Interview can be freely copied – photos: copyright: Dirk Caremans – Hippofoto.be
Stephan Conter: “LRV is an essential link in the success of Belgian horses”
On Wednesday 19 January 2021, the sponsorship contract between Stephex Group and the Landelijke Rijverenigingen vzw was signed in the offices of the Stephex Group in Meise-Wolvertem. Stephan Conter and Tom Kerkhofs have been speaking to LRV President, Georges Van Keerberghen, and LRV Director, Maude De Smedt, for some time. The fact that an agreement has finally been reached for the next three years makes both LRV and Team Stephex very satisfied. “LRV is an essential link in our industry. Without that link we would have to industrialize our business and that simply won’t work. Because educating and training horses and riders is about moments, emotions, about dealing with horses. We are one of the biggest stables in the world, but that is largely thanks to Belgian breeding and the LRV operation. Thanks to the people who started it forty, fifty years ago. We wouldn’t be here today without them! ” opens Stephen.
Stephan: LRV is the start of our sport. Where amateurs, breeders, (young) horses start and where the new talents are made. Where horses and riders can learn and discover a lot. And where we also discover horses. I thought it was very important to support LRV, because without LRV we lose a link in our industry. An essential link. Belgium would not be the same strong brand in the international horse world without LRV. I am very convinced of that. They are the roots of our success. I am very fond of LRV and I am genuinely happy about this partnership, even to the extent that we could potentially think about organizing future national LRV tournaments to take place here at our domain. This is certainly something to discuss further.
Georges: As chairman of LRV, I also have a good feeling about this agreement. Because it is about much more than just the financial. We can complement each other. An organization such as LRV is of course looking for partners. We have our traditional partners from the Boerenbond family, but we also look for other partners for whom our work could be interesting. LRV does not focus so much on the professional circuit, but what typifies LRV is our passion for horses. The emotions. We think that LRV has a certain audience who are interested in products such as the Stephex Horsetrucks and 2 Horses Trucks. That’s why we’ve been in touch with Tom and Stephan for a while. In that sense, we are glad that we have now succeeded. On the other hand, I also think that the trading stable Stephex likes to scout for young talent at LRV tournaments. If you see how many top horses come from LRV, that is also a valuable.
Stephan: A large part of our purchases are made in the LRV operation. We constantly have our scouts at the various competitions to discover and follow up the talents – I am talking about both horses and riders here. I think LRV is a very good system to start up the horses. It’s not expensive, accessible, and close to home. LRV is a good example for other organisations. Horses do not have to be trained in an ‘international context’ to grow into top horses. It’s a good way to do this sport.
Tom: That is why LRV is so interesting as an official partner of ‘Stephex Horsetrucks’. LRV starts with ponies. People start with a small trailer. This is often followed by a two-horse trailer, followed by a small truck. Our 2 Horses Trucks are handy. Everybody can drive them. It’s easier than driving a trailer, you don’t need a special driver’s license for it. And it is nice for us when we see our small trucks return to the various competitions. That also gives us visibility. And who knows, maybe a big truck will follow after the small one… (smile). LRV is still a large organization with many members. There are undoubtedly people who are interested in our products.
Georges: What is also typical for LRV are the grass pitches on which the majority of the tournaments take place. Which you may have less with other organizations.
Stephan: We are really in favor of grass! Our matches will also take place on grass. I am convinced that there are far fewer injuries on grassy soils. I am not alone in that opinion, my colleague Jan Tops has also put his main arena back on grass. I think we will go back to grass more and more. It has everything to do with physics. As a mass of 600kg, after a high jump, at a high speed in the jump-off, comes into the landing and receives a lot of resistance in the landing, which is the case on sand, then the risk of injury on Geopad floors is higher than when a horse on a good grass bottom jumps and can slide a little bit in the landing.
Maude: However, our grass track tournaments are under pressure. There is the difficult legislation but also the idea that riding on Geopad slopes would be better…
Stephan: (running) We’ve all dreamed of bottoms where we hear our horses galloping, and tapping in the push-off. Me too. I’ll admit that. But in the meantime I have come to the realization that grass surfaces are actually better for the horses. I ask my riders to ride on grass as much as possible. The Brussels Stephex Masters will also take place on grass. It’s time we change the mindset a little bit. If the slopes are big enough, you can also change of course the course a bit, even in bad weather. The course builders play an important role in this.
Maude: In every LRV province there will be Stephex obstacles and banners at the various competitions. Our new partner will of course be very visible in the slopes of the Riding Clubs. We are also going to provide extra visibility at the provincial and national championships of LRV. Naturally, the Stephex products receive the necessary attention on our website, social media and in our magazines. These are in the first place – the Horsetrucks and 2 Horses Trucks; but the Stephex stallions also seem interesting to our breeding members.
Stephan: We are now starting to see the Tobago and Halifax offspring in the sport and recently at the BWP auction. That confirms what we expected from them. That they are top stallions. The moment our stallions retire from the sport, we will give those stallions a serious push so that we can still enjoy their offspring. We also want to give that back to the Belgian breeders. In Belgium we have improved enormously in the last fifty years in the quality of our show jumping horses. We are by far (!) the best in the whole world when it comes to show jumping horses. It all starts with LRV and BWP. With people with a passion for horses and breeding. With competitions for young horses and with tournaments and local competitions. That makes us great. That position is assured for the next fifteen years, but we also have to look further and therefore make sure that we continue to keep very good stallions. We must ensure that we continue to breed with top stallions. Don’t let the other countries take it away from us. Because we are unique in the world.
Georges: I’m very happy to hear that from you Stephan. We look forward to welcoming you to the National LRV Indoor Championships, during the first weekend of March at the Ruiterschool in Oud-Heverlee. Hopefully that can be done again with an audience and in a typical LRV atmosphere.
More top horses than residents live in the Flemish Brabant hamlet of Meuzegem. Top show jumpers are given luxurious accommodation on the immense domain of Stephan Conter in Meise. Competition, passion and excellence are the keywords of Stephex Stables. The Stephex Group is one of the major European producers of horse trucks and also presents itself as an equestrian brand, dealer in top sport horses, constructor of motorhomes and organizer of two five-star jumping competitions. One in Knokke at the beginning of June and one in Wolvertem at the end of August.
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