Ever since I was a young adult and bred my very first foal with my grandfather Remi Vlerick, so much has changed in the world of horse breeding that it can no longer be compared to today’s standards. This change is not only reflected in the equestrian world in general, but also in my personal experiences concerning horse breeding. Through periods of more and less breeding – but always with ever-increasing passion – a pastime has developed into a profession; and by that my vision on the best approach towards breeding has evolved as well into what it is today.
The first objective was and is of course to breed an excellent foal, but that is not where the process starts. It all begins years earlier when you delve into the many damlines in order to make a conscious choice for a broodmare. Every family and even every generation - the third generation plays a crucial role in my opinion - has its qualities and its shortcomings that you have to find out, but also each mare individually has her assets and drawbacks. To find out, you are forced to breed with your chosen mare a few times, because only after three or four foals you may notice that your horse does not pass on what you hoped for, or that you made a solid choice years ago and you can continue .
When you finally own a suitable mare who convinced you of her merits, it is time to choose a stallion to highlight those but also to compensate her flaws. If you choose an established stallion, or even an ambassador of show jumping, then colleagues have already done a lot of the work and you can rely on their experiences to find out how a stallion breeds. With a young, talented colt however, you are - due to the lack of a large number of his offspring – limited to his genetic origin and the way he jumps at that moment, in order to assess how he’ll pass on his genes.
Whether this assessment turns out to be the correct one can only be checked by trial and error, by actually breeding with him. At the start of a foal's life, inherited genes have little to do with jumping, because you can only test this later on in free jumping. At that moment it is for example more about enlarging or downsizing the size of how the dam usually breeds her foals, and whether this indeed turned out to be the right combination for your mare.
And there you are, daydreaming at the sight of all the potential running around in the meadows, but the next step is to offer your young horse the right way of rearing; providing the personalized schooling at every stage of its early life with which those promising prospects can hopefully be fulfilled. Throughout this busy period I can since several years now enjoy the support of my son Jens, who clearly inherited my love for horses and everything around it.
Despite the fact that there is undoubtedly a stroke of fortune involved because genes can sometimes express themselves in strange ways, breeding obviously isn’t a game of luck. Foals and fillies are by no means a fluke: talented show jumping foals are the result of years of hard and considered work. With highs and lows, but at the same time with so much passion and drive that my stud farm has become a life's work of which I am very proud of.