Page 1


Hendrik Mens with Jeff Wallace


Hendrik Mens


t the risk of sounding cliché, Hendrik, tell us your first experience with the Arabian horse; when that was, where that was, and what it was like for you. We always had riding horses with my dad, so I have been around them for a long time. But with Arabians, it was around 2000 when my mom and her husband bought two purely for riding. One day I tagged along to see them at Juan Murillo Training Center in Belgium. I was struck with the charisma and beauty of the Arabian horse and the way they were handled and taken care of. A few weeks later, we went to visit a show in Belgium, I believe it was the Elran Cup. When I saw the horses enter the ring and do their thing— and the excitement of the crowds when their horses entered—I knew I wanted to be a part of that. I just fell in love with them. It seems that Belgium has exploded onto the global Arabian scene within the last decade or so. Is this something you would agree with? If yes, why do you think this has happened? I believe it has been a bit longer than that. From way before I was involved with Arabians, there were high quality horses in Belgium. Not always the biggest breeders, but it seemed to me they carefully selected their mares and imported very influential stallions, which paid off and which we can still see the impact from today. It was that, combined with so many successful trainers and a great location in Europe to travel to all the shows from. There are many great breeders in Belgium, as well as many great horses they have bred. Tell me a handful of the great Belgian horses that really stand out for you and why. It’s hard for me to answer that—imagine if I forget someone … I don’t want to insult anyone! But on a personal level, a mare like Misha Apal … who does not like that?! For me, she is one of my all time favorites. The impact that Psytadel has had on the breed, and the way his daughters produce is impressive. I never had the chance to see Saskia, but what an impact she had. Young stallions like Emerald J and SMF Magic One are also doing well at the shows and in the breeding barn. The mare Navarrone P and her offspring are winning as well. They are proven

success that started years ago and is still very much alive today. And there are many more … I could keep naming for a while. Tell us a little bit about your first few work experiences in the Arabian horse world. My first job was helping out on the weekends at Juan’s Murillo Training Center. He was a true horseman and I learned the so important basics from him. Then I spent a few months in Qatar with Bart van Buggenhout, learning about training, breeding, and foaling. He has so much experience and loves to share it (Even after I came to Qatar permanently, I still called him all the time for advice). I then spent two years on my own running a small farm in Belgium for the Oostervink family. It was a great experience, for the first time running it on my own, which I learned a lot from. Tell us when you arrived at Al Nasser Stud and how this job came about for you. I started working for Al Nasser Stud in the spring of 2005, after working for the Oostervink family prior to that. They gave me the opportunity to go to Qatar and learn from Bart van Buggenhout, who was the manager at Al Rayyan Farm at the time. I spent a few months there in 2002 and 2003. I returned to Belgium to continue my job, but always felt that I would return to Qatar. I had a great experience and made good friends during the time I was there. When the previous manager at Al Nasser had to move on to other things, Bart called me up and asked if I was interested in taking over at Al Nasser as their manager. I was a bit nervous at the time, uncertain if I had enough experience and if I would be able to leave my family, but I did say yes. In the ten years that have passed, I have never regretted that decision. Tell the readership a little bit about Al Nasser Stud and what it stands for, its foundation and how it came to be. What were some high points in its unfolding over the years? Sheikh Nawaf started the farm in the early nineties. He imported Egyptian mares from Imperial Stud and later a few from Morocco, as well as a few non-straights, mainly Dyn Aliyah. These horses make the foundation of

Volume 46, No. 3 | Halter 61

Hendrik and girlfriend Malene Larsen, trainer at Al Nasser Stud. Al Nasser. We had many successes over the years in the show ring and the breeding barn. I believe our strength with non-straight is the heavy mix of Egyptian blended with modern stallions. With the Egyptians, I believe a strong base with the Imperial horses and classic Mahzeer daughters we had later, mixed with the bloodlines of the stallions of other Qatari farms and created a unique look. Sheikh Nawaf always followed his own ideas, and that resulted in what we are now. Tell us a little bit about the success Al Nasser Stud has experienced with two or three of their amazing dam lines. Talk a little bit about each of those dam lines and why you feel they are as powerful as they are. What “wow” characteristics seem to belong to each of these female lines? The most successful offspring in the shows come from Aliah Al Nasser. The two most prominent Egyptian lines are the ones from Bint Saida Al Nasser and Imperial Madanah. 62 Halter | ARABIAN HORSE TIMES

From Aliah Al Nasser, apart from being a national champion herself, she produced multiple champion offspring, including multi-champion Monther Al Nasser, ultra typey Marwa Al Nasser and her full sister Bdour Al Nasser; champion producer Remal Al Nasser, Rihab, Masrata, and Aleysha Al Nasser, the mother of multi-champion mare Anood Al Nasser. She and her daughters produce quality foal after quality foal. They are always very refined, with nice arched necks and clean throatlatches—truly Arabian looking. Also, Bint Saida the Reserve World Champion Mare along with many other titles, has quite a big family here. Her daughter Amira Al Nasser did an especially great job; we have a beautiful Al Adeed filly which is 4th generation Al Nasser breeding. Again, they are very refined with nice length of neck and great attitude. If you saw Saida in a presentation here at the farm, it’s a sight you would not forget;

Hendrik Mens

she is so full of herself. The Imperial Madanah family is a little different; more classic looking, bigger, and solid with more power. Madanah herself was a mare with such amazing expression—large black eyes, and the gentlest character—winning the Most Beautiful Head award every time she showed. She is a mare that is sorely missed here. It is interesting that Ali Jamaal, Muscat, and Menes lie at the root of one of your most famous dam lines. Do you see any characteristics from those stallions in the generations from that line today, or has the Egyptian influence taken over? I think you can definitely see the influence they had. Aliah looks to me very much like a classic bay Ali Jamaal-bred mare, and her daughters from mixed stallions look mostly like her, where her daughters with Egyptian stallions have more Egyptian looking features. But I must say that, mixed with the Egyptian stallions, it has created a look of its own. I don’t think either one overpowers the other, but it’s more a nice blend of those lines. But for sure, it does not hurt to have those amazing stallions in the pedigree. Where would you like to see things with Al Nasser Stud five years from now? We would like, of course,

to keep improving every generation of foals. There is no such thing as the perfect horse, but we keep trying to come as close as we can to what we believe that is, and keep working hard on creating that Al Nasser look. Also, contributing to the Arabian horse world in a positive manner for the good of the horse. Being successful in the show ring with our homebred horses gives us a great feeling that we’re on the right path in our program. What does your dream horse look like? I am working daily with my dream horses! I am very grateful I can work every day with these amazing animals that bring so much joy to my life. If you could resurrect any two horses, who would they be and why? First of all, I would bring back Imperial Madanah. This mare could have contributed so much more to Al Nasser, and just because she was such a gentle character and all around great horse. And second, I would like a healthy young Imperial Mahzeer. I just adore his daughters. Because of some issues, he could not breed for many years. In these few years, he left some amazing producing mares—so classic looking. He could have had a more serious impact that would have benefited all of Qatar and their Egyptian

Dawn Martin, Malene Larsen, Hendrik Mens, Gold Champion Yearling Colt Amaar Al Nasser and Glenn & Cathy Schoukens. Volume 46, No. 3 | Halter 63

breeding. On top of that, he was a great horse to have around. Do you like the desert or the ocean? I like an ocean in the desert—makes the perfect beach! What makes you happy? The life I am living now, surrounded by the horses and the people I love. I am in a good place in my life and ready for the challenges that lay ahead. It must be strengthening to you to have Malene and her vast history with the Arabian horse alongside you at Al Nasser Stud. Can you speak a little about that? Well, it makes my job a lot easier! She is a great horse lady and takes care of the training of the horses and teaches the staff. She has a very gentle approach towards horses and people. I also value her input on breeding and we discuss what to do or what not to do, which is always nice to have a second opinion. Malene and her family are breeding some top quality Arabians in Denmark at Northwest Arabians. She sure brings in the experience, and it’s not so difficult working together with your best friend. It’s a great team, and I could not imagine it differently. I look forward to our future together.

What is your favorite Arabian horse destination to travel to? Personally for me, it’s Belgium, because then I can go and see the horses we have with Schoukens Training Center and visit some friends and family at the same time. But it’s not only horse-related; there are many places I would still love to visit. Throughout your career in the Arabian industry, who have been mentors and role models for you? There are many people I have respect for, but surely Bart van Buggenhout has always been a great friend and mentor. I have learned so much from him on how to manage a farm. He has so much experience to give and I was lucky enough to have him close by for many years and call him a friend. Glenn Jacobs, as well, is a great friend. We can discuss breeding and horses for many hours. He has a great eye for quality and I have lots of respect for his opinion. We help each other when we need it, and that’s a nice feeling. I have also worked together with Glenn Schoukens since I started here at Al Nasser, and we are a great team. He helps me a lot with different situations, and I respect his input a lot. We have become great friends over the years. There are so many other people I would like to mention, but you will not have

Hendrik and Malene Larsen with a few of the beautiful mares of Al Nasser Stud.


Hendrik Mens

Hendrik and Glenn Schoukens with Kanz Al Nasser, winning Bronze World Champion Junior Colt. enough space in your magazine! Breeders, friends, Malene and her family who are always there for me … every time I visit Denmark, I am impressed with how well they breed with just a few babies a year, and always love to discuss breeding with them for many hours. You always say what a wonderful boss you have. Would you like to tell us why? Sheikh Nawaf is just a great person and breeder. I have learned a lot over the years: how to breed, and how to take care of the farm. He is a great horseman and good rider, and it’s always nice to hear his opinions when he visits to see the new foals. He is always there for me and Malene when we need him, but he also gives us the freedom to do our job in the best possible way and trusts our decisions. Mutual respect is important to make a great team, and it

shows in the results. I hope to work for him for many years to come and give him great success. Is breeding and exhibiting a world champion for Al Nasser stud a goal for you? We are in the business of Arabian show horses. Going to shows and comparing your breeding stock against the world’s best is always interesting and a challenge. I have respect for the people who like to breed horses and are not so much into shows. Everybody makes that decision for himself, of course, but for those who go to shows, the Paris World Championships is the one to win. So, yes, it’s a dream of mine to hopefully one day be able to say Al Nasser Stud has bred and owned a world champion. It would give me great satisfaction to be able to do that for Sheikh Nawaf, but it’s not everything or my only goal, although it would be one of them. n Volume 46, No. 3 | Halter 65

Personality - Hendrik Mens  
Personality - Hendrik Mens