BELGIUM (by Christopher Hector) It is really nice when a breed society welcomes you with open arms – and that is exactly what happened with the Belgian studbook, sBs. Their media attaché, Catherine Aerts set the process in train, arranging our visit to the capital of French speaking Belgium, Namur, which is also home to the sBs – where we were their guests at the Chateau de Namur, a very pleasant hotel just outside the main town.
Subsequently, the studbook’s administrative expert, Michèle Delaurier took over care of the visiting Aussies, and it was sBs general secretary, Marc Pierson, who welcomed us with a wonderful bistro meal that might well have been in the centre of Paris.
Pierson is a medical doctor, a general practitioner who retired last year, and his interest in riding brought him to the studbook: “I was just a rider at a small level and a friend of mine, an old man, told me there was a place for me in the administration of the studbook, ‘it is a little job, they have a meeting every month and it is not a big task for you...’ That was the beginning in 1991, twenty five years ago.”
Even now he is General Secretary, the sBs involvement is not full-time: “It is a job that takes a lot of the day, but it is not my main job. My grandfather worked with heavy horses, and my father loved horses also. It was quite easy for me to ask when I was nine years old to receive a pony – two ponies in fact. When you begin with ponies you go on to horses.... I was an amateur rider, no more.”
For such a small country, Belgium is wildly complex, it took 589 days to even form a government, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that it is home to three different studbooks: BWP, in the north, sBs in the south, and Zangersheide which has its home at Lanaken in the east. According to Pierson, “In Belgium we have a specific political, economic, sociological situation. In the beginning in Flanders, they had heavy horses and they decided to produce a sport horse by crossing with the Thoroughbred and Anglo Arabs, and some Selle Français. The people in Flanders then went to The Netherlands and to Germany...