This summer Jacques Poppen pretty much won everything there is to win in para-driving. The absolute pinnacle was becoming both Individual World Champion and with the National Team. To top things off Ermelo brought him the Dutch Title Singles Dressage.
The sky is the limit for Jacques Poppen and his team. Seven times they have taken part in the World Championships Para-driving and so far Jacques has accumulated fourteen medals, seven times Gold, five times Silver and twice a Bronze one.
Let’s first go back to how this horsey career for the now 50-year-old man from Groningen began in 2004. Since a car accident in 1995 Jacques is wheelchair-bound because of complete paraplegia and therefore totally dependent on the people around him. Everything was so different up to the moment of the accident. ‘I was in the catering industry and being in charge of my own theatre café was leading a dynamic life.’
Contrary to his wife Eva, who grew up with ponies and horses and is into dressage, Jacques was not interested in this sport. ‘It wasn’t until 2004, after Eva had adjusted a wagon so that I could get on board with my wheelchair and when I was allowed to hold the reins for a short while out hacking, that I got the bug.’
With horses Jacques has regained the feeling of freedom. ‘I was able to get to places again where I hadn’t been for ten years. That’s how horses gave me back part of my old life. That’s when I realised how wonderful it is when a horse listens to you and does what you ask him to do. From that moment I understood what people mean when they talk about the horse bug. I wanted a horse of my own and started taking driving lessons right away. After just two years I won Silver at the WC with our Friesian mare Nienke.’
Jacques Poppen shares the success with his team. ‘Without my wife Eva and Arjan de Vries I cannot achieve anything at all. Everything concerning the horses must be shipshape.’ Along with the sport Jacques has his own communication agency in Groningen. Jacques is a member of the A-Team Para Equestrian Driving. After the successes of the past summer we have set the next goal in consultation with team coach Ad Aarts. ‘We feel that we have achieved every possible goal in para-driving. Now we have decided to raise the bar a bit more. Our next goal is to make the team in the regular sport within two years.’
Big success in the sport came at the World Championships of 2006 with an individual Silver medal and a Bronze medal with the Dutch team. Two years later Jacques won his first World Title with Nienke fan de Garelanden (Atse 342). This year was a superb year with Horses2fly Anniek (Haitse 425, Studbook name Anniek van de Oosterzanden)). Jacques won the final of the KNHS Witte van Moort Para Driving Trophy and there was individual and team Gold during the WC in Kronenberg. ‘For Anniek the WC was only her seventh competition, which made it even more exciting for us.’
Eva Poppen discloses how she got hold of Horses2fly Anniek. ‘In 2008 we became World Champion Singles with Nienke, who was twelve at the time, but we didn’t succeed in breeding a foal from her. Then we spotted Vemke, a pregnant mare with the same keen attitude to work as Nienke. So we bought filly Anniek in 2008, even before she was born.’ Meanwhile Anniek’s dam Vemke van ’t Geerland (Sjaard 320) has also taken up residence in the Poppen yard, together with her sons by Tsjalle 454 and Elias 494. If everything goes to plan they can now breed a successor for Anniek out of the now 20-year-old Vemke. ‘Anniek is one in a thousand. She isn´t afraid of anything and has an enormous willingness to work.’