Since the latter part of the eighties, Jos Lansink has been a recurring face at championships. Starting in 1990 he competed at six consecutive World Championships where he won two bronze team medals. In 2002 he rode Caridor Z under the Spanish sun of Vejer de la Frontera, where he also managed to come ninth individually. Eight years later he rode Valentina van ‘t Heike during the championship in Kentucky. One of the most memorable moments of his career, however, were the World Equestrian Games of 2006 in Aachen. Jos rode his grey stallion Cumano to the top of the individual ranking to win the gold medal (watch video here).
On top of this already impressive record, he was a part of no less than seven consecutive Olympic Games since 1988, which resulted in a gold team medal in 1992 in the saddle of Egano.
Unfortunately the legendary rider had to forfeit the 2016 Games in Rio due to health reasons which put a hold on his sporting career. Nowadays Jos Lansink is still active in the sport as a trainer and in the business of horse trading. We had the opportunity to speak to him about his amazing career and the current state of our sport.
How did you experience this past year?
It has been odd. Of course we all want to compete in as many shows as possible, unfortunately almost all of the two-star competitions are crowded. I am lucky to have two competition riders who have no problems getting into two-star shows, however we experience more difficulty trying to get into the five-star shows. This means our high-level horses actually don’t get to compete often enough. That isn’t a problem for the horses that turn eight or nine years old, however for the horses turning 11, 12 or 13 it can have adverse effects from a business perspective.
Since 1988 you have been a part of seven consecutive Olympic Games for both the Dutch and the Belgian team, however you had to forfeit the 2016 Games due to illness. How has your career been affected by your illness?
My illness [prostate cancer] has brought a halt to my competition career. But most of all I am happy that I was diagnosed when I was and that I followed my gut to drop out of the Olympics for the operation. If I hadn’t done that, chances are, I wouldn’t be around to tell the tale.
In 2004 you launched Jos Lansink Horses which seems to now focus more on the business and training
It was a very natural transition. I worked for Zangersheide for eight years and when that came to an end, I told my wife that I had decided to rent some stables and work for myself. Although I still received some job offers, I declined them all. My idea was to start a small-scale operation so I rented six stables, but somehow that got out of hand. Then in 2008 I built my own yard. I am not even sure how many horses we have currently, but sometimes I think I may have too many.
In your opinion, how has our sport evolved in the past couple of years?
Our sport as a whole has become stronger, the amount of five-star shows has almost doubled in 20 years. That can be a positive aspect, but I do think that riders have to continue to be “horsemen” and not solely competition-oriented. For some riders, competitions seem to be their only driving force, often at the expense of the horse. When riders are so focused on jumping ranking classes, it takes a toll on the welfare of the horse. Unfortunately when the horse has decided it has had enough, it is too late to find a solution. That’s the type of problem you should strive to prevent, not cure. On the other hand, with correct management, the increase of competitions gives riders the chance to ride more shows. It would be wrong to throw all riders into the same pot.
How do you expect our sport to grow in the future?
I can’t imagine the jumps getting higher or wider. In my opinion, that isn’t necessary, nor do I think it is possible. Horses nowadays already compete a lot and we must centre around the welfare of the horse. Whether the jumps are 1.40m or 1.60m, there is always one combination that sticks out to beat the others, that’s what we need to focus on.
In my opinion, our sport is doing well. The last couple of years, innovations have been made to make obstacles lighter. I don’t think we are able to take that any further. Some fences fall to the ground after a mere gust of wind, it mustn’t become more extreme than that. If it does, people will do more intensive training at home. To be able to touch a pole without it plummeting to the ground, it keeps the suspense.
Which horse has had the biggest influence on your career?
If I can only name one horse, I would be forgetting an awful lot. I have been very lucky with the horses that I have had the chance to ride throughout my career. Felix, Libero H, Egano, Carthago Z, Zandor Z, Easy Jumper, Cumano, Valentina van ’t Heike, Caridor Z are horses with which I have been able to reach the highest level, competing in championships, nations cups and world cups. All these horses combined shaped my career into what it is today. I also pride myself in the fact that I was able to ride each of these horses during several competition seasons, all due to good management.
Management seems to be of great importance to you. Do you find there is a lack in good management in our sport nowadays?
I do. I think that a lot of riders would ride differently if they would have to fund their own career and/or horses. Nowadays, some riders ride so fast, it becomes ruthless. They want to win at the cost of everything else, even if it harmed horses.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
For 14 years, I had a great time working for Hans Horn. The following 8 years, I spent in Zangersheide which was equally pleasant. Those two experiences gave me the opportunity to work as if I was self-employed, I really learnt to be independent. So when I finally started my own company, I had a head start.
Check out Jos Lansink Stables: