Two time WEG rider and she is only 26 – Lara De Liedekerke-Meier – 30 Under 30

Lara and her 2014 WEG partner, Ducati Van Den Overdam.

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Lara De Liedekerke-Meier (BEL) is one of the few eventers in the world to have competed at two World Equestrian Games by the age of 26. However, she is incredibly modest about this accomplishment, “First of all, lets say that I may be one of the only riders at this age to do that, but riding for Belgium is easier than France, Germany and some other countries. It is a good accomplishment but it is somewhat easier for me than others. I was lucky enough to have a horse for both games.” Fair enough, but she also has had two top ten finishes at four-stars this year on two different horses. We appreciate her modesty, but Lara is one of the world’s Top 30 Under 30.

Lexington vs Caen
Comparing the last two WEG, Lara takes away better memories from 2010 (Lexington) than 2014 (Caen), despite a much better result at the latter. As 2010 was her first time riding for her country at a major games the experience was much more intense. In Kentucky, she had the benefit of being able to watch athletes in all disciplines and it was the first time she was able to watch a reining competition and she really enjoyed it. Caen on the other hand was filled with disappointment. Having competed at horse trials at the venue before, she was expecting a little more organization and amenities for the World Equestrian Games. “It was the same as the normal show they run but with more mud and more stress on the organizing committee. There is no comparison between Caen and Lexington,” she says.

On the competition side of things, it did not start well as she was disappointed with her dressage test. “I had a nice dressage, it was just a shame that we never really did flying changes in the test this year.”

Belgium placed 10th and as a result did not get an Olympic team qualification for 2016. Lara feels that poor strategy contributed to the dismal finish. “I thought Mark Phillips made a strange decision. I think sending Joris Vanspringel first was  not the best strategy. If you had my result and Karin’s and just another 100 score we would have easily been third.”

“Constantin Van Rijckevorsel should have gone first. Information from the riders before him would not have helped him, he retired early on course after stops.”

After Belgium drew second, Lara feels that more information could have helped Joris Vanspringel’s ride. Had he went later and knew that he could take it slower maybe he would not have fallen. She explains, “He did not have a good dressage mark. So he went really fast on cross-country because he was a bit irritated with his dressage and his horse is good on cross-country. He fell off at the last water. The horse was still fresh and misread the upright and I think if he had been the second rider he would have known the course was so terrible and not opened his horse up.”

“It is much easier said after the fact, though,” she admits.

She is confident that a competitive team placing at the European Championships in 2015 is possible for the Belgian team to get an Olympic team qualification.

Eventing with Grandfather
Both Lara’s parents were event riders. Although, it was her grandfather who bought her first horse and introduced her to eventing. In fact, he took her on her first course walk. She credits him with giving her the sense of eventing. He died seven years ago but he is still very dear to her heart.

Lara has a Masters in Commercial Science but she has no plans of putting that education into practice anytime soon. “Lets just say that was more to make my parents happy. They have always supported me so much and they asked me if I wanted to keep doing this for the rest of my life that I have something I can do with my life if I ever had a bad fall. At the moment, I am trying to make a go of horses but if it does not work then I will do something else. But if I want to be good and professional in riding I cannot do both,” she says.

She is thankful her mom helped give a her a competitive start by buying her a really nice pony that took her to the European Championships. Each of her parents then bought her a junior horse so she was lucky enough to have two. However, she has a brother, so to be fair, her parents gave him the same. To get more horses, she had to find owners. Making a name for herself in Belgium with competitive results on the international stage, she has been able to get owners and has competed eight horses at FEI competitions in 2014. With two four-star mounts and some serious up and comers she is developing a competitive string.

In fact, last weekend she added to the team by purchasing Mighty’s Match at the Top Eventers Auction in Germany. Her husband Kai, bought Obiamo at the same auction.

Horse power

Ducati Van Den Overdam (owned by Jean De Cloedt): 4*

  • 19th – 2014 WEG
  • 10th – 2014 Badminton
  • 19th – 2013 Malmo European Championships
  • 19th – 2013 Luhmuhlen

Quella Langonnaise (owned by Sprl Larga and Lara): 4*

  • 10th – 2014 Luhmuhlen
  • 35th – 2013 Pau

Averouge des Quatre Chenes (owned by Mr et Mme de Foy): 2*

  • 1st – 2014 Houghton Hall CCI2*

Gulliver des Concessions Ewalco (owned by Haras des Concessions): 2*

  • 46th – 2014 Le Lion d’Angers CCI2* championship
  • 4th – 2014 Waregem CIC1*

Che Guevarra d’Arville (owned by Sprl Larga): 1*

  • 2nd – 2014 Waregem CIC1*

Espada Wonderland (owned by Johan Vankersschaever): 1*

  • 10th – 2014 Radolfzell CIC1*

Nyala d’Arville (owned by Sprl Larga and Lara): 1*

  • 12th – 2014 Le Lion d’Angers CCI1* championship
  • 2nd – 2014 Jardy CIC1*

United nations
She is based in Belgium with her new husband Kai-Steffen Meier (GER), another top event rider. They just got married in September and hope to set up another base in Germany. Lara explains, “My husband Kai has just moved to Belgium and it is not easy to keep his German horses. Owners pay and they want to see their horses and all that. I am not sure it is easy to have owners from abroad. We have a business set up here but we want to find a way to keep a business in Germany as well. It is easier in Germany but we do not know how we are going to do things.”

In Belgium, they can compete up to Intermediate on the show circuit. There are around 12 shows that run up to Preliminary. They often travel to shows in France, Germany and Holland. “Belgium has an agreement that we can compete at Holland’s shows with our Belgium sport licenses which is nice because we do not have to pay an extra fees. I mainly go to Fontainebleau and Jardy. There are nice shows in France. In Germany, you have Luhmuhlen and some other great shows and we do not have to drive that far. Fontainebleau is a four-hour drive, Luhmuhlen is a 600 km drive and so is Badminton. Belgium is the center of Europe so I am lucky,” Lara says.

Sealing the deal.

Sealing the deal.

Kicking it up a notch
Despite not agreeing with Captain Mark Phillips about the riding order at the WEG, she credits him with her recent riding success. “I am lucky that I met Mark Phillips because he really kicked my ass. At Kentucky, I road nice and clever but I was not brave enough. I was young so it was normal. I was looking at all the other riders who were crazy fast and I was just happy I finished. But when you want to reach the top you need to go for it and not be happy with just finishing.”

Each month from February on, the team riders have a three-day clinic with Mark. He also attends certain shows so the riders can plan their competitions based on that.

In between training with Mark, Lara trains dressage with Stefan Hollanders (Grand Prix dressage rider). He also trains Karin Donckers. “I have trained with him since 2010 because at that time I said to my mom, ‘I want the best trainer in the world’. In 2008, Karin had a 31 at the Olympics. I thought maybe her dressage trainer was good enough for me so I called him. He is good for eventers because event horses are sensitive and not so strong in their movement. But pure dressage trainers start talking about passage and piaffe and event horses do not need that. This guy is really good.”

The student becomes the teacher
Outside of riding, Lara’s favourite this to do is teaching. “I love teaching. I especially love when you have young motivated students that want to reach the top even if they do not have much money. I had dedicated teachers and thanks to them I am where I am. I love sharing my passion for the sport because it is not such a popular sport here in Belgium.”

Her results, her honesty and her passion to grow the sport are those rare qualities that make a top rider and an ambassador for Eventing. Look for Lara to represent Belgium at major games continuously…and on the podium in due time.

Keep up with Lara daily:
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Happily ever after...

Happily ever after…

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