This week I’m chatting with Dutch dressage rider Bettine van Harselaar. Based in the Netherlands, Bettine is also an equestrian journalist. Read on to discover more about Bettine, her ambitions, and top tips for success
Tell us about you and your horses
My name is Bettine van Harselaar thirty seven years old and I’m based in Ederveen, The Netherlands. I have my own private small-scale training yard. Dressage riding is actually my hobby, but one that has gotten pretty out of hand.
I work in equine media, with most of my focus on dressage. I am active as an equestrian journalist, work as a commentator for ClipMyHorse, write a lot of commercial and non-commercial texts for horse brands and companies, and I also help some businesses in the horse world with their social media. Also, I’m a judge up to Small Tour level in Holland.
Currently I have 4 horses of my own:
Whitney aka Schimpie: a 20 year old KWPN mare, she was my first small tour horse and is now retired.
Maky My Day aka Maky: a 6 year old KWPN Gelding by Geniaal. He is the most enjoyable horse to work with and always willing and happy. I hope to be back with him on competition very soon.
On Timeless aka Onno: a 4 year old gelding by Desperado, he’s just saddle broken.
Seattle aka Sjaak: a KWPN yearling by Lloyd, hopefully a real future prospect.
How did your horses come into your life?
Maky and Whitney I found via acquaintances. On Timeless and Seattle I bought as a foal in an auction.
When and where do you ride?
As I have my own small stable (4 stables and plenty of pasture), I mostly ride my horses here at home. Since a couple of years, I have a great footing in my outdoor arena, so I can actually ride outdoor all the time. Although with the Dutch weather an indoor would be nice sometimes…
Usually, I train my horses in the morning and they’re in the field during the afternoon, when I’m working.
How did you start riding?
My very first rides were probably on the very big but obedient horse of my granddad. My first riding lessons I got at the local riding school. I got my first Shetland pony pretty quick, when my parents realised my will to ride was not a whim.
What you and your horses currently working on?
Maky (Make My Day) is the one I train the most at the moment. As he is a very supple and flexible horse, it is sometimes quite hard to get him well balanced. He can be so wiggly. I always have to be focussed on really riding him from the back to my hands, so a solid connection can arise. I do a lot of tempo changes and transition work with him, in all three gaits. Along the way I try to teach him some new exercises, like (at the moment) walk and canter pirouettes and half passes.
Also, I think it’s very important to add a lot of variety to your training. I try to do something different than just dressage once or twice a week. Like working in hand, lunging, some polework or a hack outside.
What do you love about riding?
The connection you build up with a horse can be so special. The feeling when you and your horse understand each other is truly amazing and indescribable. And of course, the always ongoing challenge of teaching your horse new things whilst keeping him happy.
What you would you like to be doing in the future and do you have any goals?
My ultimate goal is to ride Grand Prix someday.
Have you ever had to deal with nerves in riding?
I’m not a person who’s nervous for competitions and I’m generally hard to get stressed. The only time I do have nerves is when I have to get on a young horse for the first time, they can be so unpredictable, and you just don’t know how they are going to react.
How do you deal with them?
Trying to control the situation as much as possible and try to do the preliminary work as well as possible. And sometimes you just have to step over it!
Your Top Tip
Do whatever makes your horse happy. A happy horse is a willing horse.
Down the Centre Line
Who would be your dream horse to ride?
That’s a hard one, but I think Blue Hors Zack!
Who is your equestrian hero?
Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and her brother Benjamin. I’ve had the chance to visit their barn a few years ago, and absolutely love their approach to riding and managing horses.
If you could have 5 people to dinner who would they be?
Probably just some of my best friends and have a good time. Through my job I get to meet and speak to the world’s most famous equestrians a lot already, but simply hanging out with my friends sometimes just falls through.
Favourite colour horse?
Grey – Never wanted one in the first place, but once you’ve owned one, you’re hooked!
Favourite horse event?
Horses & Dreams in Hagen.
At the moment, I’m really into Asian food.
Favourite way to relax?
Hiking in the alps.
As a graduated film scientist this is an impossible question for me! I just love arthouse movies, but also really can enjoy a girls movie night with a rom-com like Notting Hill.
If you enjoyed meeting Bettine you might like to view more dressage rider “chatting with” interviews here You can keep up with Bettine’s progress and check out her instagram page here