Monday, July 28, 2008

Get to Know: Holland's Willeke van Uden, Dressage Groom

Anky van Grunsven and her horse Salinero, shown here in the flight stall, are the co-favorites to win the gold medal in dressage.

No, you won't find Willeke's name on the list of team members for Holland, but you won't find a more important asset to that team. Willeke is the groom for Olympic gold medal (dressage) winner Anky van Grunsven, and she is just settling in at the Sha Tin stables with her horse, Salinero. Anky has already been training!

Willeke is a student at Duerne in Holland. Duerne is a combination of the Kentucky Horse Park and an Ivy League University. It is the official Dutch horse industry school for professional training. Willeke works for and with Anky as part of her education.

Willeke is Anky's "travel" groom and is an expert in getting the horses from point a to point b and keeping them happy and healthy while they are at a show far from home.

Willeke was in Anky's horse van when it crashed in England back in the spring. No one except the van was hurt in that accident, but two of  the world's most valuable dressage horses had to off-loaded on a highway in the middle of the night, put up at a vet's office for the night, and be re-loaded into a replacement van in the morning.

Willeke wrote home to Anky's web site:

‘It goes really well with me and the horses! The flight went very well and the horses are all healthy. They like their stalls in Hong Kong. You can feel the weather here but after all we heard, it seems not as hard as I expected. This afternoon I sat down in the shade and you sweat while doing nothing. Salli is super fit and Anky trained him a little already. The coming days he goes back to normal training but so far so good!"

Meanwhile, Anky writes, "Salli is realy fit after the flight. It all went very well and within two hours after the arrival at Hong Kong airport the horses stood in their Olympic stalls. There is a constant temperature of 23 degrees in the stable. All facilities are very nice and I rode in the airconditioned indoor arena for a while and I rode outside. The temperature is quite okay and it all looks very nice!"

Anky's fans will be able to keep  up with her activities in Holland via reports on her website,, and through the Dutch media. I think it is great that Anky gives so much "air time" to her grooms.

Click here to watch a beautiful mini-documentary showing Anky, Willeke and Salinero working together at home. The narration is in Dutch, but don't let that prevent you from enjoying the photography!

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