In every professional rider’s career, there’s that one special horse that helps turn their dreams into a reality—a standout among all other mounts that is unique to their journey. That special horse for Olivier Philippaerts has been the gray stallion, H&M Cabrio Van De Heffinck, known as “Cabrio,” around the yard.
Together for nine years, Philippaerts will retire Cabrio at Jumping Mechelen held from December 27th to December 30th.
Olivier and his twin brother, Nicola, were born natural horseman, and closely following the footsteps of the legendary Belgian show jumper, and their father, Ludo Philippaerts. With the help of Cabrio, the 24-year-old rider has already proven to be a force to be reckoned with on the elite circuit for years to come.
Philippaerts’ father, Ludo, acquired Cabrio as a 4-year-old from the Van De Heffinck breeder and Olivier took over the reins when Cabrio turned six; in that way you could say Philippaerts and Cabrio grew up together. As if they were made for each other, the pair’s performances grew louder and louder as they stepped up from the junior level to the senior level. In 2011, the duo won the Team Gold Medal at the European Young Rider Championships, followed by a 5th place finish at the Senior Belgium Championships, which led to their first Nations Cup appearance that year.
Their big “break” came in 2012 when they were named to Team Belgium for the Nations Cup in Aachen. As the youngest rider in Aachen, Philippaerts and Cabrio produced the only clear round in the Nations Cup for the Belgians—at the time, Philippaerts was only 19 years old, and Cabrio was just ten.
The duo continued their dominating streak and travelled to London 2012 as the Reserve combination for the Belgian Olympic Team. However, the moment that capped off their tremendous year was when they topped a veteran field of Olympic Champions and World Cup finalists to take top honors in the coveted CN International Grand Prix at the Spruce Meadows Masters—making Philippaerts the youngest rider ever to do so.
“A horse like him, when you take them to Aachen or Spruce Meadows, is a horse that would enter those rings and grow ten centimeters,” Philippaerts reflects. “He was made for big grass arenas. I’ll miss him at those big shows.”
When asked what he’ll miss most about the gray stallion, Philippaerts says he’ll miss everything.
“Cabrio is a very particular horse and isn’t the easiest one to ride, but he’ll always be one of my favorite horses,” explains Philippaerts. “He’s done a lot for me and it’s time to give him the time that he deserves—he’s an extraordinary horse.”
Cabrio was retired in a special ceremony on Wendesday, December 27, 2017 at Jumping Mechelen CSI5*-W in Mechelen, Belgium. Now 15 years old, Cabrio will start a new chapter of his life as a breeding stallion. We hope to see Cabrio’s offspring succeed in the years to come.