By Adriana van Tilburg
Photography: Peter Llewellyn
One of the greatest riders of the last 40 years is without doubt Franke Sloothaak (63). He rode his last competition in 2017, and should not be considered the best because of his medals tally, but also because of his impeccable style of riding and the ability to ride many different kinds of horses.
Franke Sloothaak was born in Heerenveen in the Netherlands. He started to pick up riding when he was 11, and was already a natural talent by the time he was 15. At that same age be became national champion at 1m30. He had the ‘ideal mentality to be a jumper rider. He is very calm and has an outstanding competition mentality,’ according to his first riding instructor Lammert Brouwer. Sloothaak moved to Germany at the age of 18, and has lived there ever since.
The young teenager that had a dream, certainly made it come true when, in 1984, Franke Sloothaak was a member of the bronze medal-winning team at the Los Angeles Olympic Games riding Farmer. Four years later, in Seoul 1988, he won team gold riding the great Walzerkönig (Watzmann - Ahnenkrone x Absatz, bred by Wilhelm Dammeier). Later, he became individual and team champion at the 1994 World Equestrian Games in The Hague riding the remarkable blue-eyed mare, Weihaiwej (Westminster - Andachtige x Grannus). In 1996 he was again a member of the golden Olympic team in Atlanta riding Joli Coeur/aka San Patrignano Joly Coeur (Major de la Cour - Beauty x Un Bonheur), the same horse he partnered two years later at the World Equestrian Games in Rome to win another team gold, as well as an individual bronze medal.
Franke Sloothaak currently lives in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia, training a few top riders from the younger generation, including Daniel Deusser and Laura Klaphake. In the more than 50 years that he has been riding he has seen the development and evolution in sport horse breeding, so what are his thoughts about the current state of breeding and the history of the last 45 years?
Q Are you a breeder yourself?
I used to breed a bit, but no more. I still have a seven-year-old mare, Colline 8, who she is currently in Moscow, by Cap Chap, by Colbert GTI (Balou du Rouet). The mother is by Chambertin x Quito de Baussy. Colline 8 is very nice to ride, very easy and careful, and is being ridden by a friend of mine who is a very good rider. I also have a four-year-old, also out of the Chambertin mare. Together with my wife I have a Belissimo M x First Gotthard x Kolibri. I used to ride her mother in sport, then I sold her to Greece, but she came back to us through a few detours, and has stayed. My wife wanted to breed a horse for herself,and so far it looks good. I am so much on the road that I don’t have the time to do everything properly when I breed a foal.
Q How much do you look at pedigree info and bloodlines, and how much in breeding is completely subjective?
Horses need to have at first a certain expression. You can tell already a lot by their expression. Sometimes we say they can look a bit more intelligent, some look like they are very awake or just very calm. If you look at the horse you are already being given a lot of information.
Horses nowadays are bred for several generations with a specific purpose in mind, so you can already get information from the bloodlines when you look at a horse’s papers. In the past you had, for example, Gotthard, they all had a bit of a problem with the water. The offspring of Paradox I became spookier the older they got. The offspring of Pilot had potential but were difficult, so it was not easy to tap their potential. You also know now that with Baloubet du Rouet there are sometimes problems in their body. Balou du Rouet’s damline has blood that tends to be spooky and passes that on. These are only outtakes from a few stallions but from every sire you need to be aware what they bring to the table. From Ramiro you preferred to have the mares and from Almé you preferred to have the stallions... To read the complete article you need to be a subscriber
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