Gert-Jan Bruggink: "Doing chores is like riding a course, you have to be very precise..."

Gert-Jan Bruggink: "Doing chores is like riding a course, you have to be very precise..."

When he drives from his hometown to the CHIO Rotterdam grounds, he feels like a real outsider. The Ajax bus stayed at his stable several times, while he is a fan of another soccer club, FC Twente and he compares chores to riding a course. We have heard far too little from this super-fast rider in recent years, so it was high time to give Gert Jan Bruggink a call!

"Yesterday exactly at 4:15 p.m. I raised a bottle of champagne, because at that time it was exactly four years since I broke my hip falling off a horse and stayed on that same horse at that time four years later. But no kidding, it's not like it used to be. I really only want to ride four to five horses a day now, although I'm not quite managing that at the moment. I can still play the game and that makes me happy, I didn't expect that. I have an artificial hip and a long way to go, but I can enter the ring again.

New beginnings in Riesenbeck

Everything slows down a bit and so I ride a little less, but instead I do other things. Breeding is my wife's hobby and so we breed some foals and train them in the hope that there will be new superstars among them. Actually Pia was going to ride some more competitions, but unfortunately she also fell while the horses were ready to leave for a competition in Riesenbeck. In the meantime I was up and running again and so we suddenly decided that I would take her place. I achieved a few nice results and so the beginning was unexpectedly there again. In the meantime I even won another Grand Prix.

Culture shock

I never went to Rotterdam as a visitor, I immediately joined as a rider. I think it was in 2002 or in 2003, together with my horses Joël, Marome and Lincoln. I remember that I immediately enjoyed myself and that I especially liked the award ceremonies. This because of the kind of prizes they handed out back then, which were antique goodies. Last week, I happened to see them in my mother's closet. If you win, you always like something, but honestly, it was a culture shock for me going there. I had a mountain bike with me to ride from the stable through the woods to the main grounds. Naive as I was, I didn't lock it and my bike got stolen. But I think the Kralingen forest is a special place for a competition in the middle of the city. Partly because of the pancake house "De Big", which I really associate with the CHIO".

Grand Prix 2004

Gert Jan belongs to the select company of seven Dutch riders who were able to win the Grand Prix in Rotterdam since 1948. We asked him about his memories of this. Gert Jan clearly hesitates, but then takes off anyway, choosing his words carefully. Gert Jan: "That was in 2004, a special year, an Olympic year. Everyone wanted to go to Athens. The team was largely known, but not quite yet. Albert Zoer, Jeroen Dubbeldam, Jan Tops and I were in the team for Rotterdam - the one who did best got to go to Aachen as the fifth man. The team from Aachen was also the one who would go to the Olympics. I didn't agree with that. When you ride for the team in your own country, you want to win and this way we were competitors, that was not a pleasant experience. I emerged as the winner of the team and as fifth man, but still the national coach was not sure, he wanted to wait until after the Grand Prix, which I did not really want to ride. After long hesitation I decided to start anyway. The result is known, I won the Grand Prix. Despite or perhaps thanks to a stop at the last obstacle in the show jumping area. The ticket for Aachen and Athens was in, but I didn't have a good feeling about it.

Broken rein in jump-off

A moment I have better memories of was the time I almost won that Grand Prix. That was in 2013 with Dejavu. He was 9 years old and at the beginning of a wonderful career. I really wanted to win again and was well underway, with still a few obstacles to go. However my rein broke. I jumped on and we managed to complete the course. I got a standing ovation from the audience. In 2016 we had the royal couple visit our stables and even they remembered this, very special".

Once a sportsman, always a sportsman

We ask Gert Jan if we will see him again in the Kralingen forest despite taking it a little easier. He hasn't lost his sense of humor: "You also have riders on foot ..... But no kidding, that would be nice after everything that has happened, just for my own feelings after such an abrupt end to a great career. With a homebred horse or another very good horse. Yes, I would love that, once a sportsman, always a sportsman. You don't hear me complaining though, after everything I've been through and being home a little more often is nice too. But in the past I was away from home every weekend ..... Will you celebrate the 75th anniversary in 2024? A nice goal to work towards!


Unfortunately, I don't have a crystal ball and can't look ahead. But I am happy to be able to do everything again, health comes first and satisfaction is the main thing. And satisfied I am. I don't feel disabled, but unfortunately I'm not quite the same. I have an artificial hip and that is still a weak spot I have to take into account".

Furniture family

Gert Jan is riding a little less horses than in the past. We ask him how he fills his days now. Gert Jan: "I like to do odd jobs. I come from a furniture family and in the Corona era I actually picked that up. Then I found out that when doing odd jobs you have to be very precise just like in a track. I mean, if you saw a board wrong, that board is lost and so it is in a course: If you make a mistake, you can't make it right. So with both, you have to be focused from the beginning to the end".

Source: CHIO Rotterdam