It is always interesting to learn more about the real person behind the “rider”.
Let’s have a talk with Jef…
How old were you when you first started riding? And did you ride your pony every day?
As a child my parents could not keep me away from the animals at home: chickens, sheep, our dog. I was always playing with them. And when I was five years old my first pony arrived on the scene. Naturally enough, my first pony riding was a question of playing rather than serious riding. Racing around the fields or going swimming with the pony were what I enjoyed. It was a wonderful time.
Like most riders in Minderhout, my first instructor was Raf Desmedt.
Why did you choose dressage rather than eventing or show-jumping?
After my training in Bilzen (Belgian Centre for Horse Studies), I went to train with Jan Bemelmans in Germany. There it became very clear that my talent was more for dressage.
What is one of the most important things an instructor taught you?
Always look smart! So no torn jeans or shabby T-shirts! More seriously, respect for horses is an essential in working with them. Without that, no training can succeed.
Up till now, which horse has provided you with the best memories and why?
My time with Titaan was my ultimate dream. I trained him up to Grand Prix level myself, and we achieved some wonderful results.
According to you, what are the cornerstones to becoming a good dressage rider?
You can achieve nothing in life without effort. And certainly not in dressage. A great deal of discipline and perseverance is required. And in addition to that, self-confidence is essential.
What is the strangest thing you ever experienced at a competition?
In France a parachute once landed in the ring next to mine! And even more extraordinary, it was well-aimed and landed exactly on X! Fortunately the rider in that ring had just finished her test, and I could manage to control my horse.
The judging of a dressage test is an adding together of marks for individual exercises (plus, of course, overall marks). Are you always in agreement with the judges?
Sometimes you feel that you have been too highly marked for an exercise and sometimes that you have too low a mark. The total is usually reasonably fair. I say usually. Of course it can happen that I do not agree with the result, but that is inherent in dressage as a sport. You can de disappointed, but put it behind you and look forward to the next competition.
What is your worst character trait? And your best? (And don’t forget your wife is sitting next to you!)
(Jef laughs and turns to Ann)... What is my worst character trait? Ann often says I am too accommodating… and perhaps that is also my best trait.
Which would you prefer: a sandwich with crab salad or a day’s photo shoot? And why?
That’s a difficult choice. I do not like any fish or shellfish. And posing for photographs is not my thing at all. Isn’t there a third option? No?
Then maybe I’d pick the sandwich –it takes up less time!