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HACKNEY GRADING IN HOLLAND

Young driver Leah Redsell went on a really interesting trip to the Hengstenkeuring Hackney Grading Show in The Netherlands. She also met one of the breed's leading producers and saw some fantastic Friesians - April 2023

When I was asked if I would like to go to The Netherlands to watch a Hackney grading show, I jumped at the chance.  We were going to travel there by car, so it was a long drive through France and Belgium and into the Netherlands but we loaded ourselves up with snacks and then we were off!

We had arranged to meet with Lambertus Huckriede, who is a very well-known Dutch trainer, the day before the show. He was busy getting his horses ready for the show the next day but was happy to show us his horses and have a cup of tea.  As we sat in his tea room all you could see were sashes, rosettes and trophies with some beautiful pictures from past and present shows. Lambertus has been training and breeding horses for a long time and thankfully spoke really good English.  He is a fascinating man who has a vast knowledge of breeding lines and I really don’t know how he can remember the parentage of such a vast number of horses. We had a lovely conversation with him about showing and how he would come over to England for our The Hackney Breed Show at Ardingly. In the changing times and because of the expense of transport, I wonder if we might lose more competitors from abroad. This is a shame as the Hackney breed is firmly on the Rare Breeds Survival List and it’s sad not to be able to boost class numbers with horses from abroad.

The next day we made our way to De Nieuwe Heuvel which is famous for having some of the best Friesian Stallions at stud.  There was a separate building housing the top stallions but it’s not just your normal stable block – these graded stallions live like kings. We even had the privilege of a guided tour around the stable block and a lovely lady explained that their grading system can take up to a year and includes ten weeks of training.  

When we got to the Hackney grading at Hengstenkeuring, the venue was amazing, with indoor arenas, outdoor sand schools, horse walkers, wash bays and endless stables. This was a serious event. We watched as the horses were checked by vets and assessed. They were taken away from the public eyes, and then back out for several walks and trot up’s There were lots of notes being taken on clipboards and ‘tres bien’ (very good) was used several times.  The assessors would turn a horse down for being incorrectly shod and there were many rules to follow.

Then the horses entered the arena for more checks with several very smart judges. The commentary was in Flemish so it was a little bit hard to understand! The horses/ponies were judged by age and they could be asked to return to next year’s show if the horse/pony were not mature enough to make the grade. The assessors made a point of seeing the horses trot with side reins on and trotted again without which I think showed they wanted to see the horse move more freely. When they had finally done all their checks, they let the owners know the results and the horses were invited back into the ring to be given their grading and finally judged in place order.

As we watched, we all picked our favourites among the high standard of horses and it was great to see so many spectators at this fabulous event.  It was really helpful that a lovely Dutch couple were able to explain what was happening and talked us through the process.  They informed us that because of the grading only the best of the breed would be used for breeding.

We had a great day and I think I learnt a lot by watching and I would definitely go again.