Rotterdam 2019: Victories still on Sanne Voets’ mind

Dutch rider sticks with winning horse ahead of home European Championships in Rotterdam 19 Aug 2019
A female Para equestrian rider on crutches holds the bridle of her horse
Sanne Voets and horse Demantur N.O.P have one of the most successful partnerships in Para equestrian
ⒸKathleen van Winden
By Rob Howell | For the IPC

For a sport about partnership between rider and horse, Sanne Voets’ relationship with Demantur N.O.P. exemplifies it the best. Together they won five major gold medals (four World Championship titles) since the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, and the duo look to add another three at their home Para Dressage European Championships beginning Wednesday in Rotterdam. 

“He started as a project for me,” Voets explained. “I thought let’s see if we can make this work. He’s not the easiest and he’s big and talented but also insecure. But he grew mentally and physically and three years later we have Paralympic, European and World titles, as well as three overall national titles. And even more important: we have built a special friendship together. It is so much fun to work with him.”

Voets is going for three European titles at Rotterdam 2019

At the start of the year though, that partnership looked in doubt as Demantur N.O.P.’s owners decided to sell him. 

That put Voets in a difficult position, especially with the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics on the horizon. 

“I was so lucky,” she continued. “I met the owners of the RS2 Dressage Centre. They are really passionate about dressage sport, heard my story and decided to buy him for me to ride at least until Tokyo. I know nothing is guaranteed, but I can now also relax and just work hard, knowing I have him to ride.”

That reassurance led to a great season so far, which saw wins across the board. 

Voets describes Demmi, as he’s known outside the arena, as her buddy and a special horse and now they get to ride at home. 

Voets describes Demmi as "her buddy"

“That’s so special,” she said. “The venue is wonderful. It’s in the middle of some woods and sometimes feels like you’re riding in a fairytale. I get to invite all those supporters in the background without whom we wouldn’t have achieved what we’ve done so far. It is an amazing opportunity to share this experience with them.”

There will be one goodbye for the pair, however. If they make it to the final day’s freestyle competition it will be the last Championship they perform to the dance classic “This is what it feels like” by Dutch superstar DJ Armin van Buuren. 

It is the tune the pair won all their most recent major titles with. 

“I’m working on a new routine for Tokyo,” Voets said. “It’s really different, beautiful and definitely of another level.

Giving a Para perspective

Voets is also the Para dressage ambassador for the whole Championships, which includes show jumping and dressage in able-bodied competitions. 

“It’s a huge honour, and I’ve been asked to give the organisers advice and guidance as well,” Voets said. “I’ve been really amazed at how the they really see Para dressage as a huge part of the overall event.”

The staging of medal ceremonies is one of the areas of the competition that she has been involved in that resulted in the scheduling of one of the most high-profile prizegivings in the sport.

“The team medal will be presented in the Championship’s main arena, at the end of the dressage freestyle final, an event which will draw a huge crowd,” she said. “That’s a great way for us to show who we are and what we do to a massive audience.” 

The Dutch will be keen to add the European title to the World, one they finally bagged at the World Equestrian Games last year, knocking powerhouse Great Britain off the top spot for the first time.

“It would be amazing to win,” said Voets. “It’s the last big competition before the Tokyo Games next year. We have a very strong team and definitely go for that gold again.”

More information on the Para Dressage European Championships in Rotterdam is available on the event website