Van Lieren: “I just followed my heart!”
The Netherlands (Text by Claartje van Andel) – At this year’s KWPN national championships, Leunus van Lieren was crowned ‘breeder of the year’. It came as a total surprise to him. His son Grand Prix rider Laurens van Lieren wrote a nice laudatory speech for his father, ‘accusing’ him of never listening to the studbook program, going his own way, behaving stubborn, and having bred 22 Grand Prix horses. So, what is it about Leunus van Lieren that motivates his obstinacy and how does he explain his incredible success. Q What was your reaction when you were rewarded the title ‘Breeder of the year’ by the KWPN who apparently you never listen to – according to your son during his fond laudatory speech? I really felt honoured and flattered. I had not the slightest notion what was going to happen, not even when my best horses and riders, including my son Laurens and the long-time stable rider for Thamar Zweistra, were preparing their horses for the demo. It’s a great compliment and that’s the way I feel it with all my heart. I really have never felt neglected nor disqualified. I just did what I did. I just followed my heart. And now there is an official reward for that. It’s a compliment. Q Please explain something about the very start of your breeding. You have one mare virtually dominating all your bloodlines and successes. Who was she and where did you find her? Our stud started with Amanda (Doruto x Epos x Olaf van Wittenstein, line 1600). She was born in 1982 and became ster preferent and prestatie. My late wife Mieke and I visited Doruto’s breeder in the northern part of the Netherlands. We were attracted by Amanda’s strong use of the hindleg. For those days the middle part of her body was a bit long. Nowadays, the KWPN especially looks for rectangular horses. As a four-year-old, she won the well known class of that time – ‘best moving horse under saddle – at the national championships. She had a couple of foals. I should mention the mare Indiamanda (Sultan), stallion Kwadruto (El Corona) and another mare Parmanda (Rubiquil). Q You mention Rubiquil. He’s the first horse that comes to everyone’s mind when talking about you or your Hexagon stables. Did you recognise his talent immediately? Rubiquil was the talent we hoped for. My late wife, Mieke van Lieren, travelled with her mare Aquila specifically to Westfalia, Germany, to cover her with Rubinstein. In those days, the KWPN Studbook received permission for coverings of ten mares only, and they were all sold. Rubiquil received a studbook paper from Westfalia for that reason. I’ve always been very much in favour of Rubiquil. His character is brilliant. I used to say that he was born broken in already. When I rode him as a three-year-old, I was immediately completely thrilled by the feeling and his behaviour. And I said, ‘I don’t want only one Rubiquil in my stable, I’d prefer a complete herd of Rubiquils!’ It was almost a prophecy…. Q Did Rubiquil inherit his character and behaviour as well? Yes, he inherits that character too. I trained him myself to Grand Prix. Every time I started to do a new lesson, he immediately understood the meaning. Shoulder in, traverse, half pass, once asked, he knew. As a nine-year-old he was capable of doing Grand Prix. My son Laurens won several international medals with him, including two team golds at the young-rider European championships in 2000 and 2001. Rubiquil was approved by KWPN in 2002. Everybody noticed then that Rubiquil really was a special horse. His first home-bred son Hexagon’s Ollright (out of Jamaica x El Corona) was a success story from the start. He was only eight years old when he scored 70 percent in GP dressage. In 2005, 2006 and 2007 they were part of the Dutch senior dressage team, including winning the first team gold for the Dutch at the European championships in Italy. Rubiquil was work-willing, playful and with his mind focused completely on his trainer or trainers. I can even see this in his second or third generation. His three-year-old granddaughter Joella, by our own stallion Charon (Rubiquil – Silver W x Havidoff) has the same behaviour. I can send her away in the paddock and call her back and she immediately returns to you. I can repeat this several times and it’s the same. This type of character is wonderful in my eyes. I like to add this type of interior to the breeding of a good dressage horse. To the movements. It’s something riders really can base their work on. You can find Rubiquil in more than half of the horses that I’ve produced and that were trained to Grand Prix. Which is 21 Grand Prix horses at the moment. Q Impressive and amazing that you recognize this characteristic behaviour in your new progeny. My question is, can this characteristic be tested, for instance in a mare test or stallion examination test, with other horses? This sort of curious, playful attitude together with the willingness to obey human trainers? Do you think this attitude is one of the most important parts of a horse suitable for Grand Prix? Yes, I think so. Everything is inherited. Look at Kyra Kyrklund and her successes with both Master and Matador and his offspring. As soon as you have the ‘operating instructions’ of a character, you know it’s a complete line. I love Matador as well. We also have his blood in our horses. Q Unfortunately, three years ago your favourite Rubiquil came to the end of his life at the age of 22. Who is your living favourite now? That’s Indiamanda (Sultan – Amanda x Doruto, line 1600) for sure. We’ll go back a little to the start, with our first mare Amanda, who gave birth to Indiamanda. Indiamanda became elite prestatie Grand Prix dressage and is on top of the list of KWPN mares having the best breeding values of 189. She taught a lot of my pupils in our stables how to ride Grand Prix. After a short Grand Prix career, she became the mother of new offspring educated to Grand Prix, which are Latamanda (Matador), Mantra (Matador), Truemanda (Rubi-quil) and Certainty (Briar). I can easily continue the story. Ushimanda (Rubiquil x Matador II) was born out of Indiamanda’s daughter Latamanda. She in her turn is, among others, the mother of approved stallion Double Dutch (Johnson), now Grand Prix under the saddle of Thamar Zweistra. Rou-manda is another Rubiquil daughter from Latamanda. As a five-year-old she was already impressive in winning national classes. She continued to Grand Prix, making her debut with 70 percent. At the moment different embryo’s have been collected to secure breeding with this topmare. Q All this success is dazzling, but tell us something about your first home-bred Grand Prix horse, which was Kyrain (Cyrain x Lorenz) Kyrain was a product from our own stallion Cyrain (Sultan x Pepin le Bref xx), born in 1984. He was not selected by KWPN and I started to school him. He did all Grand Prix exercises with great ease. However due to his early death I never did a competition Grand Prix. Cyrain was paired with the mare Valente (Lorenz x First Trial xx), from the known Nomana mareline 2, breeders family 8. So this combination produced Kyrain and he became our first home-bred Grand Prix horse. Thamar Zweistra started to ride him and Kyrain and Rubiquil almost grew up together in their way up to Grand Prix. When Thamar Zweistra was only 18, she became the youngest Dutch GP rider ever with Kyrain. In 2003 Thamar and Kyrain won the individual gold medal at the young riders’ European dressage championships. He showed successfully at Grand Prix with Thamar, and later shone at junior and young-rider level again with Jeanine Nieuwenhuis. Kyrain died in his sleep in his 24th year. Q Rubiquil approved as an older stallion, Cyrain not approved but a home-used stallion, approved stallion Louisville, recently approved older stallion Double Dutch, and now a young stallion, Jim Beam in the current stallion test, hopefully to become approved…
Please explain this most recent family affair? Let’s start with Louisville. I noticed this big brown stallion by Burggraaf out of Wenda (Vesins xx) at his breeder, Jack Wouters’ place. I went for one week to Louisville with a group of farriers and just couldn’t forget him. When I returned home, I bought him, called him Louisville, after the venue of the farriers’ meeting, and started to break him in. He was a bit, what we say in Dutch, ‘ril’ at the start, sensitive at his body, shivery when you touched him. I planned to sell him, but sometimes you have to count your blessings. No serious buyers passsed by. So I kept him and trained him to international Grand Prix instead. In 2004 Louisville and I became Dutch indoor GP masters. He had the right mentality and go so I used him for breeding as well. Louisville covered Rubiquil daughter Parmanda, the daughter of our first mare Amanda. The result was Glowmanda. As a four-year-old Glowmanda produced a son by Capri Sonne Jr (Rhodium – Wendela ster x San Remo, bred by R. van Steijn). We called him Jim Beam. He is our new star and hopefully will be an approved stallion. I’m really fond of Capri Sonne Jr as I’ve know him from being educated here with Dinja van Liere before he was sold to the Bechtolsheimer family in the UK. In his offspring Capri Sonne gives a nice front and a good canter, adding that to the qualities of the mare. The offspring are look-a-likes of the mare and that’s why he fits so well with my mares. Q We’ve mentioned Double Dutch. Why do you say he’s beyond what you wished for? I’m very proud of him. In May 2017 Double Dutch (Johnson) was acknowledged by the KWPN. As I said, this chestnut stallion was born in 2008 out of the mare Ushimanda. He was bred by my son Laurens van Lieren, and now we own him together. Double Dutch is really an exemplary horse for the Hexagon philosophy in breeding horses for top sport. He is very athletic, with his sire Johnson (Jazz) originating from the famous Reina mare line. He combines this bloodline with his interior, a golden heart, and an exemplary eagerness to work. Thamar Zweistra trains and competes him in Grand Prix. His workwillingness is beyond imagination. Q So, the stallions Hexagon’s Kyrain, Hexagon’s Rubiquil and Hexagon’s Louisville are the horses that have defined Hexagon Stables? Yes, they really are. Their progeny say enough. In 2004 Louisville was sold to American Karin Offield, who also did some very nice Grand Prix work with him. Offield decided to send him home to spend his life after sport with us. He was still a big friendly giant and took care of more progeny before he died in July 2016 at the age of 23. He is sadly missed by everyone in our stables, because of his charm, intelligent behaviour and friendliness. From the Louisville-Rubiquil combination we had several Grand Prix horses in our stables. The best known are Hexagon’s Welnetta, GP with Laurens van Lieren, and Hexagon’s Zodinde, GP with Thamar Zweistra. Q You have a lot of special horses in your stable and could write a book with all their stories, but let’s return to where Hexagon started – a figure with six sides? Yes, the six sides of the hexagon are the six elements of my stable: breeding, teaching, training, farriery, stabling, and stallion stud. Each one influences the other and that makes it vivid, very practical and united. I still am the farrier of all my own horses. Feet, I remember them and look at the feet very often. It’s too important to neglect! Although I would like to add that you should never neglect the interiors of horses. This year I bought three mares to use for carrying embryos from one of my top Grand Prix mares. Two I immediately got rid off because I could’t accept their behaviour. Just like I am not in favour of stallions that are screaming all the time. I dislike horses that are not able to stand still and to wait. It’s not my cup of tea.
Q Lets finish then by concentrating on your philosophy and future direction? My future is quite simple: I’ll just continue with the same vision to breed, train and compete top dressage horses. Good movers, energetic, reliable, work-willing. I have everything I need for that at home, so I’m a happy man. The future for breeding top dressage horses is having GP results with them, and only to breed with pedigrees building on GP results. And that’s just what I’ve been doing for decades!
(Source: Breeding News for Sporthorses December 2017)