Dinja van Liere's riding career began like many others. At the age of six, she rode a pony for the first time, and ever since then, her dream has been to ride professionally. What sets van Liere's career apart from most is her path to championships and the speed at which she has become one of the world's top dressage riders.
It was the pony Flits that ignited the horse love for the Dutch girl. Flits was a show jumping pony, and initially, van Liere's dream was to have a career in show jumping. Dressage was, in her words, boring for her. The situation changed later when her second pony was difficult to train, and van Liere's jumping teacher advised her to train in dressage to gain better control over the pony. This process led to success in dressage competitions, and this success created a newfound passion for dressage in van Liere.
Despite her success in pony competitions and her dream of riding professionally, her ambition was not to compete in the biggest equestrian events but rather to train and ride young horses. She did this as her full-time job for several years while also competing in competitions for young horses, where she won a bronze medal at the World Championships in 2012 with Capri Sonne Jr. Three years later, van Liere decided to become self-employed as a rider, a decision that led to her partnership with two horses that changed her life and career: Hermès and Haute Couture.
In the beginning, van Liere's focus as a self-employed rider remained the same: to train and ride young horses. Over time, the stallion Hermès has proven to be one of the most talented dressage horses active today. He and van Liere first made their mark in 2018 when they won bronze at the World Championships for 6-year-old horses. In the following three years, the pair slowly improved together until their breakthrough came in 2021. Grand Prix debut, a third-place finish at their first Dutch Championships, and a Nations Cup gold medal with the Netherlands are some of the accomplishments the duo achieved in their first few months at the highest level. This time also included Hermès and van Liere's selection for the Dutch team at the Tokyo Olympics that same year. However, things began to go less smoothly for the pair from there.
In the lead-up to the Olympics, van Liere and the Dutch Equestrian Federation fought a battle to bring Hermès to Tokyo. To make a complicated story short, the battle was about the rules for registering horses for the Olympics. For a horse to be able to participate, its ownership must be of the same nationality as its rider. Hermès is owned by Dutchman Joop van Uytert, who was registered as German in the FEI's database. Since the error was not corrected before the applicable deadline, van Liere had to go to the Olympics as a reserve with Haute Couture instead. This change had an impact on how the rest of the year unfolded for van Liere, Hermès, and Haute Couture. Due to form, Haute Couture was selected for the European Championships a few weeks after the Olympics instead of Hermès. There, the pair finished fifth with Holland, and they were the highest-ranked Dutch pair in the individual competitions, finishing ninth and tenth in the Grand Prix Special and Grand Prix Freestyle, respectively.
In 2022, Hermès once again became van Liere's preferred horse for major competitions. Throughout the year, the duo went from impressive debutants to being among the absolute best in their sport. International Grand Prix triumphs and a first-place finish at the Dutch Championships led up to their first test at the World Championships. In Herning, Denmark, they exceeded all expectations in the individual competition and won two bronze medals.
The next big goal for van Liere is the Olympics in Paris next year, where she hopes and plans to compete with Hermes. In the meantime, she continues to improve her partnership with her star horse and train new young horses to the top. Earlier this year, she also followed her childhood dream and made her official debut in show jumping, as seen on Instagram.
We have only seen the beginning of what is looking to be a wonderful sports career. Dinja van Liere is a prime example of how equestrian sport is something special, as you can make your professional debut at the age of 30 and still reach the top if you keep your dream alive. If she continues the development that she has shown in the last two years, there are almost no limits to the great success van Liere can achieve in the future.