Wiebe Wieling: ‘It’s time for a more resourceful society.’

Foto: Johanna Faber

For Wiebe Wieling the first four months as Chairman of the KFPS were a rollercoaster of experiences and emotions. From a fantastic Stallion Inspection to an intense Boet discussion and an even more intense Corona crisis. ‘I’m not the kind of person who looks back, but who looks to the future.’

Working from home, it’s something Wiebe Wieling also has to get used to in these times of Corona guidelines. From early in the morning till late in the evening all contacts take place via the computer. ‘I have four screens in front of me, everything works fine but I still prefer personal contact.’ In his day-to-day life the KFPS Chairman is CEO of the Piter Jelles and Simon Vestdijk school umbrella organisations which merged on the 1st of January. ‘In total, the organisation includes 6000 pupils and 700 to 800 staff members,’ Wieling states. ‘I am an educational manager but always have some activities on the side.’ He is for instance known nation-wide as the figurehead of the Friesche Elfsteden and was – by now fifteen years ago – Chairman of Indoor Friesland for a period of five years. ‘A fantastic event that we were actually planning to revive this year, but as a consequence of the Corona crisis that initiative was put on the backburner.’ With Indoor Friesland the horses arrived at the Wieling yard. ‘My father-in-law gave up farming and started to breed Friesian horses. When his Preferent Model mare Aafke-Anna (Lammert 260) gave birth to a beautiful filly by Heinse 354 she came to live in our yard. Winke W is now 21 years old and will never leave.
I always like to say that I have two sons and one daughter: Winke W is part of the family.’ When he was asked if he might be interested in applying for the job of Chairman KFPS ‘the horsey bug came to the surface again.’

No honeymoon

In December, the Member Council gave Wieling the green light to take over from Bert Wassenaar as Chairman of the KFPS. But a ‘honeymoon’ with some time to get to know the organisation and the people was out of the question, he looks back. ‘I landed right in the middle of the discussion about Boet 516. ‘There are nothing but losers in this debate regarding Boet. After his approval we are effectively bound by regulatory restrictions, so all we can really do is closely monitor the offspring and look into how procedures have to be adjusted to make sure this cannot happen again.’
Actually, the whole matter has not yet been resolved to our satisfaction. ‘We as the Board realise we have to deal with certain restrictions. We are in dialogue with the Member Council about this matter. This is made more difficult by the Corona crisis but people clearly feel the need for change in this respect. We have to sort this out together.’

Enormous commitment

For the new Chairman the discussion was an instant reminder of how enormous the members’ commitment is. ‘The waves of emotion rise high’, he noticed. ‘That is inherent in equine societies and that kind of involvement is also a great strength. You don’t always have to agree with each other, as long as everybody is working towards the same goal.’ This principle was also prominently expressed in the culture map that was introduced last year and this is where the Chairman sees an important role for himself. ‘I seek to bring people and matters together. I sometimes sense opposed views that shouldn’t be there.’ Frankness and transparency are the key words here. ‘There’s nothing I can change about the past, but in many discussions I can sense that it plays a major role. We have to learn our lessons from it and then move on together. Friction is part of it, that’s okay, but in the end we all want the same thing. We all want a good-quality and healthy Friesian horse.’

Structure of the society

‘There’s no such thing as polish without friction’, Wieling brings in the nuance. He has already noticed quite a few challenges during the first months of his term and has already initiated talks to address them. ‘Is the structure of our society still adequate?’, he gives as an example. ‘The position of our management is not an easy one. We meet once a month and don’t zoom in too closely. We also have to deal with a very large Member Council and several regions, even abroad, and then there are the breeding chapters.’
A more decisive society with shorter communication lines would be more adequate, Wieling suggests. ‘I have as yet no answer to the question of how it could be improved, but it would be a good idea to investigate options for a different structure. For example by working with a direction and a supervisory board that effectively supervises day-to-day operations. And a Member Council that functions as an employee council or a participation council, including the powers that go with it, such as the strategy and the budget.’ Also needing the continued attention of the Studbook are the Inspection- and Jury bodies. ‘That is not new, but we have to keep safeguarding sufficient influx and quality of new Jury- and Inspection members.’ For the people at home base Drachten he has nothing but praise. ‘They work really hard. Respect. Being a small society we organise a number of major and great events with a relatively small team and lots of volunteers’, Wieling gives an example. ‘From a breed-technical point of view our Studbook can lay claim to a worldwide front-runner position. I am sincerely proud of that.’

Enjoying the Stallion Inspection

In early January Wieling had the ‘great pleasure’ of experiencing the Stallion Inspection from the front row. ‘A fully-booked hall for three days running, terrific shows and to boot thousands of people watching via TV all day long. Nowhere else in the world do people so intensely experience an inspection.’ In addition to his representative function, presenting rosettes and sashes and congratulating breeders and owners, the Stallion Inspection is also the moment of welcoming the various foreign delegations and bringing them up to date. ‘I’m really proud of our society with all its associations all over the world.’
A month later this had a follow-up when Wieling embarked on his first overseas trip on behalf of the KFPS, to Kentucky (US) and Mexico. ‘Once you have laid your eyes on a Friesian, you’re hooked’, Wieling heard the breeders say. ‘It’s astonishing to see and experience the kind of inspiration that our Friesian horse generates all over the world.’

Foreign countries are developing

In spite of the huge distance, the breeders have the same passion and the same goal: ‘They want to keep advancing the development of the Friesian horse.’ Especially in Mexico they have made considerable progress, he points out. ‘They now have a more structured approach to finding the best match between stallions and mares. Totally in line with what the KFPS recommends.’
And then the Corona crisis happened. ‘Not just inspections and competitions have fallen away, but so has income. It causes really major problems in operational management. A number of our members are struggling, the trade has come to a complete standstill’, Wieling empathises, whilst adding that the ambition for more foals is also coming under pressure this year. ‘Owning a horse is after all, something of a luxury. As KFPS we are trying to be creative in finding solutions to stimulate the growth in breeding anyway.’ But then a bit more realistic again: ‘The social concern surrounding Corona obviously rises above all that. We are going to do our utmost to come up with solutions and continue to make plans to keep growing as a Studbook. We’re all together in this.’

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