Harrie Smolders is a Dutch show jumper who has been considered one of the absolute best in the sport for over 10 years. He began riding at the age of eight in his hometown of Lage-Mierde when his sister outgrew her pony. Smolders won national championships in dressage, eventing, and show jumping as a pony rider before deciding to focus on a career in show jumping. He started working for former Dutch Olympic show jumper and national coach Johan Heins when he was 18 years old.
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The Road to International Recognition
Smolders won bronze at the European Championships for Young Riders with the Netherlands in 2001 and made his international debut as a senior rider the same year. He quickly gained a reputation as a great talent and has been riding for Alex Verlooys Euro-Horse team since 2002, competing in many international championships. In 2016, he achieved his biggest individual success to date with Emerald, finishing as the runner-up at the World Cup Final in Gothenburg. Smolders won the Longines Global Champions Tour title in 2017, becoming the first Dutch rider to do so. He also won the LGCT Grand Prix of Paris that year and finished second in the overall LGCT standings. In 2018, he became the number one ranked show jumper on the Longines FEI list. He remained in the top spot for eight months and is currently ranked fourth on the list.
Smolders is known for his ability to develop and find horses with great potential. At the beginning of his professional career, he had great success training horses for other riders. Perhaps the most successful of Smolders’ former horses is Authentic, who won two Olympic gold medals with American rider Beezie Madden. After his own breakthrough as a rider, Smolders himself has had the opportunity to ride the most talented horses he trains. Smolders has had several successful partnerships with talented horses, one of which is Emerald. With Emerald, Smolders achieved several great results, including silver medals at the World Cup Final in Gothenburg in 2016. Smolders has called Emerald “a very special horse.” In 2019, Smolders announced that Emerald would retire from the sport and focus on breeding. Emerald’s successful offspring, including Igor, have continued his sporting legacy by winning gold and bronze at the European Championships.
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New horses and new successes
Although it was sad to retire Emerald, it didn’t take long for Smolders to enjoy great results with other horses. He has since formed a partnership with Emerald’s brother Don VHP Z and Monaco. With Don, Smolders won individual silver medals at the European Championships in 2017. In recent years, his most recognized horse has been Monaco. The pair has achieved several victories and high placings, including at last year’s World Championships in Herning, and in 2022, Monaco was the highest-ranked show jumping horse in the world according to WBFSH (The World Breeding Federation for Sports Horses).
Harrie Smolders is a true master of his craft, with a talent for discovering and developing exceptional horses. His dedication and passion for the sport have earned him international acclaim and made him a role model for riders around the world. Smolders’ accomplishments on and off the field demonstrate that his success is not just measured by his wins, but also by his commitment to family, charity, and the next generation of riders. With his impressive track record and unwavering determination, there is no doubt that Harrie Smolders will continue to make an indelible mark on the equestrian world for years to come.
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