Six years ago, American Wilton Porter came to the Netherlands with his brother Lucas to learn from Olympic, world and European champion Jeroen Dobeldam. In the years that followed, young showjumping riders won several Grand Prix races, represented America in national competitions and became fans of Koningsdag, FC Twente and frikandellen. As a Native American, Wilton won the Grand Prix at Outdoor Gelderland in 2017. As a Dutch American, he hopes to repeat the feat this year during the event from June 15-19 at the Lichtenvoorde Equestrian Center in Questionder.
With participants from 16 different countries, Outdoor Gelderland is also very popular all over the world this year. Even a jockey from Thailand provides an exotic twist. America is far away, too, but Wilton Porter is almost home to a racehorse. A few years ago, he and his brother Lucas started the Dutch branch of Sleepy Bee Farm in Wirslo, Twente. Since then, they have already participated in several competitions in Asker.
“I have high expectations from Outdoor Gelderland,” says Wilton Porter. “I have a couple of very nice eight year old horses and my Grand Prix horse Vigakata (Vigo d’Arsouilles x Stakkato). This ten year old chestnut mare has been in very good shape recently and I think the wonderful facilities of the Equestrian Center in Lichtenford, Including a nice sandy track, it will fit in well. So I hope to get a good chance at the Grand Prix on Sunday.”
Wilton still remembers his victory five years ago. Although he had to share the honor with Bart Bills, the win made a deep impression on the 23-year-old rider. “It was the first time I won a Grand Prix above the two-star level, so it was really special.”
In the five years that followed, Wilton and Lucas had success in America and Europe. Until a couple of years ago, it was normal for the Porter family to move to Florida with all the competition horses in the winter and run from Warslow in the summer, and last winter the brothers didn’t ride for the first time at the famous Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington. “Florida is my home. I think the show in Florida is great and we have our own place with stables there,” Wilton answers. “But there are a lot of big matches out there. It only makes sense to go there if you have a group of horses that allow you to really compete at that level. If not, it is better to stay in Europe for more horse training. That was the case in Last winter. My Grand Prix horse came back from injury and my eight-year-old horses had to gain experience. That’s why we went to the Sunshine Tour in Spain.”
Europe and America differences
Wilton sees significant differences between competitions in Europe and America. First, competitions in Europe are much cheaper than competitions in America. The equestrian world is completely different here. In Europe, horses are bred and trained for this sport. Many European jockeys, in addition to the jockey, are also a trainer and owner of horses. Training the horse is most important here so that the horse can eventually sell well or perform well at a high level. There is relatively little prize money to be earned in the entire training process.”
For the hobby of competition
“In America, it is a more training-based industry where coaches have clients who want to compete for their hobby. Arranging all these logistics costs a lot of money, and organizing competitions is very expensive. On the other hand, there are a lot of prize money to be won. More than Europe. But if you want to participate well as a professional in the Winter Equestrian Festival, for example, you need competitive horses. If you don’t have one, you better not go, because you will lose a lot of money.”
More and more Dutch
Because of the many months that the Porter brothers spend in the Netherlands each year, they feel increasingly Dutch. “In recent years, Dutch culture has become very natural to us. We understand a lot about the people and lifestyle and really enjoy it. I would never say I’m no longer American, but I became Dutch American,” Welton laughs.
“Over the past six years we have made a wonderful group of friends with many men from our area with whom we do typical Dutch things. On a competition-free week we go for a beer in the city, enjoy King’s Day and regularly go to a football match at FC Twente. These kinds of simple things are very nice and meaningful. The Netherlands is a very close-knit society. Here we have learned to enjoy simple things.”
Messrs. Porter can handle the straightforward Dutch tendency, which abroad is often known for its rudeness. “My brother and I are also quite straightforward,” Wilton says. “We have the kind of personality that suits the Dutch. They are certainly direct, but also friendly. The Dutch know very well what they like and don’t like, and my brother and I are the same.”
Speaking Dutch is not going well for Wilton so far. “I can understand Dutch and say some simple things, but I can’t hold a conversation yet. I think I will eventually learn it, but the problem is that everyone here speaks good English.” And his favorite Dutch food? “Yeah, frikandel after all,” he laughs. “I can get three a week from that.”
Source: press release