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The Next Generation: Andres Vereecke – “When you get the chance, you have to prove yourself”

Wednesday, 12 May 2021
The Next Generation

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping
"Even though I know how hard reaching the top is, that is my goal and I will try to reach it. We will see if it is possible or not: The only thing I can do is work hard," Andres Vereecke says. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

In 2020, Andres Vereecke was named ‘Talent of the Year’ in Belgium. The 24-year-old is based at his family’s yard near Gent – where his father Koeen Vereecke first started the family business. While working with family at times can be challenging, the Vereeckes have a consistent list of results to look back at – and a future that looks promising.

With about 30 horses in training, their business is focused on selling and producing horses. “We have a small organization at home,” Andres tells. “My dad never wanted to make it too big: The bigger you are, the more worries you’ll have. For us, it is important that we can keep everything under control and that all gets done well. My mother breeds a bit, so I ride some horses from her and we try to buy a few young horses if we see something interesting,” he continues. “We also have two really good owners that we have a long-term relationship with, who also breed. We have a great relationship with our owners, which is nice: We can rely on them even during hard times.”

Andres is hoping to keep some of the talents for a bit longer, as his sights are set for the top. “I have two older horses that I think will be ready to step up a level this year,” he explains. “My string of horses is really nice at the moment, with a few older ones for the top sport and younger up-and-coming ones. It is important to have nice prospects for the future, behind the more experienced ones.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping
In 2020, Andres Vereecke was named 'Talent of the Year' in Belgium. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“My best horse at the moment is probably D'Artagnan RR (Diamant de Semilly x Calando I),” Andres continues. “In December – after only a few months together – I took him with me to the Mediterranean Equestrian Tour in Oliva Nova, Spain, where he jumped clear in two CSI2* 1.45m Grand Prix classes. I think he will be my top horse for this year: He is now ready for bigger shows.”  

“We try to build up the young horses to a higher level, and at that point some of them will be sold,” Andres continues to speak about the family business. “That is how we make a living. One day, I want to go for the top sport though. We are working towards a situation where we can keep a few horses longer and compete on the highest level. Until now, we have usually built up our horses to two-and three-star level and then sold them. Recently, we sold a few good horses, which gives us a bit more freedom and allows us to produce some of our current horses even further. However, when the horses get good results, there are times you just can’t say no to an offer.”

Even though 2020 was a year out of the ordinary for everyone, Andres tells that for their horses, a slower paced show schedule proved advantageous. “For us, last year was very consistent and good, although there were no bigger shows,” he says. “At the shows we jumped, our horses performed really well. Many of our horses needed to get more experience on those lower levels anyway. In that view, last year was not bad for us: Our horses grew into the classes they jumped and are now ready for the next step in their careers. I started the year good in Germany, winning two big classes in Münster.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping
"As a rider, you need a bit of luck as well: You need the right horses, at the right time," Andres Vereecke says. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“My dream is to ride at five-star level, to be one of the best riders of the world,” Andres tells about his own career path. “I don’t know if it will be possible, but I want to work for it. As a rider, you need a bit of luck as well: You need the right horses, at the right time. Even though I know how hard reaching the top is, that is my goal and I will try to reach it. We will see if it is possible or not: The only thing I can do is work hard.”

“I think you need a really good team,” Andres says when asked what he believes is the key in reaching the top. “You need three or four Grand Prix horses that can jump the biggest classes. Therefore, you will need a few owners who are willing to keep their horses for the top sport. Sometimes, a rider might get to the top but when horses jump well, there is a big risk they get sold. I believe that it is important to have people around you who don’t want to sell but are focused on the sport aspect. If you have good horses and you get into the bigger shows, then it goes on its own: One thing leads to another. However, you need to work yourself up there and that is the hardest part – getting into that group that gets invited and selected takes a lot.”

For Andres, being a professional rider has been the only career imaginable. “I always knew I wanted to be a rider – or at least try to do it as good as possible, and see how far I can get,” he explains. “I really wanted to ride and have worked hard for it. My family never pushed me into riding, I just simply enjoyed it. That is why I kept going and it has been the only thing I want to do. Having this connection with the horses, to be one with them, is what I enjoy the most. Working with animals has so many benefits: You get to be out with them every day, and the special bond you can create with your horses is something unique. As a rider, you have to try to understand each horse: They are all different. It is not always easy, connecting with a horse, but when you do, it is the greatest feeling when it all comes together.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping
"It is not always easy, connecting with a horse, but when you do, it is the greatest feeling when it all comes together," Andres Vereecke says. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

His consistent performances earned Andres the title ‘Talent of the Year 2020’ in Belgium, but at times he finds it challenging being a rising star in a country that is so strong in numbers when it comes to top riders. “I think we have ten riders in the top 100 of the world, so to break through is really hard,” he explains. “The competition is tough, jumping week in and week out on top level. On the other hand, I think it makes us stronger as riders because we really have to fight for it, to get a chance. When you get the chance, you have to prove yourself. You have to be focused, work hard, and seize the opportunity when you get it.”

When it comes to advice to any fellow young riders, Andres has a clear message. “One day you can have a bad result, but there will always be another class,” he smiles. “If you get too much in your head, thinking about the horses not going well, and you take that with you to the next day, then it for sure won’t work. You have to pull yourself together and focus on the good things. Work on the things that went wrong: Watch videos, try to improve from your mistakes. Every day is another chance, you just need to keep working and the results will come on their own. Work on your weaknesses, but don’t get too fixated: Focus on the good and stay open to try new things.”

 

No reproduction without written permission, copyright © World of Showjumping



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