'Dana Blue is a very special mare'

70 Dana Blue VLEUTEN Maikel van der NL Vd Vleuten 5

Most riders - professionals and amateurs - know one thing for certain: Their horse is the best partner they could possibly imagine. Showjumping rider Maikel van der Vleuten is no different. He has nothing but praise and respect for his partner Dana Blue.

Congratulations are in order for Maikel after his victory at the Longines Global Champions Tour with the mare Dana Blue, the horse he will also be riding in Rotterdam. ''Of course I’m happy with this win, I’m now heading into the European Championships on a positive note. I made a conscious decision to start my horse one last time, for Dana Blue it’s better to stay in the same rhythm of competing. The upcoming week, I’ll only do dressage training with her. I also think this win isn’t only good for my own mood, but is a pick-me-up for te whole team. It gives us confidence at that’ll work in our favor.

‘’It’s not the first time Dana’s in Rotterdam. Two years ago I also brought her along for the lighter tests, so she’s seen the arena before. Back then she was still inexperienced, but I remember it felt right then too. Dana has been with us for a long time, since she was five years old, and when she was seven I started riding her in the young horse competitions.

Dana is a very special mare, you have to get to know her and do everything with ease. If she for instance doesn’t know someone she sees in the stables, that person can’t just go and braid her forelock. She has to trust you. At the beginning, it was for instance difficult to put studs in her shoes, she would completely freak out. For a year now, everything’s been going easier and she trusts my groom completely.’'

How does his current horse Dana Blue compare to his other ace, KWPN stallion Verdi? Maikel sees some differences. ‘’Verdi’s a completely different type of horse. Verdi you have to motivate a little bit more, while with Dana all you have to do is brake and make sure she doesn’t tense up. With Dana you have to keep focusing on relaxation. What they have in common is that they both have a real fighting spirit and really want to work for me.’'

Pancake house

Since he was a young boy, Maikel has visited CHIO Rotterdam, with his father Eric. ‘’I've know the regular competition for a long time and I like coming here, before as a day out and now I like riding here. There are plenty of other beautiful venues, but Rotterdam is special because of the location in the woods, you don’t see that often. I’m also a big fan of the practice arena here, which is also located among the trees. We’re lucky to have a venue like this in The Netherlands.

I don’t come into the city that much. Sometimes we head into the city centre to get something to eat, but that’s it. And besides - and I’m sure more riders’ll tell you this - we also like eating at the pancake house here in the park. It’s one of those traditional places, it’s really nice to have near here.

Share experience

I’m not the oldest team member, but I think I have a part to play in these Championships. I want to share my experience with the rest of the team, it’s always handy and useful to share your point of view. However, we should’t stick our nose in each others’ business too much, everyone knows what works best for their horse and has their own trainer. But it’s always helpful to discuss the lines in the course with each other.

There’s always extra pressure on the team when your competing in your home country, but there’s pressure for every Championship. There’s more people you know watching, but those people support you as well, so you shouldn’t really focus on that too much.''

On paper we aren’t strong enough these European Championships, but I won’t say it’s not in the cards for us. All four of us have proven that we can jump a pretty solid test and even though the results these past nations cups haven’t been in our favour, all four of us have what it takes.’’

Skip rope

Finally, we show Maikel a picture of him at the CHIO, playing a game of skip rope with some of the volunteers. This volunteer team’ll be at this year’s and they are eager to see what he has in store for them these European Championships. (laughing:) ‘’Yes, I remember them. We’ll see, I’m always game for that sort of thing. I’m excited to see the new venue layout, I’ve heard great things already. All in all, I have good expectations. I hope we’ll be able to show everyone here something special.''

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