By: Pamela Young
Hans Peter Minderhoud has his sights set on the podium.
Hans Peter Minderhoud, 45, is a team player. His current ambition is to help lift his beloved compatriots back to the center step of the podium, back to the era when the Dutch reigned supreme among the dressage world’s glitterati.
He may just have the horse to do it in GLOCK’s Dream Boy N.O.P. The 11-year-old licensed stallion will undoubtedly carry Hans Peter in his attempt to recapture the World Cup title this April in Gothenburg, but more importantly, Dream Boy is designated a Netherlands Olympiade Paard. This status, sparingly bestowed upon horses with medal-winning potential across the Olympic disciplines, secures him for the Dutch dressage team up to and including the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Dream Boy is just one of dozens of horses to come Hans Peter’s way, thanks to the cooperation with gun maker GLOCK. The collaboration with Hans Peter, his partner Edward Gal and their trainer Nicole Werner, which began in 2012, has reaped multiple rewards for the Dutchmen, including a treasure trove of horsepower and the facilities in which to house them in splendour.
What’s a typical work day like for you?
In a week without competition I start riding at seven-thirty and will ride seven or eight horses until three o’clock. Then I may give some lessons or work with our stable rider, Riccardo Sanavio, on the young horses. I usually quit about six o’clock after finishing off any stable work. Since we live on the property, it doesn’t take long to get home! After dinner I’ll often go back to the stable and see what’s going on or help with the feeding. From our back door to the first horse in the barn is only 20 yards.
How long have you been in residence at GLOCK Horse Performance Center?
Three and a half years, since it was built. It’s beautiful to see, but also super-nice for the horses. We have a 20×60 indoor and a big outdoor arena, fields, sand and grass paddocks for grazing and rolling and also a forest to ride in.
How did you become involved with horses?
I don’t come from a family of horse people. I lived in a very small village where every summer they would hold this traditional competition called ‘ringsteken’ (a mounted game involving a ring and a pole). When I was six, the riders would let me hold their horses in between rounds. I always looked forward to it.
Once a week I would have a riding lesson. Once I was 12, I started riding other people’s horses when they were too busy working or studying. When I was 14 or 15, I wrote a letter to Anky van Grunsven asking her if I could come work for her during the summer holidays and she said yes! I did this for two or three summers until I left school and began working for her full-time. I was her groom for the shows and I was also able to ride a lot of horses. I stayed with her until I was 21 and then I started working for Leida Strijk’s Bollvorm stable where I was able to compete the young horses. I was there four years and then moved on and spent three years at another place where I got the ride on a young grey stallion called Rubels. Together we won the World Championship for five-year-olds in 2001, and the following year, the six-year-old championship. This created a lot of interest in me as a rider, particularly from stallion owners. It was at this time that I thought I would have my own stable; in Holland there is a lot going on for young stallions all year round.
So was this a turning point in your career?
At Bollvorm’s I had a nice apartment and a nice salary and I could ride at shows every weekend. I knew I could make a living out of riding. Starting out on my own, I was alone and I had to do everything myself. I wasn’t afraid that I wouldn’t be able to fill or manage a stable, but I didn’t want to do it and not have a normal life and a nice lifestyle. I saw a lot of people struggling, so I waited quite a long time before I went out on my own.
Did it work out for you right away?
I rented 15 stalls and they were full in one week’s time and I had students. From there it really went well. I got a new sponsor, Anthony Kies, who bought older horses for me – like Escapado [from Carl Hester]. He was my first grand prix horse. Anthony asked me, ‘What are your goals and dreams?’ I said to be a top grand prix rider and he said ‘let’s go look for horses.’ We had a lot of bad luck injury-wise with Escapado, but then we found Nadine when she was nine years old. She was quite quickly my number one. (Ed. She retired in 2011 at the age of 16 and is still with Hans Peter, happily living out her years at pasture with her pony sidekick, alongside Edward’s GLOCK’s Undercover.)
When did you and Edward get together?
Soon after the Athens Olympics in 2004. We lived together but had separate stables in the beginning. Then I moved my horses to his stables, but we still ran separate businesses. Since the GLOCK involvement we have worked together.
Any sacrifices along the way?
It never felt that way, because it was always horses, horses, horses and that’s what I wanted. I remember my mom complaining that I was always missing birthdays and family holidays and she didn’t see me enough – and she was right. I know it may sound a bit awkward, but for me, horses were more important than family back then. Now I see it more in perspective, but at that time I was completely into the horses and nothing else.
What would surprise people about you?
I am quite a good cook. I really enjoy cooking when I have the time. I must admit, though, we go out a lot to dinner because we live in a nice village with a lot of nice, small restaurants which you can go to in your riding pants!
If you could relive a time in your life, when would it be?
In 2015 and 2016 when I had GLOCK’s Flirt and GLOCK’s Johnson TN both in really great shape. Johnson won the team gold and the individual bronze at the European Championships in Aachen [also individual 9th at the Rio Olympics] and then GLOCK’s Flirt won the World Cup final. That was a really, really good period in my career.
What’s the secret of your success?
Still having the feeling of excitement when I look at a young horse. I already have goals for them and I look forward to riding and training them for the big sport. It’s still a thrill. The fact that I am older and have done a lot doesn’t make it any less exciting. I’m still very actively searching for young horses and especially now, with GLOCK supporting us, we can really focus on that.
Where’s your favourite place?
To be honest, I really like to be at home. Having said that, I do like a nice temperature, sun, beach, good food and nice wine. After a busy period I really enjoy going on holiday, but we only go for four or five days, because we are always anxious to get home again.
When and where did you last go on holiday?
Ibiza, straight after the Dutch championships.
Where haven’t you been that you would most like to go?
South Africa. Our profession has taken us to a lot of places, but never there.
Do you have a fitness regimen?
I always have very good intentions, but I hate going to the gym. People say if you keep at it, you will begin to like it. I am still trying…
If a genie were to grant you three wishes, what would you wish for?
A happy and healthy family; happy and healthy horses, and …. I also hope to find, or maybe I have him already, a really top, top, top horse, good enough to be in the individual medals and to lift the Dutch team back up to the podium.
If you could invite anyone to dinner, who would you invite and why?
Wim Ernes was our coach and he passed away in 2016. We all still miss him. It was a hard time for us and we still think a lot about him. I would like to spend some time with him again. I would also like to have our queen, Máxima. I’ve met her a few times at championships and at the Olympics where the royal family was there to support us. She’s really lovely and funny and I think I would really have a nice evening with her.
Money or medals?
That’s a tricky question. It’s not like I want to be rich, but you need money to do everything you want to do, and you need it to get medals, because this is an expensive sport.
Do you have a burning ambition?
I have won World and European team golds and an Olympic silver, but my ambition would be to have an Olympic team gold medal. And when I stop riding I would aspire to be the national coach so I could continue to be a part of the team.