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The Next Generation: Dieter Vermeiren – “The more love you give to your horses, the more you get back”

Tuesday, 12 October 2021
The Next Generation

Photo © Nanna Nieminen/WoSJ
Representing Belgium, 22-year-old Dieter Vermeiren has been successful throughout his junior and young rider years. WoSJ met Dieter at his home base Hof ter Velde in Belgium, and discovered a talent that is mature way beyond his years. Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World Showjumping.

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

Representing Belgium, 22-year-old Dieter Vermeiren has been successful throughout his junior and young rider years. His biggest success – which includes team silver at the 2019 European Championships in Zuidwolde as well as finishing 5th individually at the 2018 European Championships in Fontainebleau – have come with the now 13-year-old Kingston Town 111 Z (Kashmir van Schuttershof x Chellano Z), who has been Dieter’s partner since the age of six and is a clear favourite in the stable. This year, Dieter competed at his first Belgian Championship for seniors in Lanaken and placed 8th. World of Showjumping met Dieter at his home base Hof ter Velde in Belgium, and discovered a talent that is mature way beyond his years.

Born to ride

Photo © Nanna Nieminen/WoSJ
"When I finished school, I quickly got good ponies and horses from various owners and got rolled into the sport as well as the business," Dieter tells about how he ended up being a full-time rider. Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World Showjumping.

According to his mother Martine Verhulle, it was clear that from the first moment Dieter could sit, he preferred doing so on a horse. “She would push my brother in a stroller, and I would sit on a Shetlander when we went out for walks,” Dieter laughs. “And I just never stopped – when I finished school, I quickly got good ponies and horses from various owners and got rolled into the sport as well as the business. My uncle Jan Vermeiren owns a big trading stable and a stud, which also provided me with opportunities to ride.”

Dieter’s family has lived at the beautiful Hof ter Velde for the last 15 years. An operation that started with a few boxes, has slowly expanded. “Both my parents were riding, and my dad Wim jumped at international level before he decided to study veterinary medicine. Ten years ago, we built an indoor with five boxes and a small clinic, so that he could work here at home," Dieter tells.

 

It never gets boring for me; I can work with the horses the whole day and forget about the time

 

"As I got older, I rode more and little by little the operation here got bigger," Dieter continues. "We bought more land so we could build another 18 boxes next to the indoor and a bigger outdoor arena. The number of horses varies; at the moment I have 23 horses in work. However, I prefer quality over quantity – I want everything to be done good.”

“I had to choose if I would study further or ride, and I chose riding,” Dieter continues. “I feel lucky to have parents who always supported my decision to ride – without them, all of this would not be possible. I think I will never regret that decision. Being busy with the horses, the young horses and the foals is what I enjoy the most. It is the love you get back from them: The more love you give, the more you get. It never gets boring for me; I can work with the horses the whole day and forget about the time. I don’t look at the watch when I am with the horses!”

Working towards the top

Photo © Nanna Nieminen/WoSJ
"When it comes to long term plans, I first want to build my stable and make my string of horses stronger," Dieter tells. Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World Showjumping.

At the moment, Kingston Town 111 Z is Dieter’s best horse and the short term goals are built around him. “I have had him since he was six and he is 13 now, so it has been a long journey,” Dieter tells. "When it comes to long term plans, I first want to build my stable and make my string of horses stronger. That will take time, but I want to grow into the higher classes. It is my goal to ride the five-star shows and Nations Cups so that is what I am working towards.”

 

It is my goal to ride the five-star shows and Nations Cups so that is what I am working towards

 

The gap from junior and young rider classes to seniors can be intimidating, but Dieter seems to have handled it well. “It is my first year as a senior, but some of my horses were already ready to do two-and three-star Grand Prix classes, so the step did not feel so big,” he explains. “Of course, when you are a junior or young rider, you get more chances to be on the national team and it is always an honour. On those occasions, the pressure is high, but I believe it makes us stronger: We have to work harder and perform.”

“The fair thing is, in Belgium the younger riders get a chance to perform on the bigger stages,” Dieter continues to explain about the transition to the higher classes. “For example, I got to ride the U25 classes at the five-star show in Stockholm this June. When you get a chance like this, you have to make sure you are ready – the classes will be big. I am in a good, honest place with our Chef d’Equipe: If I don’t feel ready to perform, I can say so and trust that I get a chance later on. In Stockholm, I won a 1.50m class and to make it happen when it counts is important for me.”

 

I try to learn with my eyes when I go to the bigger shows

 

“Compared to the shows I am used to, it was all different and it was great to experience something I normally follow on livestream,” Dieter tells about the experience in Stockholm. “To see how the riders and the grooms work on a five-star show was impressive: There is no stress, everything is super organized. For me, it was like getting a glimpse of another world. It was a fantastic weekend and it really motivated me to ride better.”

“I also got a chance to ride in Aachen this year, which was a very nice opportunity,” Dieter continues. “I got selected for the Aachen Campus, which was organised for the first time. We were six riders training in Aachen every month and the selectors wanted us to compete at CHIO Aachen in September. Jos Lansink was our coach and I have been really happy with the training; I learned a lot and with some horses it has really helped me.”

All about feeling

Photo © Nanna Nieminen/WoSJ
"Being busy with the horses, the young horses and the foals is what I enjoy the most," Dieter says. Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World Showjumping.

The talented Belgian never really had a trainer, but has been guided by his parents and his own gut feeling. “My father goes with me to the shows, but I never had consistent training by anyone,” he tells. “I try to learn with my eyes when I go to the bigger shows: I watch what the other riders do and what seems to work for them. I do everything based on my feeling. I trust it and so far, it has worked quite well."

 

I do everything based on my feeling

 

"However, I do believe you need support from experienced riders –  and I am not afraid to ask for advice. Usually, most of them are happy to help and explain. From what I have seen, I really like Gregory Wathelet and Jeroen Dubbeldam. The way they ride, they seem to have a lot of feeling and patience. It seems like they can give each horse what is needed, and I really enjoy watching them,” Dieter says. 

Medals are secondary

Photo © Pegasus Photo
Dieter Vermeiren with Etoile van de Neerheide Z, that was sold to Cian O'Connor earlier this year. Photo © Pegasus Photo.

When it comes to achievements, the medals are secondary for Dieter and producing horses to the top level is something he is proud of. Etoile van de Neerheide Z (Emerald van’T Ruytersshof x Quannan R) is one of the horses Dieter has developed and earlier this year the talented 8-year-old stallion was sold to Ireland’s Cian O’Connor.

“I was really happy to see him go to Cian,” Dieter says. “He will get all the chances he deserves there. Cian is a very nice person, and we are still in contact – he has respect for what I have learned about the horse.”

 

Etoile was a special horse for me and will remain as such for the rest of my life

 

“Etoile was a special horse for me and will remain as such for the rest of my life,” Dieter tells – clearly emotional when speaking about the stallion. “I got him when he was only saddle broken. The owner Ludo Tielen asked if I wanted to ride Etoile after seeing me with my uncle’s stallions. I went to try him and even though I believe it takes time to build a connection with a horse, with Etoile something was immediately there.”

“We grew together,” Dieter continues. “When he was four and five, we went slowly with the competitions. I felt he would end up doing the biggest classes; he has the scope, he is careful and quick off the ground. He has great balance and he knows when it counts. I could go in a ring to do a nice training round, but when it really mattered, he would fight with me. That is a special connection you don’t feel with every horse, but we had that.”

Going slow but steady

Photo © Nanna Nieminen/WoSJ
“I think it is important to understand that even though you would want to perform each week, you have to think about the horse first,” Dieter says. Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World Showjumping.

“It is nearly impossible to buy horses that are ready for the biggest classes, so we try to aquire younger ones,” Dieter continues to tell about the family business. “We produce the young horses slowly – both our own and those who belong to different owners. I have great owners: They are always supportive, and we trust each other."

"Right now, I have a nice 8-year-old mare and I know that in the world we are in, everyone is looking for a good horse," Dieter continues. "Once you start an 8-year-old in an international 1.45m class, people get interested. For me as a young rider, it is a hard situation, but I am very lucky with my owners, who also want to keep some of the good horses for me to ride because they believe in me. This is something I really appreciate.”

 

You have to know where you are with each horse and not push too much, too soon

 

“I think it is important to understand that even though you would want to perform each week, you have to think about the horse first,” Dieter tells about his approach to competing. “As a competitor, you want to show and win weekly, but you have to make sure the horses are ready. However, I do believe that in order to stay motivated, it is important to show and to challenge you and your horse as a combination – but you have to know where you are with each horse and not push too much, too soon. It is necessary to be hard on yourself: To see what you can improve and work on that.”

When searching for a horse, Dieter focuses on the attitude. “It is a feeling you get when sitting on a horse, and it is hard to describe,” he explains. “You don’t have to jump big to get a good understanding of them – it is how they co-operate with you and I think that is important. It is not only about the body or the type; I believe the mental instinct and the willingness to do a good job is more important than the looks.”

 

No reproduction without written permission, copyright © World of Showjumping.com

 



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