Emile Hendrix: "No more staff, but a nice, busy schedule. I like that."

Emile Hendrix: "No more staff, but a nice, busy schedule. I like that."

Just like last year, Indoor Friesland is looking back this year with various past winners of the Grand Prix of Indoor Friesland on their great achievement. This time, they are going back to 1996, the year when the Frisian Eleven Cities Tour (Friesche Elfstedentocht) was canceled at the last moment. Our event even has a category named after the famous 200-kilometer-long ice-skating tour. But 1996 was also the year when a top rider, who had come all the way from Limburg to Leeuwarden, won the Grand Prix.

In the same year, he also competed with the same horse in the Atlanta Olympic Games. Furthermore, he participated in various European Championships where he achieved excellent results. He also became the Dutch Champion twice. And that's just talking about sports. Our conversation partner from the Limburg town of Baarlo was and still is involved in many other things.

Busy schedule

We start the conversation by asking Emile how he's doing and how he spends his days nowadays. Emile says, "I'm doing well. I handed over the business to our son Timothy, but I'm still somewhat involved. Together with my brother Paul, I still have a trading company where we buy and sell horses. I also coach a few people and ride one or two horses of clients every day. Mostly dressage, but I also jump occasionally. No more employees, but still quite busy, and I enjoy it."

In the fast lane

"I don't remember much about my victory in the Grand Prix at your event. I do remember that it was my first international year with Finesse (by Voltaire) and that everything accelerated with her after that. She came to me at the end of 1995, and our first international competition was in Hannover. I also immediately competed in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. From ZZ show jumping to the Olympics in one year, unbelievable. Besides winning the Grand Prix of Indoor Friesland, I also won in Geneva, Geesteren, and Wiesbaden that year, a fantastic time. By the way, Leeuwarden was the first Grand Prix we won in the Netherlands."

Kip van Krijn and Buiskool Leeuwma

"When I think of Indoor Friesland, I think of the enthusiastic audience. But also the day of the Frisian horses and the arrival. When you arrived, the cattle market had just finished. I will never forget Kip van Krijn. Another name from that time I want to mention is Mr. Buiskool Leeuwma. He was a kind of show director and devoted himself heart and soul to Indoor Friesland. His daughter is still an international show jumping judge."

Rembrandt-like paintings

"Finally, I think of a Rembrandt-like painter who used to have a stand at Indoor Friesland. He made beautiful portraits, and I even had two made of my horses from that time: Optiebeurs Texas and Optiebeurs Decision. I still have them and look at them with great pleasure every day. Of course, I also have fond memories of all the times I got to ride and all the results I achieved, but these things are truly typical of Indoor Friesland."

Lost driver's license

"By the way, I also have a less pleasant memory. At that time, the event also ended on Saturday night. One time, it was really foggy, and we couldn't go home. I was annoyed because the next day, I had a national competition. We left on Sunday morning, with a bit more haste than allowed. On the way, I got pulled over by the police, and I lost my driver's license for three months."

Not present at Indoor Friesland 2022

"Unfortunately, I couldn't attend your comeback last year. I wanted to, as I know your board member Waling and his wife well. I served on the board of the KNHS with his wife Aukje. However, something came up that prevented me from going. Nevertheless, I've only heard positive feedback, and I'm very pleased about that. It's great to see such an event back on the map. If it fits into my schedule even a bit, I will definitely come for a day this year. Just for Waling, as I greatly appreciate his dedication."

Career highlights

"My fondest memory of Indoor Friesland is, of course, the reason for your call, that victory in the Grand Prix in 1996. Winning a Grand Prix is always beautiful, and especially in your own country. If I look back on my whole career and have to mention highlights, individually, it would be winning the Grand Prix of Geneva in 1999. As a team, there were three highlights. The first time the Netherlands won in Aken in 1991 was an enormous release of emotions. It felt like we won Wimbledon. I also want to mention the gold team medal in La Baule in 1991 and, finally, the times we won as a team in Rotterdam. Winning a Nations Cup in your own country is also special."


Emile speaks calmly as we know him, but he is clearly enthusiastic as he talks about these beautiful memories. We wonder, after everything he has experienced, does he still have dreams? Emile says, "Not dreams, but wishes. It's a cliché, but I hope my family and I may enjoy many more years in good health. The happiness of our children is also very important to me. I love my family. You can't control it, but health is the most important thing. About the world, I prefer not to say anything; currently, I have many question marks."


Emile has ridden many horses. We are curious to know who his favorite has been over all these years. He answers firmly, "Finesse. She stands head and shoulders above the rest for me. I cannot and do not want to mention any other horse first. I competed with her for the Dutch team for six years. She earned 1.2 million in prize money. She brought me to the fourteenth place in the FEI ranking. So, I find it incredibly sad how she came to her end. Two weeks before her planned farewell at Jumping Indoor Maastricht, she had colic at the competition in Zuid Laren. Very sad; we had hoped for such a beautiful time for her as a broodmare in the pasture. If I can mention another horse, it would be Livius, the horse that took me to the international level in the early 1980s."

Importance of persuasion

"I'd like to conclude by saying that I'm very proud of you for bringing back Indoor Friesland, and I hope you continue to exist for a long time. I also want to say that I hope we are all aware that we need to convince the small group of people who are against equestrian sports that our sport is much more beautiful than they think. This is very challenging, but it has to be done. Equestrian sports are so beautiful, and the connection between human and animal is so special; it must continue to exist!"

Beautiful words, Emile, and beautiful memories. Thank you for your time and this pleasant conversation. We hope you can free up some time in your schedule for the last weekend of October because we would love to welcome you at Indoor Friesland 2023.

Source: Indoor Friesland