Riders’ stories: Olivier Philippaerts

2021 was a special year for the Belgian Team thanks to bronze medals won at the Olympic Games and European Championships. It was even more special for twins Olivier and Nicola Philippaerts who were both on the team that won the bronze medal in Riesenbeck. Olivier rode Le Blue Diamond V’T Ruytershof, his top horse at the moment, while Nicola rode Katanga V/H Dingeshof. 

Horses + family = Philippaerts
Talent and passion have thrived for decades in and around the Philippaerts family.  ‘Stal Philippaerts’, set in the countryside of the Meeuwen-Gruitrode region, was started by father Ludo in the 1990.  Passion for horses is a family tradition with Ludo inheriting his from his father and passing it on to his sons. Ludo was an extraordinary champion who wrote historic pages of world show jumping with his name alongside that of his legendary Darco, the outstanding performer stallion and progenitor of generations of champions. In 2015, Ludo waved goodbye to the competitive arenas as a jumping rider and devoted himself entirely to coaching his children and his horses.

Ludo and Veronica have four children: the twins, Nicola and Olivier, born in 1993, have done the family proud with excellent performances at prestigious competitions representing Belgium at top world events. They train together, and together they have jumped their way to the top. And the youngest sons, Anthony and Thibault, are following in the footsteps of their father and brothers, working all together under Ludo and Veronica’s expert and attentive eyes.

“We live Horses”

“Horses are our love and life. Our horses deserve, and receive, the best, most loving and attentive care. We have an eye for horses with potential. We train and care for them as top-level athletes. This is exactly what they are. We treasure our competition partners. Some even stay in our stables throughout their entire careers. Their reward? A lifetime of love, with dignity in their retirement. Close to us, on the family domain,” as one can read on the Stal Philippaerts website (philippaerts.be)

Oliver and Nicola

“I think above all that the Riesenbeck European Championships were a very important moment for Nicola and myself – says Olivier - especially because it was the first time that Nicola and I travelled together to a Senior Championship. We had been selected together a few times as Juniors and Young Riders, but as Seniors this was the first time. And to then win a medal right away at a Championship with your brother on the same team is something very unique. It’s very difficult because we all know it’s a very long road to the top, because you need the right horse, you need good owners, you need to be able to qualify for the Championships and then when the time comes, still perform well. I mean, it’s so important because it’s very difficult. And then to win a medal together…Well I think it’s something we’ll never forget. It was the result of years of work and good horse management. Getting to this level has taken us years and years and years of practice and hard work and finding the right horses, the right training method. And furthermore, as I said, to be able to ride in the European Championship as brothers on the same team was very difficult, because one might have been the reserve rider or I might have been the one on the team and not Nicola or perhaps not have the right horses. So having all these different factors in place to make sure it happened at the right moment was very difficult.

And then we are twins which made it even more special, so it’s definitely something we’ll never forget.”

Ludo, the ‘Maestro’

Ludo has been the guiding light for the young Philippaerts ever since they were children and continues to be one. “Our Dad has been there all his life from when we were very little growing up on ponies, then Juniors, Young Riders, always trying to make sure we had the right horses, the right training system, the right facilities – continues Olivier - So, I think that for him too it was a huge accomplishment to have seen us both on that podium. I think he is extremely proud and it’s something I think he will always be proud of because he has ridden in so many Championships all his life and never won a team medal. So for us to be there together on that podium was something that made him very happy indeed”.

Blue Diamond V’T Ruytershof

Olivier’s top horse, Blue Diamond V’T Ruytershof, is an important stallion. His sire is Plot Blue and his dam Diamanthina is a full sister to Emerald.

“The stallion’s bloodline is very, very, good, because his sire was Plot Blue and we’ve had a few of Plot Blue’ offspring, all very good, and his dam Diamanthina, a full sister to Emerald, also jumped very well herself. All her offspring have done well, so the horse I have has an excellent bloodline. Blue Diamond V’T Ruytershof. At the beginning of 2021 the first show we competed in was in Doha with the Global Champions Tour Grand Prix, that was the first time he jumped a 5* show. That was only few months before the European Championship, so everything moved a little bit quickly for the horse and, when I rode in the European Championships, I was aware that it was very important to give him more experience as I believe he is going to be very good. Things did not go as planned during the first two days, but then of course on the last day it was a great feeling to jump a very important clear round at that moment, because in the end it was with that clear round we were guaranteed a medal, so it made a huge difference for us. Of course I was extremely happy about that. The horse has a great, great mentality, he is very calm, very brave and always jumps willingly. He is very careful, very scopey. I think he has everything he needs to become a very good horse. The only thing he needs now is a little more experience. He always wants to go and always tries his best and I truly think he is going to be an excellent horse.”

Horses at the Philippaerts’ stables

There are many horses with an excellent ancestry in the Philippaerts stables and among them also many stallions. But how important is genealogy when one chooses a horse?

 “The way I look at it, I look at the horse and then I see how it goes. I am aware that bloodlines say a lot about the sire and the dam as well as their offspring, but in the end the most important thing is to look at the horse: I believe that although bloodlines are certainly important, in my opinion they are not incredibly significant either.

We normally work with strings of horses and I have about 10 on my list, which also includes young horses as well as older ones and we try to develop them and bring them to the top level. That is more or less what we do.

Nicola and I work together, I mean we train together at the same place, we jump together. We all also might have our own ideas about our training, but we certainly also train all together, we watch each other ride, so basically it’s the same system for both my brother and myself. Sometime Nicola and I swap horses when training at home, but not often. I mean we try to have the best horse with the right rider, so of course if at times a horse is sold or injured, we try to make sure that everyone has a horse to go to shows with. Of course with four or five riders it is very difficult to find enough horses to jump at this level, but so far I think we have managed quite well.”

Good management

“I think management is key to a lot of success. I believe it’s very important for horses that travel a lot to be put out in paddocks, to hack out in the forest. They actually are created to be outside, so I don’t believe they have to work hard every day, but rather that they need to move and just being taken out of their stables is the most important thing. Some people say that horses cannot be put out in a field and I think that keeping them indoors is the worst thing you can do. I think they have to go out and this also keeps them mentally very fit which I think is also very important.

The 5* Grand Prix horses jump in so many shows that they don’t need to jump much at home anymore, because with all that jumping they have so much experience. At home I just try to keep things simple and keep them fit”.

Looking forward to Herning 2022

“I definitely plan to build up my horse up for the 2022 World Equestrian Games, I think Blue Diamond V’T Ruytershof is really is the right horse, if he just gains a bit more experience he is going to be very, very good I think, I would really like to take him to that level because I think he really will become a good championship horse”.


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