At Home with Anky van Grunsven

Follow Dressage Today's Technical Editor Beth Baumert as she tours the stables of Olympic dressage champion Anky van Grunsven.

Participants in the October 2006 Global Dressage Forum, held in Holland, were invited to tour the stables of Anky can Grunsven and Sjef Janssen in nearby Erp.

Anky has her own barn on the van Grusven family farm with six stalls, a tack room, a feed room and a grooming station with one of those heating elements they don’t sell in the United States because they operate on the standard European 220 volts. Nearby is a hot walker. The primary indoor arena used by Anky has a viewing area on the second floor–about one-third of which appears to be a giant playpen for her son Yannick.

Anky is not the only one in the van Grunsven family with a yen for horses. Her father, two brothers and sister-in-law (the only other dressage rider) keep the family farm growing. Clusters of European-style brick barns apparently sprouted over the years in organized fashion to handle the current population of 30 horses. The brothers are interested in jumping so there’s an indoor arena and accompanying stalls for them.

The barn for boarders and students in training has a large garage area with a station for the blacksmith and space for the horse van, which is about 40 feet long. This barn also has a longeing area where Krack C was showing off when the group from the Global Dressage Forum arrived. Krack C was Anky’s alternate horse for the 2006 World Equestrian Games. The 14-year-old stallion is not as fabulous as his superstar neighbor, the Hannoverian gelding Salinero, but “He’s a very nice horse,” says Anky. “Most people would be proud to have him.”

Horse care is a primary concern. The horses are fed breakfast daily at 7 a.m., and each horse is taken out of his stall three times a day. There is lots of paperwork in this barn, including a master list with complete directions for the care of every horse, and a book that keeps track of blacksmith visits, the biannual dentist check up and the veterinary check ups that are done every six or eight weeks.

Anky’s horses are hand-walked twice daily, but because that is so labor-intensive, some of the others go in the hotwalker. The horses are ridden six days a week and then longed and hand-grazed on the seventh. Some of them are turned out. The important senior citizens are all out enjoying their retirements at pasture. Notably, the famous Bonfire, who will be 24 years old in March, was grazing next to his pony. He is still ridden several times a week in what Anky considers “senior gymnastics.”

Anky’s first horse, Prisco, competed until he was 21 and will be 33 in January 2007. Joker is also worthy of a paddock. He was intended to be her next Grand Prix horse after Bonfire but he injured himself. Joker, Bonfire and Salinero are Anky’s favorites.

Although Anky won’t quit riding, she does see an end in sight for her competitive career. “If you have two great Olympic horses as I have had in your life, you are lucky. I don’t expect there to be a third one,” she says.

Although the farm has facilities for breeding, Anky thinks of breeding as gambling. “Besides,” she says, “It takes too long.” She likes to find a 5- or a 6-year-old that is ready to go, likes his work and won’t buck her off.

Anky’s riding day begins at 9 a.m. She rides her three competition Grand Prix horses (Krack C, Salinero and Painted Black) and also a small tour horse. She teaches in the afternoon and leaves plenty of time to enjoy her son. She and husband-coach Sjef Janssen are expecting a daughter in February 2007.

After our tour, we stopped in the center of the town of Erp, where a life-sized bronze statue of the great Bonfire graces the town green.

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