Pieter Clemens: riding is in his genes!
Part of the growing Philippaerts tribe, Pieter Clemens is Ludo Philippaerts nephew, and cousin to Olivier, Nicola, Thibault and Anthony. His road was a little more winding, the climb a little less steep, but he’s only 25 years old and he’s knocking at the door of the World's best. A member of Jos Lansink's stables, he has earned his stripes, and is now incubating under the wings of the Master.
Pieter Clemens with one of his greatest hopes, Agadance van't Gelutt (Aganix du Seigneur x Cadence van't Gelutt)
What was your first encounter with horses?
Pieter Clemens: "I rode very early on... because of my family, of course. I started riding a pony when I was about 6 years old. My grandfather and my mother helped me a lot. I was riding in the LRV (Dutch pony club). When I grew up a little, I started going up to Ludo's and that's when I really started riding. I participated in two European Pony Championships, one Junior and two Young Riders."
Being Ludo Philippaerts’ nephew, what does he represent to the family?
P.C.: "As a child, you stare up at him with big round eyes. He was one of the best riders in the world. When he tells you something, it’s rammed into you. I was hanging onto every bit of his advice; I learned a lot from him and he gave me an incredible opportunity. He and Johan cared for me a lot, they trained me and taught me so much. That's a huge asset for a young rider like me."
Was it mostly Johan who took care of you when you were younger?
P.C.: "Yes, Johan followed us everywhere and he essentially trained us. My mother always followed and helped me out a lot as well. She has always accompanied me on ponies and Juniors, she’s helped a lot. After that, you get older and you start working and now I’m able to afford a competition groom to help me. You know how it goes. My mother also rode, mainly young horses, but not in a professionally as she’s a teacher. My father never rode and didn't know much about it; he knows a little more now. He knows how to put a halter on and that kind of thing... but that's it. However, even though he stays home a little more these days, as does my mother, they both follow me every weekend. They watch the live shows online and are really behind me. Even during the night when I was in New York, they waited to see me ride. That’s obviously very gratifying."
When you started riding, did you immediately think about going on to have the same career as your Uncles?
P.C.: "No, when you start riding ponies, it's just for fun. It was only at 13 or 14 that I started riding for Ludo after school... that's when I really decided to make it my profession. At first, my ponies were in Genk at my grandparents' house, in Ludo's old stables... where it all started with Darco. There were 25 boxes, I had a few ponies and it was 2 minutes away from my parents' house. Until I went to Ludo's, my mother was the one who taught me. I just went there to jump a course or something from time to time. However, I was lucky that I was only a year younger than Olivier and Nicola, so even though I often rode a level below them, there was always someone accompanying them that could also help me."
Pieter Clemens represented Belgium at the Pony European Championships in Moorsele
So, how is your relationship with your cousins?
P.C.: "On the track, we’re always competing... as everyone else is! We’ve done a lot of competitions together: Juniors, Young Riders... then after that, they went straight to the highest level while I stayed at the lower levels. I worked at Ludo’s for a year with them, then went to Ashford Farm. I rode two- and sometimes three-star level there, but I haven’t done things like my cousins at all. I've done things a lot more quietly."
Was it a little difficult for you to see both of your cousins excel like that? Did you ever wonder if you would have that chance too?
P.C.: "Difficult is not really the term but yes, I think because we wanted the same thing, but I knew I couldn't do it. You can't keep every horse either. I think that was one of the reasons I left Ludo's stables. He has four children and there was really no room for me as well. I was able ride the young horses and a few old ones but not the top sport ones. That’s normal, especially as Ludo was still riding at the time. So I decided to try something else. It was a big decision, because it was deciding to leave my family. At Ashford Farm, even though I knew Marlon Zanotelli, who’d also trained at Ludo's, I found myself alone. You have to learn to survive. It was a really difficult decision because I didn't really know where I was going... but I knew I was leaving home. I went to Enda Caroll for a year and a half and then when I decided to leave, I received an offer from Jos Lansink and from there, everything was much easier. I’m back in my home region, 15 minutes from my parents' house and 10 minutes from Ludo's."