NED’s Harmsen Dies at Spruce

By September 12, 2012
Sven Harmsen headshot

Sven Harmsen, a chef d'equipe for the Netherlands.

Sven Harmsen (NED), the Royal Dutch Equestrian Federation’s chef d’equipe,  died on Sept. 10 of a heart attack suffered on Sept. 8 while attending the Spruce Meadows Masters Tournament in Canada. He was rushed to the Foothills Hospital in Calgary, AB, but could not be restored to health.

Harmsen, 51, was the national show jumping coach and trainer for ponies, juniors and young riders. He attended the 2012 Spruce Meadows Masters in Calgary stepping in for Rob Ehrens with the senior Dutch team of Jur Vrieling, Leon Thijssen, Harrie Smolders and Jeroen Dubbeldam, who under his guidance won the bronze medal in the BMO Nations’ Cup on Sept. 8. It was at a gala dinner celebrating that win that Harmsen was stricken.

“This is a very sad time for all of us,” Spruce Meadows president Linda Southern-Heathcott said upon learning of Harmsen’s passing. “Sven was a wonderful man, gifted horseman, and true leader in our sport. He will be missed.”

Harmsen was a successful rider before his collaboration with the Royal Dutch Equestrian Federation. A silver medalist at the FEI Young Rider European Championships in 1982, he went on to compete successfully at both national and international level throughout the 1980s and 1990s. He clocked up several titles at events worldwide, including the Grand Prix in Hickstead (GBR) and Geneva (SUI) and FEI Nations Cup events in Falsterbo (SWE) and Drammen (NOR).

In 2005, he became Chef d’Equipe for Ponies at the Royal Dutch Equestrian Federation and the following year was appointed Chef d’Equipe for the Juniors and Young Riders. His dedication and commitment were rewarded on numerous occasions with many successful campaigns by the pony, juniors and young riders, notably at the annual FEI European Championships.

Jumping was an extremely important part of his life and he followed the evolution and development of the discipline very closely. He was passionate about horses and cared deeply about horse sport.

Sven and Annemiek Harmsen at home in the Netherlands.

Sven and Annemiek Harmsen ran a jumper and dressage barn in the Netherlands..

“Sven was highly committed and motivated, giving 200% to his role,” RDEF technical director Maarten van der Heijden said. “Since he became chef d’equipe, there has never been a year that we have not won a medal. He focused so much on getting the best from every rider and horse under his guidance and this passion made him extremely popular with everyone. We will miss him greatly.”

“Sven’s passion for jumping and success in developing young riders in our sport is renowned,” added John Roche, FEI Director Jumping and Stewarding. “He will be sorely missed by everyone who worked with him at the Royal Dutch Equestrian Federation, and by the international Jumping community.”

Harmsen is survived by his wife Annemiek, and two children. Family members flew to his side in Calgary and were with him when he died.

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