Kimberly Van Kampen Boyer is a well-known name within the dressage community. As the owner of Olympic stallion Grandioso, as well as Hampton Green Farm, Van Kampen is a top supporter of the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival and remains active as Board President of the organization that she founded, the US PRE Association.
Developing a passion for the sport when her children were young, Van Kampen recalls how she fell into step with the equestrian world. “I think that like a lot of owners down here in Wellington, your children get into it so you get into it.”
Van Kampen continued, “I was immediately attracted to dressage, because of the beauty and the type of horses that partake in the discipline. That quickly led me on a trip to Spain, and I realized that there was a developing breed of horses that were transitioning into the world of sport. I was fascinated with the potential. My love for Spain, my love for the horses, and my love for dressage all grew together as one.”
Van Kampen spends her year in transition between her two Hampton Green Farm locations, one in western Michigan, and the other in Wellington. The facility has two main focuses- to breed, train, develop and sell quality PRE horses, as well as serving as the home for Lendon Gray’s Dressage4Kids Winter Intensive Training Program. While there are many breeds participating in the youth program, some of Gray’s top riders have gone on to ride and compete Boyer’s PRE mounts.
All Eyes on the PRE
The PRE horse (Pura Raza Española), is a breed of horse that developed its original homage on the Iberian Peninsula. Known for its willing temperament and loyalty the PRE horses have established their value through the ages. Serving as mounts for kings, as well as the first ambassadors in the establishment of classical dressage, these horses are truly unlike any other.
In a sport that has shifted its focus to the Warmblood, Van Kampen believes that the growth of the breed in the competition arena will continue if the quality of the horses remains of the utmost importance.
What makes a quality PRE? “Good breeding, and a good start in the basics of the sport,” Van Kampen explained. “If the first three years of training have been correct, these horses are almost push button. The problem is finding people who want to be that patient, who understand the correct way to start a young Baroque horse. It’s not just understanding their conformation, but also their temperament. Of course, you also have to have three competitive gaits.
The main difference between a young Warmblood and a young PRE though, is the suspension of the trot. The huge suspension that the Warmbloods have isn’t there in a slower maturing breed like the PRE. It comes with time.”
Although the Iberian horse is not as prevalent in the show ring in the United States, Van Kampen admits that the prejudice toward the breed has eased up in Europe. She commented, “Most of my upper level competition horses have competed in Europe and we’ve been represented at many of the big shows in a number of countries. There is virtually no stigma against an Iberian horse over there from the judges, whether it’s a Lusitano or a PRE Spanish bred horse.
The audience loves them, but they want to see quality. The dressage audience is very knowledgeable and very educated about the sport. They are open minded to a Spanish horse at the Grand Prix level, but they expect the same quality that they would expect of their own breeds.”
Thanks to unwavering efforts led by the US PRE Association and supporters of the breed, the US is slowly shifting its opinion as well. “Over here we are still pushing a bit,” saidVan Kampen. “We’re so far away from Spain and Portugal and some of the countries where the Iberian horse is common on an International team. However, the top judges in the States are familiar with them and not prejudice. The horses will do better if they can continue to get into the International ring. They will be judged fairly if they are seen more, and again it really comes down to quality from both horse and rider.”
Van Kampen credits Wellington and the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival for the positive progression over the past several years.
“I think that like for many major trends in dressage, it should take place here.” Van Kampen concluded, “Wellington is one leading factor in the sport, and we’ve (US P.R.E.) had the advantage of being able to come in early and sponsor the show since the very first years. The community in Wellington is fabulous, and even the people who are diehard Warmblood fans become Spanish for a week when we sponsor. They love our effort, they know a good horse when they see one, they support what we do, and they are good sports about it. A good trainer will have as much to say about a good Iberian horse as any other breed.”
As US PRE Week draws to a close, one thing remains at the forefront. These loyal, sensitive and majestic “Horses of the Ages,” are also the horses of a lifetime.
(Photos courtesy of Kimberly Van Kampen by Lily Forado)