In mid-September, Maat was elected Equestrian Entrepreneur of the Year 2022 at a horse event in Wejfwijsen in the northern Netherlands. Received an accompanying HIP Award from Today Chair Anne-Marie Van Gaal. The jury praised Maat for his company, which focuses on sustainability and animal welfare and has every facility imaginable for clients and horses.
The company is located in Utrechtse Heuvelrug. Next to the gigantic house of Geere-Stein is the equestrian complex which exactly matches the house in terms of architectural style.
All have classic look and meeting room furniture in English country house style. “We paid attention to that,” laughs Maat during a tour. “You regularly see those unattractive canteens with a system ceiling, when there is so much to be made of them.”
We strive for animal welfare and this includes reporting animal diseases
Grif admits to the entrepreneur that it might be easier to talk if you build an entirely new stable complex from the ground up. We started construction in 2010 and the complex was completed in 2012. We took a good look around, also outside, and found it beautiful and useful. The Bartels Academy in Hooge Mierde has been a good source of inspiration. Our barn is not only similar to hers in architectural style, but it is also where we came up with the idea of different barn units.
From the front you can already see the ends of four separate stable buildings, each containing ten chests, two washing places and a stoop. These are connected at right angles to a long stable driveway in the back. This overlooks a central covered area with a horse walk and lunge circuit. Forage stores, feeding rooms and rehabilitation rooms are located on both sides.
Behind the central part is a covered inner courtyard of 20 x 60 metres, and the meeting room annexe overlooks the foyer. There is a balcony outside with an outdoor playground next to it.
“The four units not only make the building massive, but are also easy to insulate if necessary,” explains Maat. This was only necessary once, when it was found that a pregnant mare had a miscarriage type of infectious rhino-pneumonia in horses.
Insulating a single stable building has proven effective in preventing further contamination. He thinks it is normal for Maat to be upfront and honest about the outbreak. As a member of the Board of Directors for the Equine Breeding Division and the Equine Quality and Welfare Mark, I have an exemplary role. We strive for animal welfare and this includes animal disease reporting. The horse sector needs to be more active in this area, specifically to prevent the government from imposing rules on us.
For the same reason, Maat works in the I&R Working Group of the Equine Sector Council to properly identify and register equids in the Netherlands. This European obligation to properly record the whereabouts of horses at an address with a unique company number has been in effect since April 2021. In practice, it appears that this is not always done correctly. Sometimes the entrepreneur notices that people do not even know that this must be done.
Maat’s extensive managerial commitment was one of the reasons for his election as the Best Equestrian Entrepreneur of 2022. Another reason is that he is also making an effort to take care of the animal in his own company. With the results, because Geere-Stein was the first company in the Netherlands to acquire Quality Mark Horse and Welfare Plus from Sectorraad Paarden. “This means that you meet the highest level of horse care requirements,” the entrepreneur explains.
We look at all kinds of points. Think of boxes of a certain size, enough roughage several times a day, good bedding, intercourse between horses, good condition, care of hooves etc. For the added sign, grazing in particular makes the difference. Horses here can go out for at least four hours a day.
The horses on the farm already look healthy and satisfied. Smart solutions, like the slow feeders in every box, contribute to this. “See,” Maat points to a circular mesh rack with a hinged closing panel in one of the bins, “hay is put here in the morning and afternoon. This means that the horses have access to bran all the time and there is much less wastage.
If guest house customers wish, they can fill the slow feeder again in the evening. As an entrepreneur, Maat has come up with a great way to buy back slow feeders. “Every new pension customer pays a contribution for its use.”
No expense has been spared on stable equipment. The front walls of the stables are made of heavy-duty quality stainless steel and can be completely turned over, so that the box can be disposed of with a shovel. The feeders are also made of stainless steel. “This will never rust and it will still look good,” says Maat, who is responsible for all the machinery work at Pensionstal & Stud Farm Geere-Stein.
The businessman is originally a farmer. Together with his father, he ran an agricultural and arable-contracting company in De Kwakel, North Holland. In the late 90’s, I was ready for a new challenge and bought this company. It was a former dairy farm. Initially I focused mainly on dressage horses and the training and sport of young horses by the jockey, he explains.
It soon proved difficult to keep a good rider tied to the stable. That is why Maat decided to offer storage for retirement. There is a great demand for this in the region. In addition, it is a great area for outdoor riding. So all 65 stables are full. Forty stables in the new building, twenty stalls in the former free stall stable and five stables in a smaller separate stable building. There is also a breeding barn with large communal boxes. There are incubators from the entrepreneur, because the breeding branch remained.
Maat actually raised Welsh ponies with his father. In 1995 he bought his first dressage mare. With this Nekara (by Romancier) he built a dressage line, from which come successful sport and watch horses. The icing on the cake is the impression of a KWPN-certified stallion (by Don Schufro), who competes in the Grand Prix dressage under Diederik van Silfhout.
Maat breeds with four tame mares and works with stallion owner Joop van Uytert. We are moving towards the highest possible level. Impression has already managed to do this, says the breeder proudly.
In his upbringing, Maat likes to use German stallions due to the exchange of blood. He also likes to look beyond that as an entrepreneur. “You have to move with the times, be innovative and expand your horizons.” An example of differentiation is the provision of meeting space, horse training, and horse rehabilitation/sports support, called HydroHorses, in Geere-Stein.
In the near future, Maat would like to install solar panels on the roofs. Because of rising energy prices and contributing to the energy transition. “But then sustainably, that’s where the whole company is built.” Because of the rising costs of energy, bedding, and fodder, he really had to raise housing prices. It’s annoying, but there’s no other way. Another challenge in this day and age is the individuals. It is not easy to find qualified and motivated employees.
rank a lot
With so many pension clients, in-house companies, and employees, there is always something to arrange. Maat’s wife Liesbeth van Assenbergh, who herself drives (slide) yachts for the Royal Dutch Fishermen’s Association, is greatly assisted. In addition to her work outside the home, she takes care of administration and personnel management.
The 2022 Equestrian Entrepreneur HIP Award winning Horse Management Package is available here. “In addition to billing, you can also use this to inform pension clients of services and book a rush circuit or driveway,” Maat says. He also got advice from Abab and Vitafloor for horses.
Matthijs Maat owns a pension and farmstead in Dorn, Utrecht. His plot of land covers 13 hectares. In addition, he has 9 hectares in Huis Doorn for coarse supply, 65 pension funds, indoor and outdoor tracks with all possible facilities, meeting site, aquatic training center, breeding stable and 3.5 fixed FTE staff.