Wilton Porter: “In Europe, horse training is central, in America it is group training …”

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 Asker.

“I have high hopes for the outdoors in Gelderland,” said Wilton Porter. “I have two very nice eight year old horses and my Grand Prix Vigakata (Vigo d’Arsouilles x Stakkato) horse. This ten year old chestnut mare has been in very good shape recently and I think the great facilities from the Lichtenvoorde Equestrian Center, Including the nice sandy track, it fits her 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 my first time winning a Grand Prix above the two-star level, so it was really special.”

Florida

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,” Wilton replies. “I think the show in Florida is great and we have our own place with stables there.” “But there are a lot of big competitions out there. It only makes sense to go there if you have a group of horses that you can really compete with at that level. If not, it’s better to stay in Europe and let the horses go.” This was the case last winter, my Grand Prix horse came back after the injury and my eight year old horses needed to gain experience. That’s why we went to the Sunshine Tour in Spain.”

Differences between European and American competitions

Wilton sees significant differences between competitions in Europe and America. “First of all, 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, also the trainer and the owner of the horse. The training of the horse is the most important Here so that the horse can eventually sell well or can perform well at a high level. In the entire training process, a relatively small prize money can be a win-win.”

“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.”

Enjoy simple things

Because of the many months that the Porter brothers spend in the Netherlands each year, they feel increasingly Dutch. “Over the past few 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 am no longer American, but a Dutchman has become American,” laughs Wilton.

“Over the past six years we have made a great group of friends with many guys from our area with whom we do typical Dutch things. On a competition-free week we go for a beer in the city, we enjoy King’s Day regularly and go to a football match at FC Twente” Simple things like this are so cute 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 totally straightforward,” Wilton says. “We’ve always been.” “We have the personality type that suits the Dutch. They are certainly direct, but they are also friendly. The Dutch know very well what they like and don’t like and my brother and I are alike.”

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.” What is his favorite Dutch food? “Yeah, frikandel after all,” he laughs. “I can get three a week from that.”

Source: Gelderland outdoor press release

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