21-05-2010 Here is an article I wrote for a South African Magazine in April 2010. It gives an ieda of who we are and what the DHH are:
The KWPN Dutch Harness Horse or in Dutch: Het KWPN Tuigpaard About ourself first
We are Robbie and Chantal van Dijk. We are married for 27 years. We live in the province North-Brabant in a little village called Odiliapeel in the Netherlands, Nederland.We live in an area with a lot of woods, so that is the ideal place to train our horses. We can go in the woods right a way if we want.We love the Dutch Harness Horses, but also Hackney's, Frisians and Warmbloods. We are specialised in training and showing of horses on keurings and shows, but also in selling and importing and exporting horses from the Netherlands and to foreign country's. But also for giving clinics and courses. We sell horses all over the world. For example: America, Mexico, Sweden, Spain, Austria, Germany, England, Belgium, Italy etc. etc. We are used to work with the Horse Service in the Netherlands who arrange the flights and transport further to their final destiny.
Robbie was born on 30 November 1965. From a farmer family he is the youngest of 6 children. Only his only brother has the same heart for the horses. Also the father was always a real horse man, that is where they got it from. Robbie used to help his father and brother when he was a little boy to break horses to harness. That where DHH, Gelderlanders and also warmbloods.His father worked in the IIworld-army to work and take care for the horses for the officers of the army. After the wore he continued farming and selling and breaking horses, to work with on the fields. Later on with his sons.Robbie also worked as a 12 years old boy on a big place where children can ride horses under the saddle. He worked there for years as leading person and ride 10 hours a day under the saddle then.
I am born on 10 August 1972. Also from a farmer family, I was the youngest from 3 children. Me and my brother used to ride under the saddle. My brother quit when he got older. I got on my first pony when I could first walk I guess. My father was a real horse man too, he used to teach riding and he always had horses and ponies. I think he knew that I was a real horse girl and my brother not. My brother got the easiest ponies so he would continue riding, but as I said he quit. I always got different and difficult ones, I loved it. I ride them and then my father sold them when they where good enough and bought an other one for me. That brought money I guess.I also did voltige, gymnastics on a horse. I did that from the age of 4 till I was 18. When I was 22 I started again my self and teaches little children that. But we got to busy so I stopped after some years.
Robbie and Chantal:
I met Robbie when I was 16 and still had my pony. At Robbie’s place they already had DHH. I knew DHH, but that was the only thing. I got in love with the DHH and every horse who could trot high! That was in 1989, in that year I bought my first DHH, Gangmaker together with my father. That was the start for me with the DHH.After a year Robbie bought my father out and we owed him together.1989 was also the first year for Robbie and me that we showed DHH for ourselves on shows. Robbie used to go to the DHH shows already with his brother and father to groom and help.So this coming season we show for 21 years DHH (and other razes) on shows and Keurings.After a few years we got also horses from other people in training. I used to work as a cook in a nuns church. I wanted to get “full” in the horses and worked for 4 years at a stallionkeeper where I trained and did artificially etc.. Now I am in the horses full time for myself at home, already for 5 years. Robbie is still brick layer and his own boss, but when it is necessary he stays at home with me to help with the horses. We train, sell and show horses now.Right now we have the opportunity to train +-12 horses at our place.We always have horses from ourselves too. Most of the time we buy them when they are young, but we always try to have the best. Then you have always customers. A good horse you can always sell. And if we don’t sell them (yet), we don’t mind because we can show them and that is the best promoting you have if they do good on the shows.We always buy horses that other people would also want to buy. We owe Frisians, Warmbloods and DHH and hackney’s. We have them in age from foal to older ages. And if clients wants something that I don’t have, I will look for them and get them the horse they want.
In the following I write, I will try to explain the DHH and tell more about them even tell more as how versatile they are. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact me.
History of the Dutch Harness Horse
DHH “Keur-Sport” mare Nancie (v.Wouter) under saddle with Chantal
The KWPN Dutch Harness Horse is one of the three breeding directions of the Royal Dutch Warmblood Studbook (KWPN).
Warmblood breeding in the Netherlands is over a century old, during which period the breeding objective was constantly adapted. Dutch breeders produced as the market demanded. In the old days there was a high demand for agricultural horses, but many farmers wanted to own a 'Sunday' horse as well. A more noble type of horse that would move proudly and impressively in harness, with high carriage in front, which they could show off on their way to the market, the church or on family visits. This competitive inclination was carefully preserved in KWPN harness horse breeding. Although mechanisation made the horse redundant as an agricultural power source, this form of competitive driving continued to be popular. When warmblood breeding in general moved towards the conversion into modern riding-horses, a group of enthusiast breeders wanted to preserve this special type. A breeding programme was developed, selection methods applied on both mares and stallions, and some hackney-blood was added even as Saddle bred-blood to enhance hardiness and nobility. They are cool in there head and willing to work and show! You can also show DHH under the saddle and then they will be showed as in harness or at halter: It's all about their explosive trot and their proud attitude! After years and years of breeding we managed to breed this wonderful breed: the DHH or as we call it “het Tuigpaard”, witch are very loved in many country's now. The DHH can have any kind of colour, bay, black, grey, chestnut, paint and even palomino.
6 year old KWPN “Approved” stallion Waldemar (v.Patijn). Winner of the KNHS/KWPN Stallion Competition 2009 and Champion of Holland of the Approved stallions 2009 in hands of Robbie
KWPN breeders of the Dutch harness horse can chose from a select group of about 35 stallions, which annually serve about 1.500 mares. Dutch harness horse stallions must pass the internationally famous KWPN Stallion Selection as well as the stiff performance test. Selection criteria are not only pedigree and conformation, but particularly their show performance. KWPN harness horse stallions must meet the highest standards of temperament, sperm quality and health. The KWPN is the only studbook organisation in the world that is not ashamed of publishing the X-ray results of its stallions. In this way only the best stallions enter KWPN breeding. After all, KWPN breeders are famous for their aim of constant improvement. After their first approval for KWPN breeding, the stallions have to regularly pass further selection moments, on the basis of the performance of their offspring. The products have to prove that their sires are an asset to KWPN breeding. The KWPN is unique in demanding of its harness horse sires that they start in the KNHS/KWPN National Stallion Competition, which offer KWPN breeders the opportunity to get good insight into the sires' potential. Sires which have clearly caused improvement in KWPN breeding over several years qualify for the 'keur' predicate. The highest qualification is 'preferent', an honour that has been bestowed on famous progenitors.
“Keur” mare Bo (v.Uromast) at halter on the Central Mare Keuring with Robbie
Dutch harness horse competitions have very strict rules. The horses can enter various categories on the basis of their age and/or winnings. Such categories include single horse, pairs, tandem, randem (three horse harnessed in front of each other), quadrem (four horses harnessed in front of each other), four-in-hand (2 x 2) or 'three-leaf clover' (two behind, one in front) classes. There are also special harness show-classes that are non-competitive. Another appealing feature on the show programme are the ladies' classes, in which a ladies' carriage is driven and the drivers wear traditional dress. Major Dutch harness horse competitions are the National Harness Horse Day in August and Hoogland where the Championship for Approved stallions is held and the final for the Stallion Competition is. KWPN harness horses are also driven in combined events for two- and four-in-hands, where the combinations are tested to the extreme in dressage, marathon and proficiency classes. Naturally, thousands of enthusiasts spend their leisure hours driving horse and carriage through the countryside. Dutch harness horses are, after all, selected on their show performance, and the will and mentality to give their best, with preservation of their typical characteristics, and the health and soundness that distinguish the Dutch KWPN horse in general.
“Keur” DHH mare Ariantha J (v.Moneymaker), here as a 3 year old, becoming Champion of Holland for 3 year old mares at the Nationals with Robbie
A KWPN mare registered in the main studbook has satisfied the minimum requirements for conformation and movements. The better mares earn the 'ster' predicate at provincial ("central") selections. The higher ranking 'keur' predicate is only awarded to mares have passed a IBOP performance test with good results, with at least 75 points. In order to emphasize the importance of soundness, the KWPN created the 'elite' predicate for mares that passed extensive X-ray examination. Mares that have produced at least three offspring that have remarkable conformations and actions receive the 'preferent' predicate. If a minimum of three of her offspring perform excellently in the sport, a mare will receive the 'prestatie' predicate, and if she performs well herself in single horse driving classes, a KWPN mare may be awarded the 'sport' predicate.
Also in “ladies class” DHH gelding Show Me The Money (v.Lorton) won in hands of Chantal many Championships
The Dutch harness horse is in principle harnessed in front of a light show carriage. Light, because too much weight might have a negative effect on its action, and the Dutch harness horse is, above all, a show horse! The aim is to enhance its natural talent through training in order to produce a horse that displays a spectacular trot in front of the show carriage. Ideally, it should 'sink' behind, because it brings the hindquarters fully under, which causes the front to rise and makes the horse appear taller and taller. Carrying most of its weight behind, generating forward and upward power from its hindquarters, the harness horse gets more 'air' in front to be able to display its remarkable front action. It lifts the foreleg high from the shoulder and then places it well forwards. The broad moment of suspension, good balance and rhythm and fine coordination between fore- and hindquarters complement this ideal action, which, in combination with the lifted front, create an unforgettable sight. Expert juries assess the performance shown on both hands to decide on the individual placing.
The DHH stallion Majesteit (v.Immigrant) who is son of a Saddle bred out of a DHH mare, under saddle with Chantal in the “American” style.
But also in other disciplines you can find the DHH now. Under saddle as dressage horse or even as showjumper. Also we sold them to the circus. The DHH are very easy to get into passage or piaffe, because of their natural use of knee action, strong backhand and back and their easy holding upright neck. Some things that are very useful in the higher dressage. There are also classes for under saddle for DHH. Only the extreme high extra trot will be judged, just like if they are in the car in the show ring. If the DHH are in the show ring to show as a DHH, only the trot will shown, not the walk or the canter.
Thanks for taking the time to read this article. I hope I have explained this wonderful breed, the unique Dutch Showhorse: the DHH, to be more worldwide and can even find a start in South-Africa as well. The DHH can give joy to every member of the family no matter if it’s at home, on shows or on pleasure drives or rides. If you want to have more information or if you have questions then please contact me and I will try to help you further. On www.youtube.com I have several video’s that mite give you a better idea when you see them in “real” on there. Just fill in my name (Chantal van Dijk in the “search” place) and you get all my video’s on it. On our website you can find information as well.