Pieter Claeys and Leonora (Dries 421) 30th at WC Combined Driving: ‘there’s still room for improvement’

At the World Championship Combined Driving in Haras Du Pin in France, the Belgian Pieter Claeys managed to finish in 30th place with Friesian mare Leonora BV (Dries 421 x Fabe 348). A wonderful result with this 11-year-old Friesian mare, especially when considering that Pieter and this mare have not even been a combination for a year. ‘All prejudices about Friesian horses can be tossed aside. Leonora has stamina, the urge to go forward and above all, she has a super soft mouth.’

Top sport horse Leonora

Pieter is an experienced combined driver, his wife Marie is more into dressage. She was the one who bought Leonora as a 3-year-old with the aim of riding dressage competitions. But since she had more horses under saddle she found she didn’t have enough time for Leonora. So Marie and Pieter decided to start Leonora in the in-harness work so that they could go for ‘a family ride in weekends.’ However, things turned out differently. ‘I immediately felt that she was quite a talent at it’, Pieter looks back. He took the mare along to a combined driving competition to test her out. ‘My doubts instantly disappeared.’ And that’s how they qualified for the World Championship where they competed for Belgium. ‘I have worked with virtually all breeds in front of the carriage, mainly warmbloods’, the driver informs us. ‘As far as I knew, Friesian horses were always calm and well-behaved recreational horses, but I really have to think again: Leonora is a top-class sport horse.’

Professional in the work

The mare is nimble and agile and has the character of a good driving horse, Pieter points out. ‘She doesn’t become stressed or worked up and doesn’t take over the initiative, something high-blooded horses tend to do. Leonora is a true professional in her work.’ On top of that her strength and power also last right through to the last obstacle. ‘She is able and willing to keep going, with zero muscle acidification. When we exited the cross people wished us good luck, they thought we were heading for the start’, a fine anecdote that happened in France as Pieter told us. With her talents and mentality the combination has a lot more potential according to Pieter, and he and his whole team as well as trainer Jan Vanden Berghe are fully focused on the next WC in two years’ time. ‘We are very good at the combined driving part and the obstacle course with cones. We need to focus on dressage, that’s where we lose points.’ But he is fully confident: ‘The longer we work together, the better she becomes.’

Related to Nico BV Sport Elite

Leonora stems from a good sport pedigree, bred by Bareld Veenstra. A half brother of her dam is Nico BV (Folkert 353), who was awarded the Sport Elite predicate because of his fine results in combined driving with Frederik Jans and groom Marc van Vlasselaer. So the Sunday drive that Pieter and Marie had in mind for Leonora has faded into the background. For the time being the mare has to follow the training programme for optimal preparation for the WC. ‘And yes, by now Marie has definitely lost her dressage horse‘, Pieter laughs. ‘But she keeps me company as a groom.’

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