusing the offers is not difficult at all,” Herman says.  “Courage is our own, and the stallion we own together with our partners. We share the passion – even if it is not only glorious moments all the time, and there are days that things don’t work out. But we share that, too. It is like any good relationship,” he explains.

“My father has been breeding from the line of Courage for over 30 years, but before we always sold the offspring”, Herman continues. “Now that I have a good rider for the horses, we keep them.” Vindicat W, Flintstone, Zilverstar T, Dante and Emanuelle are some of the horses that have passed through Herman. “Even though we knew they were good horses, we sold them. You need these kind of horses to know what better horses are like, and it is motivating”, he explains. “Still today we do sell something, but we are at the point where the business is not only about money. My ultimate goal would be to have my own bred Courage in Tryon this year, I think it is a dream of any breeder – specially when your wife is the rider.”

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.
Juulia Jyläs with Courage T Z in Rotterdam. Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

It’s been a long journey to the top for Juulia and her partner, but as Herman says: “Where there is a will, there is a way!” And Juulia’s Finnish heritage has come in handy in this regard. “First of all, it needs to start from the inside. Whatever you do with passion, is going to work out in the end. I think they call it sisu in Finnish – a certain stubborn fighting spirit they seem to have,” Herman smiles. “I have seen it in my football hero Jari Litmanen, who even with his bad knee would get on the field and change the game in five minutes. I miss that kind of attitude in the horse world – there are young and talented combinations, they just need to get the chances they deserve and the support they lack,” he explains.

Making it to the very top of the sport from such a small equestrian country as Finland has not been easy. “I have never expected anything from my national federation and we have gotten here on our own,” Juulia tells about her career so far. “Getting support once you are at Nations Cup-level, that feels pretty late. Of course, all federations with little resources have limited options – but at times it feels as if they are very far from the reality of today’s sport. Finland is far from the standard in the rest of Europe, and there is just such a difference in what we experience down here every day,” she tells about her daily life in Holland. “It feels like as if we are not talking about the same sport or thinking about the same things. Everyone has their own agenda and the money follows that, this is clear in any sport. If we had people passionate about the top sport sitting high in federations, maybe we could get it all moving in the right direction,” she says.

“It is the same in any business, in any country: There will always be people who are not in it for their passion, but simply like to be important,” Herman continues. “Positive minded people, who have been there, who have done it – why not use their knowledge and experience instead?”

Photo (c) Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.
Juulia Jyläs. Photo (c) Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.

Herman believes, that no matter where you come from, to break through to the top you need to make the most of the hand you’re dealt with – instead of complaining about the cards you’ve got. “You need to look at the positive things in the culture and the mentality; you have to be aware of your own strengths and weaknesses. In Juulia’s case, I think the best quality the Finnish people have, is that they can be very, very dedicated,” he goes on. “They are like no other people in the world! In my opinion, the best Finnish equestrian export product is the groom – there are no better grooms than the Finnish ones, they are so dedicated,” he says. “Most of the top riders have Finnish grooms.”

There is more money going around in the sport of showjumping than ever before, and both Herman and Juulia highlight the importance of finding the right balance. “If you look at all the Dutch riders, most of them are just farmers – it is their mentality and dedication, that gives them good horses,” Herman explains. “Because they don’t think in money, but in passion. If you have people who start young with the only goal to make money, you will have a very unhappy life.”

“I think we should not fight against it – we need to find the right balance, because we need each other,” Juulia fills in. “We need the buyers for the horses, we need the customers and the students.”

“The steps taken to reach the level I am today, have been huge. We got here alone, so I think we can handle this now,” she continues. “I think any federations’ role should be more to wash the face of the sport and to get the old stigma of only rich people riding away and to get the sport to enjoy the respect it deserves – so we could also find support from the outside.” 


Text © World of Showjumping by Nanna Nieminen // Pictures © Nanna Nieminen and Jenny Abrahamsson

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