THE DRAMA OF THE DUTCH NATURE RESERVE OOSTVAARDERSPLASSEN
ANNEMIEKE AND CYNTHIA, TWO WOMEN WITH GUTS AND DETERMINATION!
Do I yet again have to write a blog about the Dutch 'wilderness' project Oostvaardersplassen, after my two previous Dutch blogs about the same subject? Yes, I think so, more than 3000 animals starved to death, or shot during the process of starvation, during this winter, is horrendous and completely unacceptable. This after years of overpopulation through cruel management of a few ecologists who, under supervision of ecologist Frans Vera, dreamed up a plan to recreate ‘wilderness’ on 56 squared kilometers of wet polderland, which failed its purpose for agriculture.
Do I always agree with how everyone wants to solve it? No, but I am allowed my own opinion.
Do I find Annemieke and Cynthia two cool women with a lot of guts and determination? Yes, absolutely.
Do I think that wild ponies should be petted? No, they are wild and should remain so.
Do I think that the charity and Facebook page ‘Annemieke and Cynthia’ have achieved a lot? Yes, respect.
COMMITMENT AND GRIT
I think that through their Facebook page 'Cynthia and Annemieke', and through their efforts and endless commitment, the Netherlands, including the people who have other hobbies than horse riding, has finally woken up. Nobody is anymore able to ignore the drama of the Oostvaardersplassen. Annemieke and Cynthia really have gone ‘the whole hog’ to get national, even international attention.
I see it on my timeline from all kinds of countries. Germany, England, America and Italy, just to name a few.
SILENT MARCH AND CROSSES
Yet another demonstration with slow-moving and honking cars and a 'silent march' at the local council with even a man on his knees begging for change. A minute of silence with flowers and crosses at the Oostvaardersplassen. Extreme? Yes. Tasteless? To be honest, those crosses and a minute's silence belong to something completely different for me, but that probably has to do with my age. Effective? Yes.
It is also an extreme and more than tasteless situation, there in the Oostvaarderplassen. So, you can expect that kind of an emotional reaction, even if it is not your type of reaction.
123,000 SIGNATURES TO THE DUTCH GOVERNMENT
This is also the opinion of Dutch biologist Patrick van Veen, who today offers his petition for a policy change in this so-called 'wilderness' with no fewer than 123,000 signatures to the Dutch government in The Hague. He would not participate in those demonstrations himself, he says in a local newspaper, but he does understand the reaction of the protesters. The fact that he actually mentions them, perhaps not their names but certainly their actions, says enough about how broad the range of the charity ‘Annemieke and Cynthia’ has become.
Because of this biologist with his ‘quiet diplomacy’, 123,000 signatures have now arrived in The Hague. Not someone from the horse world - very important, because the non-horse-loving people sometimes see us as a weird breed- but someone who understands people like Annemieke, Cynthia and their 50,000 followers, and that is what it's all about. It is really on the move, this protest. It is finally starting to become an unstoppable and a growing wave, which is what is so badly needed to halt this gruesome project.
Maybe our Dutch Minister Carola Schouten, who has done absolutely nothing, will finally stop looking the other way.
THE GRASS IS GETTING GREENER, THE URGENCY EVEN GREATER
And Annemieke and Cynthia are right. Especially now, now that the green on the Oostvaardersplassen is breaking through again and the urgency seems to be less, we have got to continue. Because with this management it will happen again, and again, and again...
Meanwhile, and with perfect timing, the media campaign has begun, and all followers and generous donors can now actually see the results of their pennies.
An advertisement in one of the bigger national newspapers and soon a commercial on TV.
THE LAST SHOT
The last shot is probably not yet fired, but there is movement. And much of that due to the huge amount of work from Annemieke and Cynthia. So, hats off and keep up the good work!
Oh, and by the way, the more followers, the better, even though we may not always agree together, together we are a lot stronger and that is what it's all about right now.
So, join the Facebook page ‘Annemieke en Cynthia’. Sign the petition of Patrick van Veen which is on my timeline and help the Netherlands to soon be able to face the rest of the world without feeling deeply ashamed of themselves. Thanks to all who care.
Top picture: the start of the media campaign in one of the dutch national newspapers.
Bottom: Annemieke and Cynthia at the fence where the animals wait in desperation for some food.
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I FOUND A YOUNG HORSEMAN FROM CORNWALL IN GELDERLAND
ADAM ELLERY WILL BE THERE, DIRECTLY
When I moved to Cornwall, some thirty years ago, it took some doing to find a decent warmblood. If I saw one, its back was too long, the legs were crooked, or an ugly Roman nose was spoiling the good bits.
This has changed quite impressively in the last ten or so years and Adam Ellery is one of the horsemen in Cornwall who made that happen. I have known Adam for quite some time. Other than his talent as a trainer he was also known for stretching the word 'directly' into unknown territory.
Example, I once stood with my horsebox at a horse show somewhere in Devon, becoming quite worked up, wondering whether Adam would actually turn up to jump my horse in a class which had already started. Adam drove into the lorry park in a most relaxed way, just in time to do a quick pop over a practice jump, proceeding to do, of course, an impeccable clear round. What on earth was I worried about...
NOT AFRAID TO TAKE A RISK OR TWO
These days Adam is running his business Westcountry Sports Horses and very successfully indeed. His guts to look across borders and make contacts in my home country, the Netherlands, has helped him to not only buy, but also breed some very good stock. Also, nearly not a weekend passes without a great bunch of pictures and a write-up on Facebook about yet again a successful show, often with three or more horses.
And that is for someone who once seemed to mostly prefer to spend his time in the hunting field with a horse on a long rein no mean achievement. The fact that Adam doesn't mind taking a risk here and there seems to work in his advantage.
THE SCHENNINK YARD IN GELDERLAND
And then, just before my visit to my old stomping grounds in Gelderland, my friend Elze called to say that during her weekly training session in the yard of Henny Schennink she had met a young guy from Cornwall. His name was Harvey and he was the son of a pig farmer, show jumper. Well, I did not need long to work out whose son this was.
When I contacted Adam he told me that he knew Henny from having gone there to buy horses.
So, when I was there, I thought it would be fun to pay a visit to the Schennink yard and meet this young Cornishman. Hopefully useful for my blog for Dutch equine magazine the 'Hoefslag'.
Unfortunately, Henny himself was in Bulgaria for business and his partner, dressage rider Karin Petterson, was in India for clinics. But Henny was kind enough to not mind me visiting young Harvey who was holding the fort.
There are great plans for the Schennink yard. A facelift is on the agenda. When my friend and I drove up I did have to think of my old lorry, of which my husband always said, 'it only matters what's in it.'
Harvey just finished riding his first horse of the day and as he was getting the horse ready to bring back to its stable we chatted about what had brought him here.
‘THEY TREAT ME LIKE A SON’
All on his own this young lad, eighteen years old, was running the show there for a few days. The responsibility for some twenty horses. We chatted along as Harvey was saddling his next ride. He told me that he learned a lot and felt very much at home. 'They treat me like a son'.
Although he had to work hard, he was chuffed to bits that Henny trusted him sufficiently to keep the place going in his absence. Harvey felt he was in the Mecca of the horse world, with most horse shows within only an hour of driving distance. That in comparison to Cornwall where endless hours were spent behind the wheel in order to compete.
IN DAD'S SHADOW
Harvey is very happy with the amount of good horses he gets to ride. Possibly the chance to take part in Young Riders competitions. This was one of the reasons why it was good to leave Cornwall. 'I wouldn't consider myself shy of confidence, but I knew: if I stay at home I will never get the best horses. They go to my dad and I understand why, but that and wanting different experiences was a good reason to move here.'
Also, He learns a lot from Henny and with that a different approach which makes him more flexible in his training. 'Dad always says, you place the horse until two strides before the jump. after that it needs to learn to work it out for itself. Henny wants me to place them right up to the jump.' I recognized that immediately; Dutch style, this is how I was brought up.
Also his flatwork is going to another level. It was lovely to watch Harvey school his next horse, whereas he was still quietly continuing our conversation. How natural he worked on the inside track in nice straight lines, adding some circles and the odd leg yield here and there in a very natural and systematic way.
TIME WILL TELL...
What will Harvey do next? Time will tell. For now, he is in the right place at the right time. For Henny Schennink this could be a perfect solution to run his yard at a different level. If Harvey takes after his father (possibly with a slightly better watch!) Henny has found the young man who is able to give is horses the training and education they need to be sold with confidence, which gives Henny more time and flexibility to focus on that side of the business.
For as long as Harvey feels he is appreciated for his efforts and gets the support and education he needs, he is in the right place at the right time.
THE 'ELLERY GRIN'
When I was ready to leave, I asked Harvey to wait for me to translate the Dutch blog for the Dutch website into English for my own site, rather than use Google Translate, because it does some funny things with language. ‘No, I understand, I tried that for my French exam in school’, he said with the typical 'Ellery grin' on his face.
Oh, and by the way, the trade is going both ways. Henny has also come to Cornwall to buy a horse of Adam; a Dutch horse…
Top picture: Adam Ellery on the mare Fairway. Breeding: Baldwin B (Burggraaf) x Faram (Aram)
Two middle pictures: Harvey holding the fort at the Schennink yard
Bottom: Harvey Ellery jumping an approved stallion (Quidam de Revel X Carentino)
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About Liz Barclay
Her love for horses together with her dedication made her into the trainer and dressage rider she is, today. She is versatile and inventive and likes a challenge; whether it is a technical training question, a confidence issue or a problem involving the management of the horse or pony.
THE FARMER, THE COAL MERCHANT, THE BAKER...
My book 'THE FARMER, THE COAL MERCHANT, THE BAKER...' with the subtitle 'A Personal Impression of the Development of the Gelderland Horse World' has been received with more enthusiasm than I possibly could have hoped for. Click here to contact me and I will send you a copy. £7.50 + postage, or click here to order from Amazon.