Chris left home at age 14 to work with horses. His first job was with Will Hendrix, who had represented the Dutch team at two Olympic Games. When Chris was 17 he did his instructors qualifications in the Netherlands. At 20 he moved to his next big step and went to work at Heihof in Landgraaf, Netherlands it was a stable of 120 horses, 95 livery and 25 school horses. While working at Heihof, Chris furthered his equestrian training with a 3 year course in Warendorf, Germany.
Not only was he teaching but was also a competitive rider himself competing in dressage, show jumping as well as eventing! He eventually bought Heihof for himself and ran a very successful business with his wife, Jeannette. After 30 years at Heihof and with Jeannette starting to compete at world level they decided to move to Belgium in order to not only focus on Jeannette’s riding but after 25 years of marriage and having never been able to have a holiday it was time for a break!
When I asked Chris to sum up what a trainer is, this is what he said:
A good trainer is a trained professional that has 100% focus on you. They are never concerned with their own problems whilst training you. They are always positive and always try to extract at positive attitude from their rider’s as well as trying to boost their self-confidence. When a rider is lacking in motivation the trainer tries to awaken the motivation.
There has to be mutual respect and although the trainer instills trust they also have to maitain their authority, which are two diametrically opposite things. A top trainer finds his way around these obsticles by using their leadership skills as well as their experience.
The best trainer’s are always busy with their own development, challenges, self-motivation, relationships, lose and the ability to let go and then sharing this knowledge with their rider’s. They will give knowledge to their rider’s that will work for that rider and if a problem arises the trainer will find a solution that is both realistic and achievable for the rider.
Negativity and judgement has no place in teaching. Training is a calling and a passion.
I met Chris my first year in Belgium 2003 and watched many of his lessons. I loved the way he trained, there was never any force just logic and great horsemanship. I started training with him in 2004 and haven’t looked back. In 2009 I moved my horses to his stable and still everyday I walk away with another bit of knowledge whether it is to do with training a horse, stable management or managing people!!
Debriefing on my ride on the way back to the stables in Doha, Qatar 2019