BELGIUM (by Jo de Roo) Each year between Christmas and New Year, Mechelen’s ‘Nekkerhal’ becomes the capital of the equestrian world as this Flanders event attracts thousands of riders, owners, breeders, sponsors, officials, equestrian journalists and spectators: “A festival for farmer and sir”, former organiser Eric Wauters used to say. This report focuses on the breeding highlights, such as the free jumping competition for two-year- old horses, the stallion showjumping classes and – last but not least – the prestigious Léon Melchior Prize.
The final of a free jumping competition for two-year-old horses has become a tradition in Mechelen, and this year’s jury included top Belgian rider Christophe Vanderhasselt as well as Dutchman Cor Loeffen, president of the KWPN stallion selection committee for showjumping. They evaluated the candidates on scope and technique, and the Belgian Warmblood Association (BWP) had good reason to be happy as BWP-registered horses won the gold, silver and bronze medals.
Orak d’Hamwyck (Tobago Z - Kamira d’Hamwyck x Toulon) became the champion, followed by Ohaj de Regor (Kannan - Centa de Muze x Cento), bred by the Veldeman family, and Olan van de Vrombautshoeve (Horion de Libersart - Fata van de Vrombautshoeve x Nabab de Reve), bred by Lieven Boelens and Lieven de Vos. Coincidence or not, those three youngsters belong to a BWP performance line via their dam lines. Good blood rarely lies! After the prize giving we interviewed Danny Ver- gauwen van Impe, the breeder of the winner, Orak d’Hamwyck.
Danny Vergauwen (58) is a busy person, working the nightshift as a printer but spending all his free time with his horses, with his wife’s help. Extraordinarily, they only breed one foal each year, although 2017 will be the exception as they’re expecting two. I asked Danny about his breeding goals and he explained: “Breeding horses is a hobby. We are happy if our horses are healthy. They don’t need to perform at the highest level but, of course, if they do, we will be very happy. The pleasure of keeping horses is more im- portant than winning prizes. Our young horses get the chance to perform in sport – it exerts us and we invest a lot of time in it. In the past it was left to me to break in the youngsters, but nowadays somebody else is doing it. Afterwards, we give these horses to the rider Marc Bellemans.” All the foals born at the studfarm have the suffix ‘d’Ham- wyck’...