This week I’m chatting with Belgian international paralympian dressage rider Manon Claeys. Based in Belgium, Manon competes in competitions all over the world and has won medals at numerous European Championships and also won two bronze medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics (held in 2021). Manon is currently working towards representing her country again at the 2024 Paris Paralympics. Read on to learn more about the remarkable Manon, her ambitions, and top tips for success.
Tell about you and your horses
I’m Manon Claeys. Because of an accident when I was twenty one years old I became a Paralympic dressage rider.
Horses were and are always in my life, I have 5 horses at this moment:
Katharina Sollenburg (aka Koekie)
Prima Donna Sollenburg (she is pregnant)
How did horses come into your life?
I started horse riding when I was five years old. When I was twelve I got my first pony (my mom was on a holiday and my dad said to us listen kids we are going to buy a pony for Manon and mom can’t know so if mama calls you shut up …. So my mom called and the first words my brother said to my mama was oh mama we bought a pony).
When and where do you ride?
My horses that I compete with are at my trainers stable (Domien Michiels) and the younger horses are at home with my parents .
How did you start riding?
At home we could choose every sport we wanted to do. But for me it was already very clear that it would be horse riding.
What you and your horses currently working on?
At the moment I am working towards the Paralympic Games in Paris. I have Koekie that is the horse that I will ride in Paris. But I’m also preparing Naomi, she will start her first international in Qatar in February.
What do you love about riding?
I love everything. The freedom when I’m on my horse, the fact that let go of your fears and your control, the trust that you need to have in your horse and your horse in you. And especially for us with a disability the horses become our legs so they cover a bit our disability.
What you would you like to be doing in the future and do you have any goals?
My first goal is to do the best I can in Paris. Have a lot of fun with my horses and see where our journey will bring us
Have you ever had to deal with nerves in riding?
In the beginning I had a lot of nerves, but San Dior is a very sensitive horse and he forced me to let go of my nerves because he can’t deal with it. And also I have a very good sport psychologist that taught me tips and tricks to let my nerves go .
Do you any rituals before competing?
Yes, I always clean and tack my horses myself before competing because that’s my moment with my horse
Your Top Tip
That you always stay true to yourself, your horse, and your team. And always have fun in what you do.
What is the best piece of advice that you have ever been given?
That it’s only over when it’s over and that your only lose when you give up.
Down the Centre Line
Who would be your dream horse to ride?
All my horses but is if I can say a famous horse it would be Dante Weltino
Who is your equestrian hero?
Hmmm, that’s difficult but I love the riding and the horsemanship of Charlotte Dujardin
If you could have 5 people to dinner, who would they be?
My grandparents (because they were my biggest supporter next to my parents and my partner) my parents and my partner because they do so much for me .
But if I need to choose between the famous ones it would be Isabel Werth , Charlotte Dujardin, Carl Hester, my trainer Domien Michiels and me.
Favourite colour horse?
I love every colour because a good horse doesn’t have a colour
Favourite horse event?
Favourite way to relax?
Netflix with a cola and a bag of chips
The Meg (because I’m a huge fan of Jason Statham)
If you enjoyed meeting Manon you might like to view more dressage rider “chatting with” interviews here You can keep up with Manon’s progress and check out her instagram page here