Marc Houtzager is one of Holland’s best riders, and with his top horses Sterrehof’s Tamino and Sterrehof’s Opium he is a regular sight when the big occasions are on for the Dutch team. WoSJ sat down to find out more about Marc, his horses and his sponsor Stud Sterrehof. Marc himself has ridden the Olympics, the WEG, the Europeans – you name it. He was also on the Dutch winning team in the Super League in Dublin last year. Not only is Marc a brilliant rider, he is also a fun and easy-to-be-around kind of guy.
Stud Sterrehof – which is Marc’s biggest sponsor – came into the picture around six years ago when they bough Opium together with Marc. They have stayed with Houtzager since and now also own Tamino as well as several good young horses. "Sterrehof is the best sponsor I could have had; they are just super people," Marc says enthusiastic. "They also own some of my girlfriend Julia Kayser’s horses; Valdato and Pherna," he explains.
Opium – the horse that Marc has achieved so much with – is now 15 years old, but has apparently not calmed down by that. The stallion is well known for his sky high bucks, and as Marc puts it "Opium is not the easiest with his bucking, but he’s always fighting for me and I really like him for that. Actually I had an accident with him in Amsterdam because of his bucking; after the jump-off he kicked out and went so high that I fell off between his legs. It was quite dangerous I have to say, but when I was off Opium was very concerned as to where he put his legs – so it could have been much worse if he hadn’t been that aware," Houtzager says before he laughs and continues "The video of it is actually on youtube I think!"
Tamino – Marc’s WEG-partner and a horse that by many other riders is considered to be one of the best in the world – is according to Houtzager "More easy than Opium, and a top quality horse in every way – really nice to ride!" Tamino is currently on a break, but will hopefully be back in the ring soon. "I also have some good younger horses coming up, and I’m very excited about Sterrehof’s Waterloo – an eight year old by Numero Uno," Marc explains about the horse that seems to be very appropriate named as his rider apparently loves ABBA.
The Dutch team has been enjoying a great run of wins lately, and we ask Marc what he thinks is the secret behind the Dutch team’s success. "In Holland we have more and more sponsors who are addressing the importance of keeping the horses in the country. And that is really important for us riders, as we usually have to live from horse dealing in addition to competing to make it all go around. With the sponsors we have in Holland – Eurocommerce, VDL Groep, BMC and Spring Parden Fonds Netherlands, not to forget my own sponsor Sterrehof and Harrie’s sponsor Team Exquis – we have some super people behind us. They are living for the sport, and they keep the horses instead of selling them," Marc says about the sponsors behind horses such as New Orleans, Utascha, Bubalu and Walnut de Muze.
The Dutch team spirit is also something Marc brings to light. "I think we are one of the best countries in the world when it comes to sticking together and backing each other up," he says. "And that’s a real strength for us! This year we are focusing on getting qualified to the Olympics in 2012, so for that reason the Europeans in Madrid will be really important for us. That being said, staying in the Top League is always a big deal," Marc continues on the priorities of the team that currently hold the lead in the prestigious series.
Marc himself plans to ride a few more Top League shows; "Either Falsterbo or Aachen I think, and then there is the Global Champions Tour of course. There are so many shows to choose from now, so you need enough horses to switch them around. I also hope to make it to the Europeans, but we’ll see," the sympathetic Dutch rider finishes off.