One of the best parts of Europe are the drizzly mornings draped in the sweet smell of hay and mist that settles over arenas and fields across the land. Even in midsummer in Holland, a zipping up of the coat is required as I park the car in front of the brick office at Stal Hendrix, and step outside into the muted air.
This is a place that is easily known and familiar in its name, even if, like me, I’ve never actually stepped foot on the property until today. Tucked into the part of Holland that starts to dip down into shared borders with Belgium and Germany, Stal Hendrix has been in this region for more than 50 years, making its mark on show jumping in nearly every way: breeding, sales, competition, events.
It’s a family business, passed down from Ton Hendrix to his sons, Paul and Emile. Today, the third generation works alongside the elder, with Paul’s son Michel, and Emile’s son Timothy, both competing at the highest levels—Michel was a member of the victorious Team Netherlands at the 2017 FEI Nations Cup Final on October 1 in Barcelona, Spain.
“It’s an honor to work in a family business,” Michel says. “It’s nice when you share the same passion and can continue what the other generation built up. It’s exciting, but also a challenge!”
This year, Michel represented The Netherlands at CHIO Aachen on the Nations Cup team, and Timothy has been notching consistent, CSI results of his own. Paul’s wife, Saskia, is involved in the breeding operation, and his daughter Janou keeps administrative operations running smoothly.
The seeming quiet of the morning is broken by crews setting up tents and event structures as horses are brought in and out of the stable for work; along with the everyday motion of a busy sales barn, preparations are underway for the coming weekend’s Jumping Peel & Maas, a national show that looks and acts more like a CSI. Inside the barn’s clay brick walls, order prevails: from the cleanly swept floors and polished brass stall finials to the stable’s matching set of Triple Crown Custom (TCC) blankets and rugs (a Stal Hendrix sponsor), stowed neatly away in cabinets along the wall.
Stal Hendrix is actually two facilities, located minutes apart. In 2005, the family added this modern stable block in Kessel, with indoor and two outdoor arenas, to supplement the original homestead in nearby Baarlo. Paul runs one, Emile the other, and the brothers constantly collaborate.
Emile, an Olympic veteran with one of the sport’s most impressive competition records, focuses on training the next generation, and in addition to overseeing the careers of his son and nephew, welcomes students from all over the world to train. You’d be hard-pressed to go to a five-star show these days that doesn’t include a rider who was influenced by him.
As the tents go up and the pace of the day quickens, a mare in a far field lifts her head to watch the goings-on. It’s Laura Kraut’s retired superstar, Tierra, who is living out her leisure years at Stal Hendrix. Both Kraut and her partner Nick Skelton are longtime clients of Stal Hendrix, making the stable a regular stop on their European horse buying trips.
Stal Hendrix horses are sold far and wide around the world, and have gone on to nearly every success in the sport. In just a single example, the stable’s reference, Conthendrix, won the 2017 $1 Million Grand Prix at HITS Saugerties with rider Andre Thieme.
Early fall brought the annual Dutch Sport Horse Sales, and Limburg Foal Auction, both put on by Stal Hendrix, as well as new waves of buyers traveling from overseas to try horses, the continued pursuit of Michel and Timothy to reach the top of the sport, and so much more. If The Netherlands are known as a center for horse sport, Stal Hendrix is the nexus that so much of it revolves around.
-Photos by Erin Gilmore for NF Style.