This week I’m excited to be chatting with Dutch dressage rider, coach and trainer Jeroen Bakker. Based in the Netherlands, the hugely talented Jeroen has enjoyed considerable success with his horses and is certain to enjoy even more success at the very highest levels as his team of young horses progress. Read on to discover more about this amazing rider, his horses, his ambitions, and some top tips for success.
Tell us about you and your horses
My name is Jeroen Bakker and I’m a dressage rider/trainer from the Netherlands.
I love dressage and everything around it. Educating and competing horses, making them grow into their bodies, seeing them improve and thrive; it’s my big passion since I was little.
After college I decided to pursue my dreams and not to think of desk work again lol. For my work I travelled around the work to train horses, for example I worked as a trainer in China, and as a rider in the USA.
A few years ago I started working for myself and now I train and own multiple competition horses, and have a big group of students competing, from B-level up to the highest (Grand Prix). I’m really proud of my students and horses, it’s a great motivation to see everyone grow and push themselves through ups and downs. My favourite horse at the moment is my self-owned sweetheart “Igo”, which I call my “Labrador”. With him I have a special bond.
We started at the bottom and now we are training to compete in Grand Prix. He is super special to me, because of his sweet character and loyal attitude (and I think his beautiful face also plays a role haha!).
How did your horses come into your life?
Some horses I find on the internet, others via students or other acquaintances. I love searching the internet for horses, it’s my version of using dating apps lol! I get really excited if I see a horse that’s like a raw diamond, I try to imagine how he or she will look and move with muscles and training. New horses to train for owners always goes via word to mouth or social media.
How long have you been riding?
Since I was five.
When and where do you ride?
I ride my own horses first thing in the morning. Some days I start at 06.00, but most days 07.30. I love to be early and train without too many distractions lol. Around 1100/1200 I start my “roadtrip”, I drive to 5/6 stables every day to teach or train, and in the evening on my way back I drive passed the stable again to see if everyone is still doing well. Some horses I take for an extra walk or brush, if i didn’t have enough time in the morning.
How did you start riding?
My first word was something that sounded like the Dutch word for horse lol. So when I was allowed to ride I begged my parents for a card to ride once a week. The rest of the week I was at the stables to brush and help, they had to drag me home almost haha! There I watched the video of the Olympics in Sydney almost every day, and Anky van Grunsven became a big hero and motivation for me and actually inspired me to do what I do.
What you and your horses currently working on?
My ultimate goal is to be a consistent Grand Prix rider, so we are working on improving strength and flexibility to get to a nice passage/piaffe tour. Every horse has different openings towards new movements and it’s supercool to search for them every few days. The rest of the days I only ride with a focus on gymnastics and physiotherapy, making sure they’re supple and bendable, so that they develop in an honest way and get the confidence, motivation and physical power to offer more movements.
What do you love about riding?
I love so many things about riding! The best feeling is when your horse does something you didnt think was possible. Sometimes when i try new difficult things and they pick it up (or do something that looks like it haha) I can really get goosebumps or cry happy tears! It sounds hysterical if i say it like this haha but I love the magic of dressage. You start with a puppy who doesn’t understand much and you get closer to an intellectual bodybuilder/ballerina every day; how cool is that!?
What you would you like to be doing in the future and do you have any goals?
My sports goals are clear: I want to be a successful Grand Prix rider. I work everyday to achieve it. My other goals are to get the most out of students and let them push to the limits and be proud of themselves. I love seeing them struggle at first, only to see them thrive later?
Have you ever had to deal with nerves in riding?
For sure! Sometimes I get nervous just before a competition. I have a few mental tricks for those feelings now, I learned them through trial and error (a lot of the latter lol). One time I entered the arena and saw a few big names like Hans Peter Minderhoud and Nicole Werner watch from the sidelines. I thought “I will show what an entrance I can make!” Two seconds later I heard the bell because I rode a wrong line and had to start over. I felt completely stupid and learned right at that moment that I had to focus only on what I’m doing, always actually! They probably don’t even remember this moment or didn’t register it from that distance, but I made it a super big deal. You live and you learn haha.
Your Top Tip
My top tip in riding is to keep going on full throttle, get educated, use YouTube and Google to watch clinics from riders that inspire you and figure out what you want, and how you’re able to get to your goals. Be passionate, but most importantly have fun! It’s an amazing sport with amazing animals. We all started as horse lovers, don’t lose that feeling due to competition pressure or whatever external reasons. Its easy to lose sight of why you started, because all the opinions and people out there. The horse world is filled with people who “know better”. Especially the people who know the least think they know it all. My experience is the more I know (I’ve been in this game for over 20 years) the more I know that every single thing I know about horses is dependent on multiple conditions (the particular horse, the particular day, the particular combination horse/rider). That’s why it’s helpful to just choose the people you want information from, look at them ride, look at them train, look at them compete, you can do it too!
Down The Centre Line
Who would be your dream horse to ride?
Before it always was Totilas, obviously haha! A magical horse. Blu Hors Matinee was my favorite mare of all time. Now I love Total Us, he’s such a wonder child!
Who is your equestrian hero?
I have several, haha! Edward, Anky and Hans Peter obviously are my Dutch heroes from all time. Charlotte, Carl, Isabel and especially Patrik Kittel are my heroes from foreign countries. Patrik is a big inspiration for me. I sometimes feel like the little duck haha! Do you know that story? His wife gave him a little plastic duck, because even if he gets pushed under, he always pops right up. To be successful you have to be that duck, don’t let anything bring you down (or if something brings you down, don’t let it keep you there!).
If you could have five people to dinner who would they be?
Ooh that’s difficult. After the last question I can easily pick a few of them! And if that’s not possible then I’m always in for dinner with my closest friends.
Favourite colour horse?
That has to be black. A bit predictable but I just love the magic of it. But I do love a good chestnut with a lot of white too lol. I always wind up with a lot of chestnuts haha, I have a soft spot for them.
Favourite horse event
Jumping Amsterdam of course!! It’s the best event. There’s something super magical about it.
I love so many different foods lol. But I think my all time favourite is French cheese with bread and champagne. But cotton candy is a close runner up.
Favourite way to relax
I have multiple, depending on how much energy I have. Lately something that involves a couch, a pizza and Netflix really relaxes me. In the car I always listen to podcasts, from fun stuff to educational readings, from inspirational speakers to true crime; I love it all. If I have more time and energy I love having fun with friends, going to dinner and clubs etc.
This is a hard one! I love so many different genres. If I have to pick one it’s Avatar.
If you enjoyed meeting Jeroen you might like to view more dressage rider chatting with interviews here You can keep up with Jeroen’s progress and check out his instagram page here