Dutch Marc Houtzager was successful in Salzburg (AUT), last January. Dutch press agency ANP asked the TeamNL rider what it is like to be a jumper in times of Corona. For the first time in over three months, Houtzager took part in a major international equestrian event at Salzburg.
It took some getting used to, says Marc. “We look twice at even the smallest fences, so to speak. I miss the rhythm and so do my horses. We can train the horses at home, but at some point you start to wonder what you are doing it for, if there are no competitions. I know that there are people with bigger problems, but mentally it is quite difficult. I miss the competition, the advice from other riders. No athlete can do without competition.”
Houtzager continues; “Participating in competitions under these conditions is becoming increasingly difficult. We can still transport the horses by truck, but traveling by plane is becoming more and more difficult for us. It is testing, testing, testing and making detours to get to the destination. It almost costs more money than it brings in.”
As a professional, Houtzager lives off prize money and trade. For a year now there has been almost no income. “We keep it up, but it is not easy. We have bought horses that have to be sold at some point. A certain age represents a certain value. It is all at a standstill now. With the first Corona wave, I was like, ‘Oh, it’s nice and quiet, not having to go out every week’. But that thought has disappeared.”
Tokyo is the goal for the coming summer. Houtzager wants to compete at the Olympics for the third time after 2008 and 2012. “But whether it will all work out nobody knows. If we knew, for example, that we could start again in April, we could make plans. But we do not know anything for sure. It is completely irresponsible to send a horse into the Olympic ring without proper preparation. We need at least five or six top competitions to get used to the level. Now it is not certain that there will be even one.”
Indoor Brabant awaits at the beginning of March. “Indoor Brabant was cancelled last year at the last minute and it is fantastic that they have managed to organise the event again now. Despite all the financial setbacks. This is very good news. These are the competitions that horse and rider really need.”
In Salzburg, it became clear to him that it is possible to have competitions in Corona times. “On my horse. I am really 1,5m away from everyone. There was enough space everywhere to keep a distance, everyone wore a mouth mask. Of course, there was no public. Horse riding is definitely not a contact sport. It would be great if we had more opportunities to start and I am sure we can handle that very responsibly. As far as I know there has never been an outbreak of the virus at a show.”
Photo by Hippo Foto