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Pieter Clemens: riding is in his genes!

20 June 2019Author : Julien Counet

Third and penultimate part of our interview.

In the different teams you’ve worked with since then, were different methods used from those you were taught at the beginning?

"Each stable is different, each one has their own system, but in the end when you ride, what’s most important is to always go back to the basics, and I was very lucky to have been taught good basics very young, thanks to Johan and Ludo. I’ve been able to take this asset with me everywhere. Enda and Marlon also taught me a lot."

What more did Enda and Marlon teach you?

"That's a really difficult question. At first, when I went to Enda’s, I had to adapt because I always had new horses, the horses were leaving very quickly. At Ludo's, I was busy riding. I didn't look after the customers, I concentrated on riding, riding and riding some more. At Ashford Farm, I started to pay more attention to customers. I was starting to think a little more about business and honestly, I liked it. Of course, you also like to have horses to compete, but I saw things from a different angle and I liked it. I like it when people come and try the horses you ride. It's always interesting to watch, especially when a good rider comes to try your horse. You look and think about where you could improve and what you're not doing well, etc. I really like that."

When you arrived at Jos Lansink’s, the relationship was different from that which you had with Ludo. You arrived at a legend’s place who was World Champion, who had won medals... but who, above all, is not part of your family, what did that change?

"Jos Lansink remains an icon, a role model. He was World Champion, and he doesn't have just one medal... he has lots of them! He knows what he has to do. What is incredible about him is his ability to wait for a horse. With a slightly more difficult horse, he’ll always find other ways of doing things, other solutions. He really has the ability to wait for the right time to go a little further with the horse. He can stay at a low level for a long time and it’s only when he feels that the horse is ready, that he’ll then start to increase the difficulty. But things can happen very quickly too. For me, it was one of the most difficult things to learn, and it's really something I learned here because when you're young, you tend to always want to jump higher. You have to be able to stay calm and wait for the right time to get there. It’s also important to respect a certain progression. I think you have to be performing well at two-star level first before you move on to three-star level. Moving from two-star to five-star is not a good option. I think Jos did that well with me too. I was lucky enough to be able to ride Horizon in the Belgian Championships, finishing in second place, and then it all started. However, once it starts, things flow on from each other. The following year, I was able to ride two Nations Cups in St. Gallen and Rotterdam... then some horses were sold and I went back to lower level. At that moment, I thought to myself, "Darn, maybe it's over and I won't be riding in any big competitions again."

Do you still fear that?

"Yes and no. The first time it happens to you, yes. You think about it a lot. You say to yourself that you’re starting again at two-star, three-star... but I think it’s also very important because it allows you to keep your feet on the ground. I worked and worked... other horses came and they also went well and I had some horses to do the big competitions again."

Jos Lansink doesn't seem to be the greatest communicator; how do you learn from him? You observe a lot; do you talk a lot?

"He’s in the stables every day, from morning til evening. As soon as we jump, he’s by our side, but he also helps us to just ride. In fact, he's always there. I think it's important to always have someone to help... but when it's someone like Jos, it's wonderful. There aren’t many people who can help as much as he can. Besides, he really gives you a lot of confidence and he really knows what he's doing with a horse. It's the same when he's at competitions with us, he always knows how to give you a little something that you need to do. It's really valuable."

At some point, wouldn’t you like to take flight on your own?

"It's a question that comes up a lot (laughs). Honestly, for the moment, I'm so happy that I'm not thinking about changing anything at all. I started here 4 years ago, and I was so happy to be able come here, and when you see the progress made, it's wonderful. I don't think there are many other stables where you can do that. I really don't need to change anything!"

How did it feel when you rode Icarus for the first time?

"He was a horse that was always very respectful and had a lot of ability, but he had never jumped big events before so you can’t ever really say! Then, you never know where a very respectful horse will  take you. I rode him for six months and one day we won the Opglabbeek two-star Grand Prix. After that, everything happened very quickly. It was quite surprising because that victory was a real springboard; everything clicked because after that, all the events that I rode in October and November, counted toward the ranking, and were clear rounds with him. Then, there was the Maastricht Grand Prix where we also had clear rounds, and I knew we could still improve from there, as he felt so good in the event. I also find that when you have a horse like this, progressing in this way, you also become more confident with the other horses."

Copyright : Julien Counet

AuthorJulien Counet