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The Bocken-family’s hearts beat for the sport

Wednesday, 14 October 2020
Interview

Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping The Bocken-family is as equestrian as it gets. From left to right, Jenny, Emma, Alicia, Toos, Paul and Jan, while on top James and Julian. Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

The Bocken-family is as equestrian as it gets. Jan Bocken (73) is a farrier, as is his son Paul (46), while Paul’s wife Jenny (39) used to be a professional showjumper. Two of Jenny and Paul’s children have been smitten by the horse-bug too, and both of them have already demonstrated their talent: Emma (15) became European Team Champion for Children in 2019, while Alicia (14) is the reigning Dutch Champion for Children. Jan and Paul have not only created a name for themselves as two of Holland’s top farriers, but also as the breeders of Maikel van der Vleuten’s success mare Dana Blue. WoSJ met the Bocken-family at their yard in Weert, Netherlands.

“My dad always told me to go to school and get a ‘normal’ job, but I didn’t agree,” Paul smiles when telling about how he followed in his father’s footsteps to become a farrier. “One day, I had a fight with the teacher, so my dad told me to accompany him to work instead. And I loved it! I switched to get an education for farriers, and it was the first time I was ever good in a classroom,” Paul tells. “When I graduated, my dad sent me out alone and told me to do my own thing. In the beginning, it was hard to make it on my own – I had to prove myself. My dad had a good name, but I was young, and had a lot to learn. However, it all worked out well – I love my job.” Today, Paul’s clients include some of the top names in showjumping; Jos Lansink, Maikel van der Vleuten, Yves Houtackers and Stal Hendrix – as well as dressage riders such as Fabienne Lutkemeier.

Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping “Jenny takes care of our stable and I do my work as a farrier, on Sundays we go to shows together and then it all starts again,” Paul laughs about the family's busy weekly routines. Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.

Paul’s Swedish wife Jenny used to be a professional showjumper when they first met. Now, the couple has four children, and two of them ride. “Jenny takes care of our stable and I do my work as a farrier, on Sundays we go to shows together and then it all starts again. We are very lucky that the kids have hands-on grandparents to help out. Toos always steps in and takes care of the boys when we go to shows with the girls, and she is so important to us,” Paul tells about the family's busy weekly routines. “I am the groom, trainer, sponsor – sometimes I ride at home,” Jenny fills in – laughing. “We drive the kids to school in the morning and normally I work in the stable until two. Then I cook, pick the children up from school and then we have pony lessons or swimming or football… Afternoons are always busy."

While Jenny is kept busy by her children, she misses to compete herself. “Competing was important for me, I loved the shows. When I moved from Sweden to Netherlands, I got to do some bigger shows – even some World Cups – but then I got pregnant,” she tells. “After having our girls, I started competing again, but it was difficult with two small kids so I stepped down. I still miss it. Now, my focus is on the kids – we try to help them up to a certain level. We don’t dream too hard, but we still dream. Our breeding program is also something I am passionate about, and that takes a lot of my time.”

Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping “Our dream is that our kids could compete at a high level with our home-bred horses,” Paul says. Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.

“Our dream is that our kids could compete at a high level with our home-bred horses, that would be nice,” Paul says. “Everybody knows how horse prices are these days. This is why we are breeding. With two girls riding, we could never afford to buy them the horses they need in the future. We breed four to six foals each year. My dad was always crazy about Holsteiners, and one day while he was out working, he found a mare,” Paul tells about the beginning of their breeding operation. “This mare – Mulana – had a severe problem with her hoofs, but my dad managed to fix it. The first stallion we used on her was Ramiro. Mulana had a daughter, Julana, that then had a foal by Burggraaf called Nulana,” Pall explains.

One of the most famous horses that the Bockens have bred is Maikel van der Vleuten’s Dana Blue, a granddaughter of Nulana. “Everything with Dana happened at the right moment,” Paul tells. “It is such a long way to get to where she is now. Having a horse like Dana was amazing, but it might be a once in a lifetime experience.”

“Afterwards, Jenny and I started to decide which stallions to use”, Paul continues. “We like to use stallions that have proven themselves in the top sport and are known to leave good offspring. In the breeding, as a farrier, I look a lot at the feet of the horses. I think many people forget that if you have four good hooves, that saves you a lot in vet costs.”

Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping Emma Bocken became European Team Champion for Children in 2019, while Alicia Bocken is the reigning Dutch Champion for Children. Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.

Last year, Jenny and Paul’s daughter Emma won team gold and individual silver at the European Championships for Children and was crowned Dutch Champion with Dagma (Tangelo van de Zuuthoeve x Calvin Z) – a horse bred by the Hendrix-family. Now, Emma is stepping up to junior level and her younger sister Alicia has taken over the ride – and won this year’s Dutch Championship for Children. “We are very happy to have a horse like Dagma from the Hendrix-family,” Paul says. “She is a special lady, but when managed right she does great things. We not only get support for the girls from the Hendrix-family, but also from Jos Lansink and Judy-Ann Melchior at Zangersheide.”

While creating opportunities for their children, Jenny and Paul are adamant that their kids keep their feet on the ground. “I try to tell the girls to not dream too big,” Jenny says. “I believe that we should concentrate on producing quality young horses for the bigger classes. We are trying to do our job the best we can, and for me this is more important than dreaming. I know the girls are young, but I want their focus to be right. It is a long way to get to the top… To really make it, I think you need to be a bit fanatic.”  

“We don’t think too much about the future, we do our thing today and are realistic enough to not dream too big,” Paul fills in.

Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping “I would have never imagined that it could be like this. It is fantastic," Jan Bocken tells about how his family shares a passion for horses. Here with Tulana, Dana Blue's mother. Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.

Jan Bocken, Paul’s father, is happy to see two of his grandchildren so passionate about the horses. “I would have never imagined that it could be like this. It is fantastic. I hope that the girls keep their feet on the ground. To go forward in this sport is hard, but not impossible. It takes a lot of discipline and hard work. We do everything we can, but we need luck too,” he says.   

The family’s realistic approach to success comes from experience. As a former professional rider, Jenny has witnessed the changes in the sport first-hand. “You cannot compare my times in the sport to how it is now,” she says. “Back then, it was always about the good riders being chosen to compete. Now, you can pay your way in. At times, I find it hard to watch – how it all goes around. This is also why I say what I say about dreaming; I want us to keep our minds straight and to be realistic.”

 

No reproduction without permission, copyright © World of Showjumping 



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