YouTube-hit: Friesian horses

With over 180,000 followers on YouTube, Yvonne Horjus and her horses of fan ‘e Goëngamieden have a successful reality soap. ‘And every day about 200 new followers’, says Yvonne, who has worked for breeder Rein Brandsma for twenty-five years already. ‘We breed utility horses, they have to be able to do everything.’

Even without a solid marketing plan, Friesian Horses has become a success on social media. About ten years ago, for the sheer fun of it, Yvonne Horjus posted a few films on YouTube about the fan ‘e Goëngamieden Friesian horses, Rein Brandsma’s breeding stud where she’s worked for twenty-five years. ‘One thing led to another’, she says in a down-to-earth manner, but at the same time with a sense of amazement that so many people follow the ups and downs of their yard. ‘Two years ago I really put my soul into it and now we have around 180,000 followers and new videos are posted online virtually every day. By now it has become a day’s job and thanks to the income generated by YouTube it’s fair to say that I have made it my profession’, relates the 37-year-old who has worked with horses her whole life. She started out with Brandsma, gathered experience at Stud farm fan de ‘Kromme Jelte’ owned by the Jorritsma Family, worked for Wijdewormer Stables, Ted Kop Jansen, Sibma Stables and schooled horses for the ABFP Tests. ‘However, I got rheumatism and working with the horses was no longer possible.’ She looked for other employment and in 2010 returned to Rein Brandsma to ride horses on a recreational basis once she had managed to get her rheumatism complaints under control. ‘Not ten horses every day like I was used to, but one or two is no problem.’ This way Yvonne rode Crown mare Uniek fan ‘e Goëngamieden Sport (Ulbert 390 x Brandus 345) to the Sport predicate a few years ago. She competes Reintje fan ‘e Goëngamieden in Z dressage. ‘Recently we completed an IBOP with 79 points.’

Good utility horse

The real estate agent has been breeding Friesian horses for nearly thirty years. ‘For me the horses are a hobby and it makes me feel a little bit like a farmer. ‘The first and last thing I do every day is making a round of all horses’, says the 59-year-old who dons his riding cap every Saturday to go for a ride under saddle or with the carriage together with his team of grooms. ‘We want a utility horse that can work under saddle as well as in-harness. Pleasure is priority number one’, is how Rein summarises the aim of his breeding. Some five to ten foals are born each year. The aim is simply to breed a good utility horse, a true Friesian with a good character and lots of feathers. They have to be well-behaved, well-behaved, well-behaved’, he reiterates.
He also notices that the focus in breeding has shifted more to sport. ‘Using a whip becomes less and less necessary for the horses. But sport is not part of our breeding goal.’ Predicates are. ‘We have moved more and more from ordinary horses to full paper’, says Rein, who also makes the most of his business instinct when it comes to horses. Last year a horse went to Canada and his breeding products can be found in America and Mexico as well.
Making stallion choices is an elaborate process and Yvonne always makes a list of favourites for each mare. ‘We then make a choice which we can both fully support.’ Rein mostly goes by his instincts, Yvonne has compiled a useful computer programme for the perfect match.
The breeding values of their mares as well as those of the potential stallions are uploaded in Excel. ‘We’re not chasing the champions’, both Rein and Yvonne point out. ‘We look for different bloodlines and preferably low-kinship stallions.’ The Excel data base then calculates the breeding value of the foal. ‘That gives us an immediate insight into which stallion can compensate the mare’s shortcomings.’ She can also use the system to add more or less weight to the various characteristics. ‘And carrier status too can be included. We only have one mare who is a carrier and obviously we don’t want to pair her to another carrier.’ She’d much rather only use stallions that are not carriers of hereditary disorders. ‘But it’s still too early to reject using carriers altogether. The number of stud stallions is still too small and anyway, that would again lead to inbreeding- and/or kinship percentages that are too high and it would also mean excluding some very good stallions.’

30-40% viewers in America

But let’s return to the YouTube films that each easily provide some fifteen to thirty minutes of enjoyment. ‘We have a huge group of followers who every day on the dot of 4 o’clock are all waiting for the new video’, says the vlogger who herself is a mother of two young children. The videos are viewed by people from all over the world. Between 30 to 40% of viewers are in America, with just 3 to 4% the group of Dutch viewers is rather limited. ‘I already have two moderators to deal with all the reactions’, Yvonne says. ‘One in America and one in Amsterdam. They know the horses almost better than I do.’ The subjects are about everyday life at the horse farm. The most common things for horsemen and -women are very special for the followers of Friesian Horses, #followtheherd. Most popular are the births of foals and changing pastures of (young) stock, but Yvonne also makes instructive videos. About the equine dentist and the farrier. ‘Most followers don’t have their own horses’, she knows. ‘But they do harbour that dream of owning a horse of their own at some time in the future.’ Actually, the videos may well be compared to a reality soap, without sophisticated recording techniques and – which is undoubtedly the charm of it – without experienced actors/actresses but instead horses that are called by their names, which makes the viewers feel connected to the horse family. ‘For them it feels a little bit like they are horse owners too.’