Rolex Grand Slam: Questions & Answers with Maikel van der Vleuten

This weekend is extra special for you with the retirement ceremony of Verdi TN – how are you feeling about it?

To be honest I am really looking forward to the farewell ceremony for my old top horse Verdi TN. It was supposed to be two-years-ago but because the pandemic unfortunately it has not been able to happen until now. It is so wonderful to be able have the ceremony infront of The Dutch Masters fans.

Can you tell us about him – what made him so special?

He had an amazing character; I travelled the world with him, and he was always so straightforward and never let me down. He is so special to me and all the incredible results and medals that we have won together are moments I will never forget.

Is he enjoying his retirement?

He is enjoying his retirement. He goes in the field every day, hacks out and he is busy as a breeding stallion. He is in very good shape, his body looks very good, so hopefully he will continue in this way for many more years to come.

What do you miss most about competing with him?

He could jump any of the biggest tracks in world so easily. I think that now I am more experienced and have ridden more horses, I truly appreciate how special he was and how easy he found everything. It didn’t matter what kind of track or arena it was; he was so talented, and I think it will be hard to find another horse quite like him in the future.

Are there any horses in your string now that you think could follow in his footsteps?

Beauville Z is my top horse, and he is extremely talented. With him I can jump in the biggest classes in the world and compete against the best horse and rider combinations. I won a team bronze medal at the Olympic Games last summer with him and I really think a lot of him. Besides him, I have a couple of other nice horses competing at this level, I have a great string of horses at the moment.

Why did you decide to host the retirement ceremony here at The Dutch Masters?

It was a very easy decision for me. Verdi TN was bred in this city – his breeders are from Brabant. Myself and his owners are both Dutch, so really there was nowhere else that would be better for this ceremony.

The show has evolved a lot since it became part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, have you noticed the changes that have been made?

Yes definitely. I think that you can really feel that the organisers are very experienced and have made sure that everything is perfect for the horses and riders. As riders, we really look forward to this event because the facilities are so good and the level of competition is so high.  

The spectators are back this year, does competing in-front of your home crowd spur you on?

Of course – when you feel the crowd cheering and supporting you it makes you so motivated to perform your best and give it all.

What are your main ambitions for 2022?

The FEI World Equestrian Games™ is my main aim. It is a qualifier for the next Olympic Games, so it is very important that as a country we perform well to ensure our qualification.

If you weren’t a professional rider what would you be?

I would be football player. Football was something that I really enjoyed growing up, but there came a time where I had to choose which sport I wanted to pursue. I always loved being with the horses, so I chose to pursue show jumping.

When you are not riding, do you have any other hobbies that you take part in?

Most of my time is spent with the horses, but if I do have spare time, I like to spend it with my family. I have two young children, and l love being a good father to them. My eldest daughter is just over four-years-old, and she has started school this year, and my youngest is nine-months-old. They both like being in the stables with the horses.

Who do you think is your biggest competition for the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday?

When you look at the start list, there are so many good riders, and they have all bought their best horses here. I have no idea who will be the best on Sunday, but it will definitely be a very exciting competition for everyone.

Source: Press Release from Rolex Grand Slam

Photo: © Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder