By Body Bosgra / KFPS
It is sometimes said that the ‘Breeder of the Year’ title is mainly for old men, but Age and Marieke Okkema (39 and 42 years of age respectively) of De Merksen Stables prove that things can be different. Their ages are not the only thing that makes them unique as KFPS Breeders of the Year 2022.
Never before has this honorary title been awarded to the same family for the second time, and to a stallion owner who appears to understand the unique art of breeding himself.
The day Age and Marieke Okkema heard that they had become Breeders of the Year 2022 was an emotional rollercoaster for them. Especially for Age. It was the Saturday, the highlight of the Stallion Show 2023 with a packed WTC, where cameras seemed to record everything. Age had fervently hoped his stallion Jehannes 484 (Tsjalle 454) would become Horse of the Year 2022, but the title went to another stallion. “I can honestly say that I had expected him to win. He promoted the harness sport last year in the middle of the breeding season. And Jehannes is pioneering with his own performance and that of his offspring at the Central Inspection.”
Age was unable to hide his disappointment from the all-seeing eyes of the camera lenses, typifying the man who cares so much for the Friesian horse and calls himself an ‘emotional’ person. So it was quite a switch for him when he heard not much later that he and Marieke had become Breeders of the Year 2022. “When I heard it, I had to switch gears. We had sort of expected it. I once listed on a piece of paper what the horses we bred had achieved in 2022 and then you know you have a serious chance. When it works out then, pride takes over.” Marieke: “When my in-laws became Breeders of the Year, I said to Age that if we ever got that title, I would love it, but that we would probably be old and grey by then. That we have already won this beautiful title is the crowning glory.”
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Age and Marieke Okkema grew up with Friesian horses from a young age. It shaped their vision of breeding and determined their choices. Only 12 years old, Age and his older brother Anne were already saddling horses and were allowed to train them for carriages. He gained that trust from his parents Pieter and Tiety Okkema, who were Breeders of the Year in 2016. They are the owners of training and trading stable De Noeste Hoeve in Witmarsum, the place where Age grew up... To read the complete article you need to be a subscriber
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