De Vries Family: a Star is great, but pleasure comes first

Ytsen en Hilda de Vries met Elyte Dame Ster (Alwin 469) (Foto: Simone te Selle)

In the early 90s Ytsen de Vries saw the then 4-year-old Tuke Dame S. Star (Feitse 293) at the inspection. A little later this mare from a strong line came up for sale. De Vries built his ‘Dame’ line with her and the stallions from his stud can be recognised by the suffix Wâldman.

Strong breeding line

Tuke Dame comes from a strong breeding line of pedigree 15. Her dam is Walsdame S. Star Preferent (Tsjalling 235) and her 3rd dam is Geke Star Preferent (Ritske 202), one of two Preferent daughters out of Tilana Model Preferent (Age 168). Via daughter Ellie Star Preferent (Tsjalling 235), this Tilana is the granddam of Gaije 295. Walsdame S. brought three Preferent daughters, one of them Sjiekedame S. Model Preferent Performance (Feitse 293) who was sold on to Jaap van der Meulen. Van der Meulen bred three Model mares out of Sjiekedame. Tuke Dame went to Ytsen and Hilda de Vries’s yard in Drogeham who at that time, had no knowledge whatsoever of Friesian horses. ‘We learned it over time.’
In 1996 Tuke Dame gave birth to a filly foal by Lute 304: Nobele Dame Y. who doesn’t have the looks to make it to Star, but who did become Preferent on her first four offspring, all by Jasper 366, which is proof of the breeding power of this line.

Wind in my hair

Dressage is not what keeps Ytsen (57) ticking. ‘After five minutes in the ring I’m fed up already. The wind in my hair on a Sunday afternoon hack, that’s what I enjoy doing.’ So that’s exactly why Ytsen has Friesian horses, for pleasure. ‘My horses do have a mind of their own though, and they can be a bit nippy too. But they are very well-behaved. One step forward, one step backward; I can steer them with millimetre precision. Naturally, that’s all a matter of teaching them manners but they also need to be willing to do it.’ Idylle-Dame is the dam of Bryske-Dame Model AAA (Jerke 434), who was sold at the foal auction in Joure. The de Vries Family was there too. ‘It was a day out for us. Jaap van der Meulen coordinated the bidding and Bryske-Dame turned out to be the auction topper. The new owners have done all they can to make Bryske sparkle. She got 89.5 points for her IBOP and was Breeding Day Champion in Hilvarenbeek. If Bryske Dame had stayed with us she would never have got so far. Then she would have gone for a ride in the woods with Ytsen on Sunday afternoons and would have given birth to a foal, but she would probably not have made it to Model.’

Pleasant contact manners

For Ytsen de Vries it’s important that his broodmares become Star and potential Preferent status is obviously very valuable, but for him it’s character that weighs heavily:
‘My horses must have pleasant contact manners. Many of my mares have become Star with a first premium and some are Preliminary Crown. That’s as far as it goes for me. If they have to complete a test they need to be put in training with a professional. The way I see it now, that’s not necessary. It’s the same with the Sport predicate. Putting a horse in training comes with a lot of extra costs. And for my weekly hack a horse doesn’t need a Sport predicate. For me, a pleasant, cooperative character comes first. Most Friesian horses are bought by recreational riders and so they must be easy to handle.’
Right now it’s the 4-year-old first premium Star mare Elyte Dame (Alwin 469) who is Ytsen’s mount for his refreshing rides on the extensive sand tracks around Drogeham. Introducing to the saddle is done by Ytsen himself, with the assistance of his daughter Jeanette. This year Elyte will probably be put in foal by Beant 517: ‘I often choose the stallions based on feelings. And I’m rather critical about my own mares, I never go to inspections thinking they will become Star just like that. A Star declaration is fantastic, it’s another stone to continue building our breeding, but pleasure comes top of the list. When I’m finished tacking up Elyte on Sunday afternoon and I’m in the saddle she always turns her head around like she wants to say, ‘Well, ready to go?’ I love that. Last year the breeding chapter had organised a hack and I had signed up. When I arrived at the agreed meeting point every one asked where my carriage was. They hadn’t expected me to join and take to the saddle. But driving is not my cup of tea. So I went for a hack with ten girls. It was great fun.’