Interview Bert Wassenaar: Hold on to positive line

Bert Wassenaar

In November Bert Wassenaar took his farewell as Chairman KFPS, a function he has held for six years. ‘It was an intensive period which has also given me a lot of positive energy,’ Wassenaar says when looking back at his time of Chairman.
In 2013 Bert Wassenaar took over the KFPS Chairman´s gavel from Cees Roozemond. ‘As Chairman you represent the Board and are the calling card of the organisation,’ Wassenaar states, who sees how the large public´s interest for the Friesian horse is growing. ‘This huge interest is a luxury problem. We have to stay firmly rooted in the down-to-earth Friesian clay. Preserving this enthusiasm is at the same time also a challenge for the coming years.’

Stimulate breeding

The Long Term Policy Plan for the next five years includes the objective to stimulate breeding. ‘After the economic crisis the number of stud services has risen again to just under 4,000,’ Wassenaar states. ‘But the aim is to realise 4,500 foals. This cannot be achieved by the Board alone, we have to join forces to make it happen. For anyone who breeds foals there is always a moment when the time comes to sell stock. So to keep the breeders keen, trade with foreign countries is essential: ‘We find the basis of the breeding in the Netherlands. For foreign members too it must always be clear where the origin of the Friesian horse lies, which is Friesland with its rich tradition. Breeding in the United States and Canada, and for example Australia, was initiated by emigrated Dutchmen. In those places we now also see younger people who are getting involved in breeding with great enthusiasm.’

Wassenaar, Equerry

Twelve Friesian horses are stabled in the Royal Stables in The Hague, where Bert Wassenaar has been the equerry in charge since 1996. The majority are stallions. ‘That wonderful character of the Friesian horse is something we have to cherish. Friesian horses are more and more competing at high levels in the sport and that requires a more sensitive horse with really quick responses to the aids. Recreational riders however, like easy-going horses for a quiet hack in the woodlands. This creates an area of tension between reliability and willingness to work for which we have to find the right balance. In the past few years we have investigated the ABFP Tests to see how the various personality traits can be scored. In the end probably two personality traits will remain on which horses should be assessed. That is a good development.’

Investing in health

In the last eight years we have taken important steps with respect to health of the Friesian horse. A big leap forward are the DNA Tests that can determine potential carrier status of the dwarfism- and hydrocephaly genes so that risky matches can be avoided. Wassenaar: ‘A lot is being done in the field of health, in cooperation with the Veterinary University of Utrecht. The Board´s angle is to keep investing in this. We have to take good care of our Friesian horse. Measures like stud limits for young stallions were introduced to make sure there is enough outcrossing in the population. It´s essential to keep kinship percentages below one percent. Outcrossing is the central theme that runs through breeding and keeps coming back.’