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Kars Bonhof: A feeling of being at home with Team Nijhof

Kars Bonhof using cavaletti for flatwork at home with Hernandez

By Jenneke Smit / KWPN
Photography: Jessica Pijlman

Kars Bonhof’s star is on the rise. The 26-year-old stable rider of Team Nijhof had a convincing year and was even selected for the European Championships in Milan with the KWPN stallion Hernandez TN N.O.P.

Although they didn’t actually participate, this year he is setting his sights on the Olympic Games in Paris. Thanks to a group of other stallions, the passionate rider is thriving with Team Nijhof.

Not a foregone conclusion...

It was certainly not a foregone conclusion that Kars Bonhof would start working at the prestigious stallion stable in Geesteren some four years ago. “I had nothing to do with breeding, and riding stallions wasn’t my immediate preference. So, without great expectations, I had a conversation with the Nijhof family and I was pleasantly surprised. In terms of ambitions in sports, we turned out to be completely aligned. They are true horse people and they give me all the space to further develop. The decision to work for them has proven to be one that I have not regretted for a single day,” says the rider enthusiastically.

Starting at Junior level

The expression ‘what is good comes quickly’ seems to apply to Kars Bonhof, but his sporting successes are indeed the result of years of preparation, intensive training and, above all, a long-term vision. When all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place, success follows, and when people hear Kars’ last name, many immediately link it to the trainer Wim Bonhof. “That's my father’s cousin, and I’ve trained with him regularly in recent years. He still helps with the dressage work every month. My parents rode as a hobby, and they made sure I could start with ponies.
“My father works as an accountant, my mother works at the Morssinkhof family’s stable. From the moment my ponies were sold, she started working there. By now, they appreciate that I have been able to turn my hobby into my job, but it’s not like they stand by the ring every weekend.”
The transition from pony to horse was not without challenges, but Kars already achieved success at the Junior level. “In the year I turned 18, I started riding at the Juniors. At the beginning of the year, I rode 1m30, and later that same year I was selected for the European Championships in Wiener Neustadt with Tennessee V, whom I rode for his owners.”

Henk Nijhof Jnr and Kars Bonhof alongside KWPN-approved stallion Drummer

That marked the end of Kars’ academic life, because he abandoned HBO Business Administration after one year. “For me, it was already certain that I wanted to continue in equestrian sports. Fortunately, it turned out well. First, I rode with Jurgen Stenfert, and learned a lot from him. Then I started at Wassim Anzarouti’s Sham Stables (in Lochem, the Netherlands). I rode there for four years and achieved several good results.”
In 2016, at the age of 19, Kars won his first big prize at senior level with the Calido I daughter Casina at Jumping De Achterhoek. Two years later, he participated in the European Championships for Young Riders in Fontainebleau with Zentos (Zento). Even then, Kars did not hide his ambitions. Reaching the world’s top is his goal. “At some point my best horses were sold at the Sham Stables, so I had to take a step back in terms of sports. Not long after that I received the offer from the Nijhof family,” Kars reflects... To read the complete article you need to be a subscriber