Yves Vanderhasselt : the amateur’s dream

25 April 2019Author : Julien Counet

Third and penultimate part!

Because everyone knows you're looking for this kind of horse, does that mean you try a lot of them?

Y. V.: "No, no, I've never tried many. If I had more time, I would try more horses, but it’s okay, I don't want too many horses at home, so I have what I need."

Of all the horses you have trained, have you often done the young horse circuit? And do you always go in looking for good results? Is this a good system for you?

Y. V.: "Jeunesse did the five- and six-year-old young horse circuit, but not the seven-year-old. It’s okay in general, there are beautiful tracks and beautiful courses. Jeunesse didn’t jump any course outside the circuit either, she did one every two weeks.  She was not forced - at six years, she hadn’t jumped a single international course. She went to Gesves and Lanaken. After Lanaken, she went to the field until the end of November. Before she was seven years old, she hadn’t jumped an indoor course. And each time, she was back in the field. She started jumping a few courses in February, and in March, there are training competitions everywhere. The system yes, it's good. If that's all we do, it's good, they've never done too much. If we start doing international competitions or regional competitions, we do the ninety (centimeters) and if not well, we do the meter and after that we do two more courses and it doesn't stop. If we said: I’ll write the schedule, and we’ll only do the circuit; they do one course every two weeks, eight or nine courses in Gesves and Lanaken and Basta. She didn't do too much when she was young, that's for sure, probably because she was so good, but she was always good at each level... Others may need more competitions - I've always done it this way."


Yves at his desk... even if the horse is never far away since his neighbour is none other than Jurgen Zelderloo, the breeder of El Cassina van Kojakhoeve who competed in CSI for several years under the saddle of the rider, just like his mother Aruba van Essene.

With all the horses, you have...

Y. V.: "Yes, the five-year-olds , they don't need more than that, she didn't do the circuit at seven, she did a few international competitions, I think three or four and that's it."


Then all of a sudden in 2018, the doors open to the Nations Cup, then you’re directly at five star level. Did you think you’d have to get organized here at work first, or let's go for it, right away?

Y. V.: "No, we have good staff. It can be organized quite easily. To prepare for the season, I had gone to Oliva and Lanaken for three weeks, it was good, I was able to go to Linz and then on to Saint Gall for the fifth week, but we ended up with a lame horse... and I joined the team. She again does a double clear round... every time I was given the chance, I was there. Without forcing, without pressure, we quite easily got to Aachen."

One moment you're buying a four-year old and then you find yourself, five years later in Aachen. What is this? Is this a dream?

Y. V.: "Aachen is a mythical place. I think we’ve all been to Aachen or watched on TV. Aachen is like something you dream of, but you never think you'll be able to get there one day. Yes, it's a dream. I'm sure it is, for many people. I think there are many professionals who dream of going to Aachen."

And then you get there, and you get to the Cup, it's a good result?

Y. V.: "Yes! We were pretty focused on what we were doing..."

Did it sink in then? 

Y. V.: "Not really, it was a while after that we realize what we’d done. At that point, we’re pretty focused. And it was the same for the Grand Prix. With Aachen, everyone follows the competition. A lot of people have told me "I've been on holiday, we've stopped at a café, we've watched the Cup or the Grand Prix", and I received many messages and phone calls. It's like everyone's watching. I don't think there's another competition like it."

Michel Vanderhasselt has been relying for several years on his sons, Yves and Philippe, for the development of his transport companies

In contrast, you come home on Monday with an injured horse, is it a huge blow or do you still have fantastic memories of the competition?

Y. V.: "Yes, of course, yes. It happens, she's got a little sprain, nothing serious, fortunately. We did an MRI immediately and we took the opportunity to give her a little vacation and maybe it's better that way, she’s had two months off. Meanwhile, she has started working again, and is working well. She's in great shape, like nothing ever happened."

Is it difficult for you, especially when you have so few horses, to schedule rest periods for her when everything is going so well? Is it hard to say, "we're taking a break now"?

Y. V.: "Ok, then, we were forced a bit to take a break and I took the opportunity to give her some extra rest to make sure the injury was healed. She's done enough this season, she's only nine years old. If we keep going... She would still have needed a break so..."

Is it a dream come true reaching the top level now? In relation to the pony years, do these medals mean "I’ve finally made it"? 

Y. V.: "No, it's a rather logical path; it's because Jeunesse is so good. It's not that we’ve dreamt about it and until then everything she's done, she's done well. She progressed from  five, six, seven, eight years old and at nine years old, we’ve continued, and it seems quite normal."

Does it make you want to keep going, if in a few years you don't have any horses at that level anymore, either because she's sold or because she's retiring, will that bother you?

Y. V.: "I am already very happy to have Jeunesse right now and I probably won't get a horse like her again – it goes like that, I know in advance, I'll probably never have a horse like Jeunesse again. It's not my job, so..."

So, for you, you still are an amateur who has reached that level?

Y. V.: "Oh yes, for sure."


Because at the moment, we still have a Belgian team with riders who are very well ranked, sportingly you are no poor second to them?

Y. V.: "No."

Is that a regret or is there no regret there? Is it a life choice?

Y. V.: "Yes, it is a choice, there is no regret."

Why? Because you're not interested in going to competitions every week? Would you rather  stay at home?

Y. V.: "No, it's not that I'm not interested, but I don't know, I've never had that ambition. I do it now because I have a good horse, but it has never been an ambition of mine."

Are you a victim of your talent?

Y. V.: "No, I’m not a victim, it’s a gift, otherwise I couldn’t do what I do currently. I am very happy with what I‘ve already done and what I can still do in the future, with Jeunesse or with others. Of course, I'll try to stay at or near that level, but it's not easy. It's not easy because to do the right competitions, you have to have a good ranking, and to have a good ranking, you need a lot of horses, you have to go to competitions a lot: it's not my job so it will always be difficult. Today I can do it because I have an exceptional horse."

AuthorJulien Counet