On his 36th birthday, Tim Lips will not launch the Army’s Gold Anniversary Edition in Boekelo as Thursday’s favorite; The event in which jockeys compete with one horse in the disciplines of dressage, cross country and jumping.
It will take some time to get used to the lips. In previous years he could always count on a good rating at Twente, this year everything is different. Due to two tragic events, the Breda rider does not currently own a top horse. “It’s never happened to me in my career,” he says at the family business Lips Stables in Breda.
In Boekelo he will partner with Lady Chin van ‘t Moerven Z with whom a Chinese student from Lips participated in the Olympic Games in Tokyo. He is a quality horse and I want to finish as high as possible. But this will be my first race with the lady, so a place on the podium is not realistic. I have been happy for a long time that I can participate in the best competition of the year.
His new status is getting used to the best athlete. For years, he is the son of Olympic event rider Martin (Barcelona 1992) and Grand National runner-up Annette Lips (NK bronze in 1983).
At the age of 19, Tim Lips transitioned from show jumping to an all-encompassing discipline: event organizing. He always had good horses at his disposal and debuted at the 2008 Olympics at the age of 22. Leps was also present four years later in London and at “Rio 2016”. And between that, he won the bronze medal with the Dutch national team during the 2014 World Cup in France and was crowned a national champion four times.
In his last two participations in the army in Boekilo, in 2017 and 2018, he placed second and third. “I’ve had very good years athletically, but things haven’t been going well for a while,” Leps sighs, staring at a beautiful motion picture of himself during the World Cup in Normandy.
The knight of Brabant had to endure one blow after another over the past year and a half. The misery began in February 2020. Shortly before the world was paralyzed by the coronavirus, Leps was in a competition in Spain with his best horse, 14-year-old Pyro. “I noticed Bayrou was not feeling well and when I got home I examined him at a veterinary clinic in Belgium,” Leps recalls. Bayrou had colic (abdominal pain, ed.) but seemed to be improving after a week or two. Unfortunately I was not able to visit it due to Corona restrictions. I saw in a video that Bayrou looked very lively and could go home soon.
After a day everything went wrong. Bayrou’s condition rapidly deteriorated and emergency surgery revealed a ruptured appendix. There was nothing for him but to put him to sleep. Lips: This was very unrealistic. I’ve been bothered by this for months. A lot of people said, “I’m so sorry your horse came so close to the Olympics.” But I didn’t think about games at all. I just mourned the loss of my friend with whom I had shared the joys and sorrows of eight years.
It was ironic that Lips and Bayrou won a starting ticket to the Olympics for the Netherlands. This combination was the leader of the European Olympic standings and was considered a major contender for the Olympic medal. “We were such a duo.”
After Leps dealt with the death of Pyro, he continued his Olympic career with the talented young horse Herbie. “A very inexperienced, meticulous horse with a lot of potential,” says Lips of our 9-year-old Chestnut. After some excellent performances, Herbie finished second in the world ranking of racehorses at the start of this year. Life seemed to smile on the lips again.
And then, at the beginning of June, Max Training, owner of the Herby company and close friend of the Lips family, suddenly passed away. That was a big shock. Max and I had an Olympic dream together: to do the best with Herbie in Tokyo. Two weeks after Trainning died at the age of 75, Leps was scheduled to participate in the crucial Olympic qualification match. “In consultation with the Max family, I was allowed to finish the Olympic track with Herbie and I was very grateful to them for that.”
The match, which was held in Lumölln, Germany, was a huge disappointment for Leps. Twice Herbie refused to jump in the cross-country endurance test six kilometers above natural obstacles. Leps had to give up the fight and was given a second chance in Poland a week later, but Herby also declined. The consequences were dire. No Tokyo, there is no fourth consecutive Olympics for the first rider from Breda.
“Mathematically speaking, this was the biggest disappointment of my career,” says Lips. “But I was particularly sick of not listening to my gut feeling in the lead-up to the important match. After consulting with national coach Andrew Heffernan, I opted to make a small adjustment to the training structure. In hindsight, I think I went too quickly over the tougher obstacles and did damage With Herbie’s confidence. I really blame myself for that. With all my experience, this should never have happened to me. Fortunately, I noticed in Poland that he has a little more confidence. In the long run, Herbie will definitely be fine, and I’m convinced.
For now, the important question is when the Lips can compete with Herby again. Herbie’s future is uncertain due to the death of the horse’s owner. Lips does not hide the fact that he really wants to continue his sports career with the 9-year-old Al-Khid. But as long as there is no clarity, Herbie will remain in the stable.
Lips’ thoughts these days inevitably go back to 2018, the year he last rode the army with his late horse Pyro. After a dressage test and suburban traversal of the Twente bocage scene, the group took the lead two days later. Due to two jump errors on the final day, the Lips had to settle for third. “No doubt I would think a lot about Bairro in Boequillo, but honestly I do the same at home. I still miss him every day.