Ian Vandenberghe has a lifetime experience in a range of equestrianism, from Dressage to Stud Management & foal handling via Farriery. By 1991 he realised that he had an equal fascination for training people & added a teaching qualification to his CV. The development of Hartsop Farm as a centre for training & learning (for horses & people) has been his prime focus for the past 20 years.
Ian has worked with Monty Roberts & Kelly Marks since 1993 & played a key part in the development of the first ever training courses in Montys methods. His skills are recognised by Monty, who has made him a ‘Master Instructor’ in his global training network, he is also a Recommended Associate for Kellys’ Intelligent Horsemanship (IH) organisation. Ians considerable expertise is pivotal to the formulation & delivery of training programmes for individual horses at Hartsop; delivery of teaching components for IH toward Monty Roberts Preliminary Certificate & facilitating a range of additional specialised learning opportunities at the Farm. Ian is renowned for entertaining & educating students on his courses, illustrating his lectures with tales drawn from his vast expanse of experience & learning. Ian is powerfully aware of the importance of teamwork in achieving success with horses (& their people) so really values working with others – as he says “there is an ‘I’ in Ian … but not in ‘Hartsop’”
Ians experience with horses began as a child in his home country of Belgium. He learned to ride at a riding school (his family were not particularly ‘horsey’) & progressed to become a talented dressage rider. Ian is the first to say that in the days of big ‘old fashioned’ Warmbloods in Belgium, sheer physical strength was as key to dressage performance as other aspects of ridden skills!
Searching for a viable career path in equestrianism the schoolboy Ian started attending the Farriers school in Brussels at weekends, graduating from there after 2 years study. His growing interest in the Thoroughbred industry led him to venture out of Belgium so upon leaving school at 18 he arrived in the UK in search of the career he wanted. After a year working at a riding school in Devon where he gained his BHSAI he located the only specialised Thoroughbred Management training course running at the time & moved his study to West Oxfordshire College in Witney. Graduating from this course enabled Ian to gain the specialised employment he was interested in, after a year on one thoroughbred breeding yard he obtained a significant promotion to a position at Aston Park where he remained for 5 years as ‘stallion man’ & stud groom to Dominion. Throughout this time, along with partner Sandy, he was looking for the opportunity to set up his own facility, an chance that arose after he was ‘head-hunted’ by West Oxfordshire College to return to them as a full-time lecturer in stud management & practice – a position he remained in for 10 years. During this time Ian & Sandy managed to secure the parcel of land just outside of Witney that has become Hartsop Farm.
Ian first saw Monty Roberts at work in Newmarket, prior to the advent of his more renowned ‘public’ demonstrations – as many others have been, he was struck by how much of this ‘cowboys’ work resonated with his own approach to horses. Kelly arrived at Witney college as a lecturer & had her subsequent ‘serendipidous’ meeting with Monty whilst on a college trip to France. The rest, as they say, became history – Ian joined forces with Kelly to begin the realisation of Montys dream of developing a global network of trainers & courses in his methods. In tandem with this Harstop was becoming an effective yard with both training & breeding activity on the increase. In recent years Ian has reduced their breeding programme & they now only retain one stallion, ‘Antics’ whose breeding activity supports the childrens’ charity that Sandy & Ian have set up (www.anticscharity.org.uk). They remain fully active in the training & re-training of a range of horses & ponies & are now the home of all the practical IH courses.
In addition to his phenomenal span of experience, skill & knowledge with horses Ian’s main passion is undoubtedly that of being a dad - Warren, William & Clayton are testimony to his investment in parenting. This is closely followed by football, a passion shared by all of his boys - his capacity to cite the facts & figures that evidence the ‘truth’ of Liverpool FC being the greatest club in British history is almost convincing!!
It is of course well know that ‘behind every great man …’ You don’t need to be at Hartsop Farm for long to appreciate that Ians wife, Sandy Vandenberghe, is indeed that ‘great woman’. Sandy has a passion for the range of work undertaken at the yard. Warm & welcoming to both equines & their humans Sandy loves nothing more that to see both grow, develop & begin to realise their potential for enjoyable futures together.
Sandy tends to be modest about her own equestrian skills & knowledge although both are considerable. She has particular expertise with the nervous or unhandled horse as well as a mass of experience in relation to horses in harness. Hang out on the yard whilst Sandy is engaged in routine chores like mucking out – the chats you will hear her have with the range of equines in her care as she works affirms the genuine love she has for these animals.
Born & raised in Cornwall (a fact that explains the affection with which she will refer to a tricky horse as a Wurzle!) Sandy knew that horses were all that she wanted for her life by the age of 11. She was supported in attending a riding school & quickly found herself working as groom to a range of different owners. Aged 19 Sandy had the opportunity of employment with one of this country’s foremost breeders & producers of driving horses, this led to her leaving Cornwall for Oxfordshire. For 25 years Sandy worked with the hundreds of horses bred by this owner, Shires, Hackneys, Cobs & the inevitable cross breeds. The horses she helped develop were sought after globally, many being exported to international homes. A key speciality of this producer was training to harness, riding horses were also routinely produced. The breeders family remain close friends & continue to send many of their young stock to Hartsop Farm for early handling & training. During this employment a meeting with the handsom young Belgian studying at Witney College heralded the next stage of Sandys life, they went on to produce their own yard … & their own family!
Every effective training yard has need of an effective rider, Jake Harris has fulfilled this role at Hartsop Farm since 2005. With the support of Ian & Sandy, Jake has now been the first rider for hundreds of young horses using Monty Roberts ‘starting’ methods, as well as re-training a range of remedial riding problems (he is now successfully competing one of his formerly ‘unrideable’ charges). His skill has been recognised by Monty who has employed him as his rider on recent UK tours as well as in starting racehorses for private clients. Jake continues to compete show-jumping whenever the opportunity arises & has competed client horses not only in this discipline but also in showing & dressage.
Jake contributes to all other aspects of running the yard, ground based training of horses as well as ridden & has undertaken additional stud / breeding training to support this aspect of Hartsop activity.
Raised in the local area, Jake had discovered his passion for horses by the age of 10. Jake started handling & riding a horse thanks to the convenience of a pony owning neighbour, he started taking lessons and within a year Jake was riding & successfully competing his first pony. He developed a particular addiction to show jumping & by the age of 14 was able to get the capable jumping horse he so wanted – Mr Chips is now retired but the bond established between them ensures that he continues in Jakes ownership.
Having completed a national Diploma in Horse management Jake had gained experience working at a riding school, Hunt yard & Eventing yard before coming to Hartsop. Working with Ian & Sandy was Jakes first experience of using methods developed by Monty Roberts, Kelly Marks & Ian. As an avid horseman he quickly appreciated the benefits of expanding his skill base & has developed expertise in these approaches. He envisages a lifetime of continuing his work with horses, has been persuaded to progress his dressage & showing skills … tho’ at heart he remains on the look out for that extra special show jumper that he could take to great heights!