A champion made and born

Team silver medal at the Olympics in London 2012, team gold medal at the WEG in Caen 2014 and team gold medal at the European Championship in Aachen 2015 with the beautiful stallion Verdi.
​That's Maikel van der Vleuten!

  • #jumping
  • #WEG
  • #Dutch
  • #olimpic games
  • #european championship

He's one of the show jumping top riders in the world. Maikel van der Vleuten was born in Geldrop, the Netherlands, on February 10, 1988. He was surrounded by horses since she was born and he seized that unique opportunity to build a very successful career showing his talent and his technical, as well as human, skills. Serious, always focused, so simple in his manners to seem shy, but determined and confident in the competition area, Maikel is the son of Eric van der Vleuten, for many years one of the pillars of the Dutch show jumping. Eric has had an amazing career, participating in World and European Championships, as well as World Cup Finals. The Olympics are the only ones missing. Maikel grew under the watchful eye of a true horseman, his father, who had a vast experience and deep equestrian culture; he was able to convey these qualities to his son, since he took his very first steps into the world of horses.
​And, in a sense, the student surpassed the master when in 2012, at the age of 24, he was chosen by the Equestrian Federation of his country to participate in the Olympic Games in London, one of the youngest in a long list of champions. Maikel and his phenomenal stallion Verdi returned home from those Olympics with a silver medal in the team competitions. "It all happened in a moment - says Maikel. Only two years earlier, I did not think I would be chosen. I started with the idea to do my best and I knew I had a great horse under the saddle. I was very happy and the atmosphere was unique, but it was only afterwards, that I understood the true extent of what it meant to participate in the Games!" The year after, Maikel participated with Verdi in the European Championships in Herning; in 2014 came the title of champion of the Netherlands with his mare Eureka, but, above all, came the gold medal in team competitions with Verdi at the World Championships of Caen. And now he’s also Team European Champions, title conquered in Aachen (August 2015) always with his wonderful Verdi. Like father, like son and even more...

Verdi began his career competing with Eric, but very soon his father decided to entrust the stallion to Maikel, probably already glimpsing the potential of the couple. With Maikel, Verdi participated in the World Championships for Young Horses in Lanaken twice, ranking in 7th place in both cases, in the category for 5 years old in 2007 and for 6 years old the following year.
From there it was an escalation, up to the silver medal at the Olympic Games and the gold medal at the World Championships and at European Championship. The beautiful Verdi is now one of the most successful jumpers in the entire international circuit, and he's also increasingly required as a stud, given the quality of his offspring. "As a young horse, he was not easy to deal with. He was a true stallion, but he's also always been a very honest and sincere horse - says Maikel. He is serious and extremely brave in competition. Some stallions have to separate the mating period from the one in which they work and compete. Not him. He can handle the two careers simultaneously. It is only before major events that we interrupt the mating, but only to preserve his energy". 
At the Van de Vleuten Stal in Someren, the Netherlands, horses are 'homemade': "My father achieved his greatest successes with horses raised by himself - Maikel says - It was he who taught me to deal with young horses calmly and one step at a time. I find this the best strategy. You have time to build a bond and you end up knowing the horses really well. Besides, the satisfaction is obviously much greater. Getting results with a horse raised by you is something else"!

The Stal Van der Vleuten is very well organized; with Eric now primarily concerned with trade and Maikel focuses on his sporting career and on Eric Jr, Maikel's brother, who has already debuted on the international shows. There are then two riders who especially ride younger horses, those aged 4 and 5 years. "Dad and I live and work together, but we have two separate stables - Maikel says - His help is still critical for me. Growing up with an experienced rider such as my father was definitely important to me. He was and is an exceptional guide. At the same time, he tried to get me to become independent as soon as possible. He wanted me to become responsible, also because he travelled a lot for competitions. When I was little, he enrolled me in a riding school for this reason. He was often away and he wanted me to be given solid foundations and a continuing education." Following in his father's footsteps, after a few years he entered the international circuit and made a name among the young riders of his generation.
Thanks to his experience at home, as well as to the maturity and seriousness that characterize him, Maikel is today one of the most successful riders of his generation:
"I have ridden so many horses over the years. This has taught me not only to understand and interpret those really different from each other, but also to plan work in the long and short term - he explains -In order to have a long career, horses must be managed with intelligence, especially at the highest levels. Asking them to give too much, both physically and mentally, means shortening their career, even when they are potential champions. I spend much time with horses. For me it is important to know and understand them thoroughly, as well as establish with them a relationship based on trust. I want them to feel safe with me. At home I want them to be fresh and relaxed, given the many and important competitive commitments. In fact, at home they jump very little. They only do few exercises on small jump lines. I believe in exercises very much, both for adult horses, who thus keep fit, and for young ones, who become familiar with jumping".
Maikel considers work and professionalism a strength: "The success of each rider and each stable, is a team that works - he explains - We respect and collaborate with each other a lot. We work with a common goal and help one another. The work is hard and provides very little rest; therefore, it is important to always help and rely on each other." Thanks to the professionalism of the team and to the image the team has been able to maintain over the years for the results on the field, but also due to the seriousness and the quality management, the Van der Vleuten stables have been able to count on the support of an important sponsor, the VDL Group, a Dutch multinational company, for years.
​Love of horses, culture and knowledge of horses, experience, hard work, professionalism and impeccable organization are the basis of success in equestrian sport, and the Stal Van der Vleuten is proof of it. Being born from a champion is an opportunity not everyone has, but it takes skills and sensitivity to grasp it. And Maikel did that.