Tales from Somerford: rider sees his parents for first time in two years during his Nationals debut

  • Twenty-four-year-old Belgian rider Gijs Van Vooren was hard pushed to say what was the best part of his day at the Lemieux National Dressage Championships. Not only was he making his debut, but his parents also came to watch – the first time he has seen them in two years.

    Gils rode the Hawtins Stud’s Hawtins Fiorano, known at home as Cola, into 16th in the medium gold with a mark only just shy of 70%.

    “I told my parents they mustn’t come and see me until after I’d finished the test as it would be too emotional,” said Gils. “The trouble was I caught sight on them as I turned down the centre line to start my test – I was so excited to be riding here anyway, but when I saw them I was worried I was going to cry and ruin my test.”

    He need not have worried.

    “That was the best test I have done with Cola,” he said. “He is a big horse who is still quite weak, but his attitude is amazing and I am so glad my parents were here to watch – it’s been a really good day!.”

    Gijs Van Vooren originally evented, but his dream was always to come to the UK.

    “I evented a bit, but I did not really like the showjumping and I wasn’t very brave cross-country so I decided to stay on the ground and do dressage.”

    At 18 he went to the Pincus’ for his gap year, decided university wasn’t for him and after a further year of dressage in Germany with Wieger De Boer answered an advert with Hawtins Stud and has been there ever since.

    “I still train with Serena Pincus and she inspires me to be a better rider,” he added.

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