On a wave of success

The last few months have been a vertical take-off for Dinja van Liere. However, in spite of all her victories she hasn’t lost her down-to-earthness. We visited the amiable dressage rider in the Netherlands.

Small windmills line the sides of the roads, to the right and the left horses, cows and now and again a few sheep are munching away at the grass. Houses that are so typically Dutch are stood in between, each of them with its own charm. Two, three long bends to go then the narrow path reveals a clear view of the destination. A pretty house with light-coloured bricks and large, white muntin windows is the first thing that catches the eye. A filigree gate opens slowly allowing access to the spacious equestrian yard. A picturesque dressage school lies here in the shade of high trees, behind it horses are dozing in the sun, to the right a huge door leads to the stables. For a brief moment the morning idyll is interrupted by loud barking. Two dogs rush out. A hasty, friendly greeting then the two Old English bulldogs head off for the indoor school again, where they drape themselves across the entrance in a laid-back fashion. “Princess” and “Monster” never leave the side of their owner for long. And she is in the middle of her training.


With immense cadence and expression the impressive black horse is dancing through the arena. On his back a tall, slim rider, her long blonde hair bobbing around under her helmet to the rhythm of the passage. It is Dinja van Liere, 32 years old, the shooting star of the Dutch dressage scene. She found a home here in Uden, at the beautiful yard of Reesink Horses two and a half years ago – less than 20 metres away from her horses. “I love living so close to the horses,” says Dinja van Liere, while dismounting and leading one of her aspiring young horses out of the indoor school. Lowlands. A Millennium son. A stallion. The Dutch rider prefers them. “Stallions have a huge ego,” she notes. “I like that.”


Even if precisely that ego sometimes presents her with special challenges in the course of schooling the horses. As with Hermes, for example. Her top horse. The horse who carried her to two bronze medals at the World Championships in Herning last year. “At first, he found the simple things difficult and the hard things easy,” explains Dinja van Liere, who today can justifiably claim that meanwhile she and the Easy Game son have melted together into one. To train with her number one, she travels the 45 minutes there and back to Heerewaarden every day, to the yard of Joop van Uytert, the owner of the 11-year-old dressage star. The Dutch rider doesn’t mind making this effort at all: “Hermes is very special.” While saying it, her glance falls on an impressive collage that decorates the entrance to the riding arena. It shows impressions from the CHIO Aachen 2021. Impressions, which recall that unforgettable moment, when the pair were celebrated as the sensational winners of the Prize of Family Tesch. “That was an incredible feeling,” the 32-year-old remembers. A smile flits across her face. Her eyes sparkle. “Every rider dreams of riding to victory in Aachen. I will never forget that day,” she says as she walks down the stable aisle with a head collar in her hand and her cheeks slightly flushed with pride.


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Visiting Dinja van Liere and her stallions

As she approaches, a friendly, albeit shy whinnying sound comes from one of the stables on the right-hand side. Hartsuijker, her second iron in the fire on the international Grand Prix circuit, loves it when his rider turns her attentions to him. As an exception to her rule, Hartsuijker is a gelding. But for Dinja van Liere the impressive chestnut is nevertheless very special. “He is not a show man like the stallions, he is more of an introvert,” is how she describes the Johnson son, who aged eleven dances from top performance to top performance. “He has such a huge heart and simply always wants to do everything right.” Dinja van Liere has been riding the KWPN gelding since 2015, when he was just a three year-old.


Schooling young horses through to Grand Prix level is precisely what fascinates the Dutch rider about her work. “I love experiencing how the horses learn something new every day,” she says. “This process is what enables the bond between the horse and rider to grow over the years.” And it is a process that is different for every horse. That is why Dinja van Liere listens to each of her horses individually – and finds the right way for each single one of them. Here, the Reining Champion, Rieky Young, assists the Dutch dressage star, who herself likes to jump now and again. The two of them have been a well-versed – albeit it at the first glance rather unusual – team for four years. After all, on the surface the aesthetics of reining and dressage seem to be worlds apart. But Dinja van Liere explains why her system works: “It is about reducing things down to the essentials,” she says. “Whether reining or dressage, the principle is the same: One wants the horse to be light in the hand and for it to react lightly to the leg.” And the concept of focusing precisely on these basics during one’s training works – with their many victories of the past months the pair have impressively demonstrated this.


And Dinja van Liere has plenty of goals for the current season too. She has dreams. One of them is to read her name on the winners’ board at the CHIO Aachen one day. She already came very close in 2021 after coming second in the Deutsche Bank Prize. “It would be really cool, if I succeed in doing so one day,” says the Dutch rider, whose aim is to make it onto the team for the European Championships in Riesenbeck in 2023. But it is still a long way to go yet and the 32- year-old prefers to take it slowly, step by step, from show to show. And regardless of how each single show turns out, she always returns to Uden afterwards. To her idyllic home. Surrounded by her horses – and by “Princess” and “Monster”.