‘The fairy tale goes on, the star shines brighter than ever before.’ Seven years ago this was the quote used to announce Etoile van de Neerheide Z in our Zangersheide Quality Auction. Etoile van de Neerheide Z was bred by Erik Van Giel and is a son of Harrie Smolders’ former ace Emerald Van ’t Ruytershof. ‘Back then I purchased semen from Emerald’, says Erik. ‘At that time he wasn't as popular as he is now, but I was crazy about him and decided to use him on my mare Deja Vu van de Neerheide (Quannan R). As a foal Etoile was already a special appearance sporting a lot of blood. We took him to the Z-Festival where he came 6th and hence was selected for the Zangersheide Quality Auction in September.’
There he was purchased by Ludo Tielen from The Regenwortelhoeve, who is still Etoile’s current owner.
After having jumped a few events under Wim Vinckx at the age of four, his talent really started to emerge when he was a 5-year-old. With Vinckx he stayed clean in two of the three rounds of the PAVO Stallion Competition and in early March he was also approved at the Zangersheide Stallion Inspection. Later that year the partnership between Tielens and Vinckx came to an end and it was Dieter Vermeiren who took to the saddle of this bay stallion. ‘From the first moment Etoile gave me a special feeling, something I hadn’t experienced before, really’, Dieter remembers. ‘He jumped with a lot of air to spare but it all felt so easy.’ Later that year Vermeiren and Etoile also succeeded in qualifying for the final of the Belgian Championship Young Horses in Gesves, where a time penalty kept them from the deciding jump-off.
Last year again, as a 6-year-old, Etoile collected exceptionally good results. In a stunning series of fourteen courses he managed to leave all rails in place and jumped to 4th place in the first qualifier for the World Championship Young Horses in Lanaken.
But 2020 did not begin well for Dieter Vermeiren… Because of an injury he had to skip the first heat of the PAVO Stallion Competition and when he realised that the second heat also came too soon for him, Etoile appeared in the ring with Pieter Kenis. They achieved a double clear in Lier, which yielded a 7th place. Vermeiren was back in time for the last two heats in Gent and Tielt, where they realised a 5th and 6th place.
When the outdoor competitions were given the green light again in July, the pair appeared at the start of an international event in Sentower Park where they jumped clean rounds in the 7-year-olds on two out of three days. Etoile kept up this trend for the rest of the summer season and a few weeks ago, during Kraal International in Zandhoven, they proved to be ready for the Belgian Championship. In the 7-year-olds they stayed clean for three days and one time finished 5th and once 7th. Then last weekend they snapped up the Silver BC medal in Opglabbeek.
‘Without doubt, Etoile’s greatest quality is his competition mentality’, says Dieter. ‘I can feel that he gives his best, always and everywhere, but in the arena he always manages to give that little bit extra. We have a good click together and hopefully we can progress even further in the sport in the future. Kingston Town 111 Z is a Z horse which I am presently competing in 2* and 3* GPs, but I think that Etoile can at least follow in his footsteps, probably even more than that! (laughs)’
Meanwhile, Etoile van de Neerheide Z has already been used for breeding. ‘We have in fact, used him for all sorts of mares’, owner Ludo Tielen tells us. ‘His offspring are high-legged and sport lots of blood. We don’t think he needs to be paired to a specific type of mare.’