The young Dutchman Maikel van der Vleuten took the grand prix title at the Longines Global Champions Tour of Madrid earlier this month with VDL Groep Verdi. Here’s what you need to know about the showjumper…
1. The 26-year-old Dutchman is the son of the great Eric van der Vleuten, 1982 European champion, and competed on Nations Cup teams alongside his father. “I can’t say I have exactly the same style as my father, but fathers and sons often ride with similar styles,” said Maikel. “Because I grew up in the same stable and we ride every day together, it is normal I pick up things from him. I don’t try to ride like my father, I want to try to get my own system. But I guess it’s inevitable!”
2. Maikel landed GCT podium places in 2011 and 2013 but this was his 1st victory.
3. He produces all his top horses himself. “When you start with young horses, you know them best. That makes it easier at the end when you are at the highest level.”
4. He won Olympic team silver when representing the Netherlands in London 2012.
5. He began riding at the age of 6 and has ridden in eight European Championships — 2 at junior, 4 at young rider and in 2011 and 2013 for the senior Dutch team.
6. He is in flying form having been crowned the new Dutch national champion the week before with VDL Groep Eureka and finishing 6th in the FEI World Cup final with Verdi in Lyon 2 weeks ago.
7. He won the Dutch young rider championship 3 times.
8. His favourite food is Italian.
9. He has a great relationship with Verdi, who loves to throw in a buck or 2. “Verdi always wants to do good in the ring, he has a good mentality. It doesn’t matter what kind of arena — small, big, indoor or outdoor — he always gives his best. It is quite easy for him, he has a lot of scope, so it is easy for me.”
Read the full report from the Longines Global Champions Tour of Madrid in the 8 May issue of Horse & Hound magazine