Pieter Clemens: riding is in his genes!
Last part of our series with Pieter Clemens!
In your career, you’ve already had the opportunity to ride some very good horses, even if some of them haven’t always competed up to the highest level with you. Do you enjoy seeing these horses with others afterwards?
"I always think that in the end, a team has to make money and is therefore forced to sell. If there’s no income, it’s impossible to continue. Of course, we always want to keep horses for competition, I’m really motivated to do that, but I know that we must also sell horses. It’s always a pleasure to see a good horse that I’ve ridden before out competing, whether as a young horse or a little higher up. It’s always a pleasure to see them again afterwards with a good rider... even though I would have of course liked to ride the good horses myself."
You got Horizon de Regor from Jos Lansink while he was recovering, while Icarus broke through to the top with you. Does that change anything?
"I think that a horse that you have gotten to the top level yourself gives you extra satisfaction. I rode Horizon for quite a long time, and I knew him well, but Jos did all the work when he was young. It’s obviously fantastic to be able to ride a horse that he’d developed... but I must say that it’s still a little bit like that today, because he always rides our good horses at home, whether they are mine or Frank Schuttert's. It also allows us to always be able to discuss how we feel. It's really one of the things I appreciate most, because he's always there and always able help. I haven't trained Icarus alone, it's really a team effort. It's the grooms, the stable riders, Jos and I. I like the idea of teamwork."
It's nice to have someone who tracks you on a daily basis, but don’t you want to be able to do it your own way sometimes?
"Yes... but Jos lets us do it our way. He really leaves us to make our own decisions. We talk a lot and about everything, but he never tells us 'you have to do it like this and that's that'! He lets you do it in the most comfortable way for you, while trying to give you the best advice to help you progress. It's very simple, just look at the people who have trained with him, all have achieved something. It's great. He doesn’t change you completely but offers you a system. Even choosing a competition, we'll discuss the program and see if it's better to run in a two-star or a National course before going there... I really like those moments. The discussion is really easy."
Do you still ride a lot of young horses?
"When I started here, I certainly rode a lot more young horses. And I still ride young horses in addition to my competition horses. What I really like is going to Opglabbeek with a full truck to go and jump all the young ones, and the horses that need some experience. Going to a training session, a training competition or a National is what I really like. I think it's really important not to put pressure on the horses too soon. However, I find it very important to always keep the work of your 6-, 7- and 8-year-old horses in mind, otherwise when your top horses are sold, you have nothing left. I think it's really very important to be able to take over competing them. Besides, I like it. The idea of having a 6- or 7-year-old horse and then some time later jumping a four- or five-star with them gives you great satisfaction. At Ludo's, the system for young horses was very similar to Jos' system. There too, we did a lot of training competitions and only a few official competitions or LRVs with beautiful grassy tracks like in Heusden. I’ve ridden a lot of young horses for Léon Spronken who unfortunately passed away, and who loved to participate in the Belgian Championships in Gesves."
At family reunions, are you able to talk about anything other than horses?
P.C.: "It's difficult! (laughs). Our discussions quickly turn back to the horses. And by going five-star, it also allows me to catch up with my cousins at competitions and that’s really nice. When I rode at their stables, I had the opportunity to ride Quenzo de la Roque with whom I won a two-star Grand Prix in Rosendaal, and when Olivier went to the USA, I had the chance to ride Cabrio vd Heffinck for a few weeks at home. In youth competitions, we were together a lot, but today that is less often the case. Catching up again is really funny. I’m glad I get to compete in these types of competitions too."
Among the horses you’ve ridden, which ones have impressed you the most?
"Obviously Horizon! He's the horse that started it all. I won my first medal with him at the Belgian Championships with second place. It's a shame I wasn't a little faster on the first day, because after that, the following days all had clean rounds. It gave me an incredible boost. He’s really the most special horse to me, with whom everything started as a Senior. Now there are horses like Icarus, of course, and those that I have at the moment, but Horizon really is a special one."
What can we wish you for the future?
"I’m a calm person. I want to continue as I am now. Of course, like everyone else, I dream of riding at the Olympic Games and in this kind of event, but above all, you must be realistic. Tomorrow I might have three buyers for my good horses, and I'll have to start over again lower. I’m happy for the moment and I really hope that it will continue... We’ll see."
Copyright : Julien Counet