Christophe Vanderhasselt: focus on the high level!
A few weeks ago, we published an article about Yves Vanderhasselt, but 2018 was also the year that another Vanderhasselt was at the highest level, his older brother Christophe. The latter experienced a more linear rise. A professional rider, he reached the top level for the first time thanks to Ultra-Top van't Paradijs; this time he returns with 6-year-old homebred Identity (Vitseroel), who is out of his former Reserve World Champion, Wariska de la Falize, – named in tribute to the family’s star pony, Identity!
Christophe & her star, Identity Vitseroel (Air Jordan & Wariska de la Falize [Darco]).
What was your first encounter with horses?
Christophe Vanderhasselt: "My father used to ride in LRV eventing and we were always at competitions when we were kids, with my mother, and brothers and sisters. And then we grew up and rode ponies in an LRV club too. We were having a great time. We used to attend camps and small competitions, that's how it started."
Did he give you lessons, or did he send you elsewhere?
C.V.: "I think he started giving us lessons first, then someone else taught us in the club lessons, and then we had lessons with Marc Van Dijck for a few years."
How old were you then?
C.V.: "I believe from the age of fifteen, until about twenty."
And did the four of you all do the same thing, or did you go your own way?
C.V.: "No, we all had lessons, but we were in different groups. I believe Yves and I were together, then the other two and then... I think there were three groups or something."
So, ponies became increasingly important, especially since you began competing in championships quite quickly. Were you aiming for the top level or did it just happen?
C.V.: "No, it came little by little. Fun came first. It was a bit of a hobby - we rode in clubs and then we did a lot of LRV competitions and then we did National competitions with ponies, and we had good ponies from the start. With Identity, it was my first European Championship’s. She was my best pony and when the mare I ride now was born (Identity Vitseroel), we named her after the pony. When we bought her, she had a lot of ability but she stopped a bit and jumped too high, but in one season we competed in the European and Belgian Championships - I think I was second or third, I don't remember; I may have won, I don't know but I think so, I was in the top three."
When doors open so young, do you think that it will keep being that easy?
C.V.: "No. Okay, we always had horses with ability, but like Identity, they still had issues. She stopped but she had a lot of ability and yes, we had good horses; that’s how doors opened for us."
On the contrary, when you were done with ponies, young horses and all, you never really bought ready-made horses. Your father always bought young horses for you to train. Was that part of the job, was it the way it had to be?
C.V.: "You know, it was always like that. Horses are very expensive. We haven't always been able to buy ready-made horses, that's why we bought young horses to train, then keeping or selling them depended on the horse's ability."
Christophe and Identity Vitseroel's dam, Wariska de la Falize (Darco x Papillon Rouge).
Was the final goal to sell them, even when you were young?
C.V.: "No, that only came afterwards. When we were young, we trained them to compete. Then, when it's your job, you also have to think about the money, we had to sell from time to time."
Then you got your own stables...
C.V.: "Yes, at first we had a few boxes and a small arena with the ponies. Then, my dad saw that I wanted to continue on with horses, so he bought the barn. It was just a barn and then we put an arena next to the barn and gradually we expanded. It wasn't all at once. We started small and then we grew with the sale of horses. We did a little more, then a little more... Now, we’re very happy, it’s a good stable. But we started small, yes."