Anyone watching Harrie Smolders and Emerald N.O.P. lay down clear round after clear round to place 2nd in the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final in Gothenburg, Sweden this past March would have never known it was the fierce chestnut stallion’s first championship appearance.
The strong focus and stunning athleticism that convinced Smolders early on in their partnership of his potential, are just a few of the factors contributing to the 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood’s (Diamant De Semilly X Carthago) banner year. Fresh off a weekend of clear rounds at 2016 CHIO Rotterdam, where Emerald N.O.P. and Smolders were crucial members of the winning Dutch team during the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup, we caught up with Smolders to ask him his thoughts on the past, present and future of Emerald N.O.P. With his overall consistency in competition over the past two years and now a winning component for The Netherlands, the stallion has more than proven his capability to compete among the world’s best in this Olympic year, and has convinced Smolders—now more than ever—that Emerald is ready for Rio.
- Emerald sort of came ‘through the back door’. I had never seen him but we’re always looking for horses and my team [Eurohorse/Axel Verlooy] went ahead and bought him after his breeder Bert Van den Brandenr brought him to me to try.
- He was only six at the time and had only lightly competed in stallion competitions but I was completely convinced after the first ride.
- His first FEI placing was at Lanaken in 2010, where he placed 2nd in the 6-Year-Old Final. Even then he was something special.
- He actually has a very nice personality. He also knows when a ride is important. He comes into the ring and gets twice as big and almost tries too hard in the first round.
- You don’t often find a horse with his looks, style and technique. I think that makes him very special. His personality and attitude affects and attracts many people; he really is the PR for our stable.
- In his home program he gets ridden twice a day. He’ll be lunged in the morning or go for a ride in the forest around the property and in the afternoon he’ll get worked by me or if I’m away by another trusted rider.
- It’s always difficult to look to the future but for sure we hope we can go to Rio. He is 12 this year and in another 4 years he will be 16, so I think this is the only real chance he will have to make the Olympics. It would be sad for his career and a pity for a horse with his attitude and possibilities to never be on an Olympic podium.
- After World Cup Finals his breeding demand has been booming. We’re starting to see some of his first offspring of 7-8 year-olds come through the sport. If they perform well on an international podium, then hopefully his demand as a stallion will continue to rise.
- Naturally I would like to compete at another World Cup Final with him, but first we’re working hard to get him to Rio.