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Dutch equestrian leader Martien van den Heuvel dies

Martien van den Heuvel

Martien van den Heuvel

Former Dutch Equestrian Federation president Martien van den Heuvel has died at the age of 73.

Martien van den Heuvel, who died on Thursday, was also a former member of the FEI Finance and Nominations Committees. He was awarded the Golden Pin and also made an honorary member of the Royal Dutch Equestrian Federation (KNHS) in recognition of his many services to equestrian sports in the Netherlands.

As a farmer’s son, he had a natural passion for horses, but his career took him in a different direction. Blessed with a sharply analytical mind and excellent financial insight, he became a successful businessman and managing director of the international company Bosch Rexroth, manufacturer of hydraulic, pneumatic, electrical and mechanical drive systems, then known as the Hydraudyne Group.

He first came to public attention in the equestrian world in 1984, when he became treasurer of the international horse show Indoor Brabant. He was appointed President of the show in 1997, and under his leadership Indoor Brabant developed into one of the world’s premier equestrian events.

In January 2002, he was elected President of the Board of the KNHS and made the decision to resign as President of Indoor Brabant so that he could focus on developing the KNHS, which was formed at that time as the result of a merger of 16 very different equestrian organisations, of varying sizes and each with its own history and culture. He led the new organisation with great vision and drive, tackling head on the enormous task of making the KNHS a successful and financially healthy sports federation.

With typical energy and enthusiasm, Martien van den Heuvel worked tirelessly to turn the KNHS into the organisation he envisaged. By the time he retired as President in January 2011 at the end of his maximum term of office, the KNHS had grown into one of the leading sports federations in the Netherlands as a tight-knit, financially sound estabslishment, well-regulated and highly successful in delivering world-class performances. Under his chairmanship, a start was also made on restructuring the KNHS, including the successful cooperation with the Royal Warmblood Studbook of the Netherlands (KWPN), which has recently been completed. The result of this restructuring, the national equestrian centre in Ermelo, is now nearing completion.

His passion for equestrian sports also manifested itself in other ways. He was present at many international championships, and was highly involved in the careers of the top Dutch riders. But he did not leave it at that. From his home in Den Dungen (near ’s-Hertogenbosch), he frequently travelled the length and breadth of the country to present prizes to champions – from harness horses in the north to jumping and dressage ponies in the south.

At his farewell reception, he received a ‘Liber Amicorum’, in which 60 people closely involved in equestrian sports reminisced about the many facets of his incredible engagement with the sport. The book was aptly entitled Met hart en ziel (‘With heart and soul’).

During his chairmanship, Martien van den Heuvel often demonstrated unswerving determination and perseverance. He was a keen advocate of reforms within the FEI, as well as within the NOC*NSF, the Dutch National Olympic Committee, and he actively contributed to these reforms. He was firmly convinced that the equestrian sector in the Netherlands needed a unified voice in the Sectorraad Paarden (Joint Equine Sectoral Committee). He not only expressed his opinion, but also set to work himself to further the interests of both equestrian sports and the equine industry.

His name will always be inextricably linked to the development of the KNHS into an equestrian sports federation that is respected both nationally and internationally, and he made an invaluable contribution to the development and professionalisation of Indoor Brabant and the Sectorraad Paarden.

FEI President Princess Haya said she was shocked to hear of van den Heuvel’s passing. “He was a really wonderful man and a true visionary, who always had the best interests of the equestrian world, in all its guises, at heart.

“He understood the importance of correct governance in sport at all levels, and was unstinting with his time and expertise. He played a vital role in developing the Royal Dutch Equestrian Federation into the strong and successful organisation it is today, and amongst his many other roles, was also an invaluable member of the FEI’s Finance and Nominations Committees. With his passing, the equestrian world has lost a loyal and true friend. He will be much missed,” she said.

Martien van den Heuvel’s funeral takes place on Tuesday, 7 January 2014, at 11am in the Sint-Jacobus de Meerdere Church, H. Hartplein 1, 5275 BM Den Dungen, The Netherlands. 

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