Dutch Pony Rider Sophie van der Steen Reunited with His Royal Badness DK

Tue, 04/16/2024 - 12:53
The Netherlands
Sophie van der Steen and His Royal Badness DK at the 2024 Dutch Indoor Championships :: Photo © Digishots

Following a successful legal battle in Dutch court, pony rider Sophie van der Steen has been reunited with His Royal Badness DK.

His Royal Badness DK is an 8-year old NRPS registered pony by Hesselteich Golden Dream out of former international FEI pony Nina van de Beekerheide. He is bred by Demi Kurstjens.

Isa Hollands

The chestnut stallion became the highest scoring pony of the 2020-2021 NRPS Stallion Performance Test.

Trained by Saskia van Es and owned by Serve Frantzen, the pony made his break through in sport under Isa Hollands. They debuted at the CDI level in March 2022 in Lier and then went to the CDIO Compiegne, where he had to be trotted up several times in order to pass the horse inspection. The pair went on to win the Kur to Music there.  At their next CDI in Exloo they were eliminated. 

Sophie van der Steen

At the horse inspection at the 2022 CDIO Compiegne
On 27 February 2023 the stallion was allocated to Sophie van der Steen on loan. The rider's family took over all costs and Sophie trained the stallion with Joyce Lenaerts and Marcel Sterrenburg at De Beukenvallei.

At the FEI Pony Measuring Session in Saint-Lô, France on 28 April 2023,  His Royal Badness DK tested positive to the controlled medication Acepromazine, which is used as a sedative. Owner Frantzen received an Administrative Sanction from the FEI as the person responsible.

Van der Steen debuted the breeding stallion at the CDI Deauville in July 2023 and won all three rounds. They also reigned supreme at the CDI Kronenberg and became 203 Dutch Pony Champions. They concluded the year at the CDI Aachen Indoor with three top four placings. 

On 1 March 2024 they won the Dutch Indoor Pony Championships. 

Legal Battle

On 4 March 2024 owner Frantzen picked up His Royal Badness DK.  Van der Steen's mom Judith Sondag sued Frantzen.

"The pony came to our stable in February 2023 in very bad shape. We spent thousands of euros to rehabilitate him and my daughter only had big successes with him," Sondag told Horses.nl. "It's incredible that they took him away without notice."

His Royal Badness DK with his previous rider
Isa Hollands at the 2022 CDIO Compiegn
The owner  couldn't return the pony as he brought it to Equitom equine clinic in Belgium for 4 weeks, where the stallion was diagnosed with a tendon injury in the left front leg. He needed to stay there until 2 April 2024 for rehabilitation. 

The Court in Roermond cast its verdict on 19 March and ruled that the pony had to be returned to rider Van der Steen. The pony moved back into to the Beukenvallei on 2 April 2024 after his 30 days in the equine clinic.

The judge ruled that the pony can stay with Van der Steen at least until the 2024 European Pony Championships in Opglabbeek on 25 - 28 July 2024.  Owner Frantzen can appeal this decision.

Van der Steen did not ride the first Dutch team observation trial at the CDI Tolbert last weekend due to a lack of preparation and as the pony is still recovering. 

On 17 April owner Serve Frantzen sent Eurodressage a statement provided by his lawyer, which was also published on Horses.nl: "The agreement with Sondag was ended on 18 March for these reasons: there was doping, there was no payment of use, the pony again proved to be lame when he was brought to Equitom after the Dutch Championships for his periodic check-up (it is untrue that I took the pony under false pretences. He was taken to Equitom in agreement), a previous proposition to take a different trainer was refused by Sondag).  Obviously, under the circumstances, I cannot be expected to leave this precious pony with Lenaerts and Sondag any longer. I have every confidence in a successful outcome of this unpleasant matter in the interests of His Royal Badness."

The full court verdict can be read here.

Photos © Astrid Appels - Digishots

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