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The Next Generation: Thibeau Spits

Tuesday, 04 February 2020

Photo © Hippo Foto / Dirk Caremans "I believe that if you are good enough, you will always make it. You just need to keep working,” Thibeau Spits says. Photo © Hippo Foto / Dirk Caremans.


Text © World of Showjumping by Nanna Nieminen



At the end of 2019, Thibeau Spits was awarded as the Belgian Talent of the Year at CSI5*-W Mechelen. At the same event – Thibeau’s second appearance at five-star level – the 18-year-old impressed by placing third in a 1.50m, coming second in the Belgian Indoor Senior Championship and by winning the last 1.45m class of the weekend.

“It was unreal for me,” Thibeau smiles when asked about the weekend in Mechelen. “I have been at this event every year since I was a child. I started with the mini steeplechase, and last year I finally got to do the five-star classes. For Belgians, Mechelen is the show of the year – that is where we want to be at our best.”

Ranked 142nd in the world, 2019 was in general a good year for this young talent. “I think there were a lot of highlights, but the bronze medal at the European Junior Championships and my first three-star win were for sure among the best. And of course, competing for the first time on five-star level – in Waregem and Mechelen, that was special.”

Thibeau lives close to Mechelen, where his family has a big breeding farm. “We do a lot of breeding,” he explains. “We have everything we need to ride at a professional level. I have an older brother and two sisters, and we are all riding. My brother mostly does the young horses while my sisters, who both will be juniors this year, compete at a lower level. At home we have around 200 horses in total, ten of them I ride.”

Riding isn’t Thibeau’s only talent. Before focusing solely on horses, he was doing well on other types of grass rings – in football.  “I was actually quite good,” he tells humbly. “I played for a team called KV Mechelen, in the first division in Belgium. Then I started to win more with the horses and that became more fun, so my focus shifted to riding. I stopped football when I was thirteen. I still play for fun with some other riders from our region. We play almost every Tuesday and sometimes we play against teams of riders from other regions,” he smiles.

Photo © World of Showjumping
"I am very motivated. I want to become a better rider," Thibeau Spits says. Photo © World of Showjumping.

At the moment, Thibeau’s best horse is Bellissimo Z (Bamako de Muze x Chin Chin). “Bellissimo is really special. She is a very good mare, fast and nice to have at shows – even though she is a bit of a character in the warm-up ring,” Thibeau tells. “I have Classic Touch (Casall x Corrado I) too, she is a little inexperienced, but I think she will become an even better horse than Bellissimo is now. Juragold Bormes (Contact van de Heffinck x Landino) is a great horse for 1.45m speed classes and my newest one is Isolde van de Heffinck (Contact van de Heffinck x Orlando). Also, I have some seven and eight-year-olds coming up,” Thibeau tells about his string of horses.

“Right now, there are some owners coming in, but the youngest horses we own ourselves,” Thibeau continues to explain. “We sell a lot of horses for the lower levels, and we sell a lot to China. The really good horses we only sell about one each year. Last year, we sold Jacobien to Jos Verlooy, the year before my championship stallion Jericho Dwerse Hagen to China – the really good ones we don’t sell every week.”

On a day to day basis, Thibeau’s father Patrick – himself a successful rider – keeps an eye on his son’s training. Every two weeks, Thibeau drives to Dirk Demeersman. “I have trained for nearly three years with Dirk. I think he is a really good trainer,” Thibeau tells about the former Belgian Chef d’Equipe and three-time Olympian. “Dirk can explain the feeling he wants you to find, he is really good at that. While he has his way of riding, he does not make his students ride like him but supports their own way. He is a great coach.”

"He is very talented, he has a lot of feeling," Demeersman says about his student. "He is very down to earth, with his feet on the ground. I have seen a change in him; when I first met him, he was just a little boy but after a while I saw a different Thibeau. First he came to train with me with just one horse, then another one... In a matter of months, it was like he turned a switch on, and he became a rider. He really wants to do this, and he knows what this sport is all about. He wants to learn from everyone and is really passionate," Demeersman continues. "You can have as much talent as you want though, but you need the horses – I hope he will find good ones, because my wish is to see him at the highest level. He has all the talent to get there." 

Photo © Hippo Foto / Dirk Caremans Thibeau Spits and Bellisimo Z at the European Championships for juniors in Zuidwolde, where they claimed individual bronze. Photo © Hippo Foto / Dirk Caremans.

Growing up in one of the strongest equestrian nations in the world, with a huge will to learn and surrounded by champions – Thibeau seems to have all the ingredients for success. However, he knows the road will be long. “In Belgium it will be tough to become one of the better riders,” he reflects on his future. “But I believe that if you are good enough, you will always make it. You just need to keep working.”

“This year, I hope to do more five-star shows and to go to the European Championships for Young Riders. It will be my first year as a young rider, but my goal should be possible if I can continue to keep my results as they are now. Long term, I hope to be a good name in Belgian show jumping, to be able to compete at all the biggest shows in the world – and to win a lot. Although I know it will be hard, I am very motivated. I want to become a better rider. I think I have a lot of work to do, but that is why we go to the shows – to become better and to get experience with new horses.”

If there is one person Thibeau looks up to, it’s Steve Guerdat. “He has got something really special. I have been lucky enough to have one week of training with Steve, and that was really nice. What I learned from Steve, is that he always gives his horses a lot of freedom – he rides a lot in the woods and keeps them fresh in their heads. I also think Niels Bruynseels, who lives only ten minutes from us, is a great horseman – I have been lucky enough to train with him as well.”

Improving himself and improving his horses, that is Thibeau’s biggest motivation. “The bond between a horse and rider is something special, I think. To develop a good horse, that is one of the nicest things I know,” he tells.


No reproduction without permission, copyright © World of Showjumping 


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