Home Breeder Profile Maja Gerritsen-van Klei: “Success is a joint effort.”

Maja Gerritsen-van Klei: “Success is a joint effort.”

Carl Hester riding Fame during the 2023 European Championships, Riesenbeck

By Gemma Jansen / KWPN
Photography: Jessica Pijlman, Dirk Caremans

For her first horse, Maja Gerritsen-van Klei saved persistently for a few years. However, when she finally had the money, she discovered that she could only afford a one-and-a-half-year-old mare, not a fully grown horse.

Regardless, Fiona came to Leerdam, marking the beginning of a successful breeding journey that produced, among others, the remarkable horse Fame. Dressage enthusiasts had the chance to enjoy Fame during the recent European Championships in Riesenbeck, where he delivered a stellar performance and won team gold ridden by Britain’s Carl Hester.
Horse passion was ingrained in Maja from her childhood: “In one of the photos from my youth, I am three years old, sitting on a horse belonging to my father. He was a true horseman and worked with horses on the family farm until 1962 when tractors took over. I really wanted a pony, but it didn’t happen right away. Instead, my parents and an acquaintance gave me a ten-ride pass for the riding school. During those lessons, I sometimes fell off, but I didn’t cry because I was too afraid that I wouldn’t be allowed back to the stable. Eventually, I got my own pony and later a horse. With the horse, I competed for the Stuwruiters and rode in the M2 dressage class. Nowadays, that might not be exceptional, but in our region, there were only a handful of riders at that level.”
Not a three-year-old

The Gerritsen family with their horses

“I married a farmer’s son from the neighbourhood, Gijs Gerritsen, but continued riding until the birth of our oldest daughter, Marga. Then, riding was temporarily put on hold. After Marga, Leonie, and Rianne were born, and around my thirtieth year, the desire to ride returned, and I really wanted to get back into it. A few years later, our son Jan was born, but after the birth of our three daughters, I set aside money every week for a horse until I thought I had enough for a three-year-old mare. Our business was in the building phase and we were not well-off. Unfortunately, during the period when I wasn’t riding, prices had risen significantly, and with what I’d saved a three-year-old was not reasonable. So, I ended up with a year-and-a-half-old mare, Fiona, who was with Henk de Man at the time.
“I had no knowledge of bloodlines back then and didn’t find her particularly special, but she was affordable. She was a daughter of Aktion and came from the registered mare Urssina, a daughter of Juburg, bred by the well-known breeder Thijs Schaap from Woudrichem. I was able to buy her for 1,800 guilders (just under €1,000), but I had to take the Shetland pony that was in our pasture at the time along with her.”

From her own breeding

At three years old Maja trained Fiona herself: “In practice, this meant that Gijs held her with a halter or bridle, and I would then get on her. When she stayed well-behaved after a few back-and-forth walks, we called her saddle-broken. Actually, it was quite easy because Fiona had a very nice character. There was only one thing she really disliked, and that was going on a trail ride with me. In sports, I could compete with her in the Z class, but then she unexpectedly died from laminitis after a uterine infection. Fortunately, we already had a few offspring from her... To read the complete article you need to be a subscriber