What became evident yesterday was confirmed once again today. The Belgians are in great form at Jumping Mechelen 2023. However, an Austrian managed to steal the victory from them in the CSIW5* KBC en Verzekering. Gerfried Puck left the competition behind on Equitron Melody vd Smidshoeve (Epleaser van T Heike x Thunder v. Zuuthoeve | BWP). Frederic Vernaet (Okina van de Bien | BEL), who held the lead for a long time in the jump-off, was narrowly beaten by him. Jos Verlooy (FTS Killossery Konfusion | BEL), Pieter Devos (Casual DV Z | BEL), and Jessica Burke (Nikey HH | IRL) completed the top 5 with an impressive flawless jump-off.
A fantastic debut for Jules Van Hooydonck
A special mention goes to the 21-year-old Jules Van Hooydonck. In his very first 5-star competition, he even seemed on the way to victory for a moment. The audience did everything they could to cheer him on over the very last obstacle. But the pole fell relentlessly. A pity, but what a remarkable performance. Jules said, “I didn’t expect this. Minte vd Bisschop jumped brilliantly. But there was a small mishap during the landing of the second-to-last jump. I’m hungry for more. Someday, I want to compete in the World Cup here.”
Breeding in Belgium, a sport stable in Austria
Now, let’s turn to the winner, an Austrian who speaks perfect Dutch. Gerfried said, “I lived in the Netherlands for 10 years. My brother still has a trading stable there. Meanwhile, I also work closely with Gert Vermeiren. He is the breeder of most of our horses. Together, we manage quite a large operation. Gert and his family run the breeding program. He rides the horses until they are 6 or 7 years old. After that, I usually take them over for top-level sport. In Austria, me and my family have a stable with about 15 horses that compete internationally. In addition, around 30 horses are with Gert. It’s a big project. But at the moment, it’s actually the only way to get good horses under the saddle. And we are extremely happy with this collaboration.”
Rightly so, as the two have already achieved quite a bit of success together. Gerfried added, “We are fortunate with our horses, and we handle them with great care. We give them a lot of time to grow as young horses. One notable achievement was breeding the champion of the BWP Stallion Inspection. Naxcel V (Balou du Rouet x Landetto) won that title in 2016 and is competing in the FEI Longines World Cup here this week. He also won a medal at the European Championships this year. The Olympics are on the horizon for him. He is a symbol of Belgian breeding.”
Equitron Melody vd Smidshoeve
Gert Vermeiren saw his partner outperform all the Belgians in one of the biggest events at Jumping Mechelen. He said, “I knew, of course, that he could be incredibly fast. But this was still a surprise. We bought Equitron Melody vd Smidshoeve as a young horse from the breeder, Hugo Stevens. She comes from the lineage from which all our good horses originate. We purchased her as a 5-year-old and trained her ourselves. When she was 7, we decided to entrust her to Gerfried. I met him 20 years ago when I worked with his brother. Years later, I ran into him here in Mechelen. I showed him a video of an interesting horse… and that’s how everything began.”