– med Paul Shockemohle och Wiepke van de lageweg
Two equestrian phenomenons, Paul Schockemöhle and Wiepke van de Lageweg, reach the age of seventy
“It was a special day, that 22nd of March 1945”
You would almost believe the position of the stars, the sun and the moon on the day you were born, are influential on the rest of your life. How could it be otherwise that two human beings, Wiepke van de Lageweg and Paul Schockemöhle, both born on March 22 in 1945, in most cases have had an identical course of life. Both have become the leading and most influential stallion owner in their country. Both own an impressive stud farm, which is producing top horse after top horse. Both manage an equestrian stable where top-level sport is being practiced and both do business in horses and stallion semen all around the world. When it comes to innovation, courage and vision the two of them in no way inferior each other. The position of the stars, sun and moon must have been in a very special position of the firmament that 22nd March of 1945, since both Wiepke van de Lageweg and Paul Schockemöhle came into the world that very day. It is incredible to observe how those two lives have developed over the same course.
World War II was in his last stage, but the after pains of the war would be of great influence on Paul Schockemöhle’s life. In Germany the right of the first-born was applied. “That meant there was no place for my father at his parental farm and because of that the government gave him an reclamation farm in Emsland. When my father’s eldest brother did not return from Russia, my father went back to his parental farm in Mühlen”, Schockemöhle explains. Paul was the youngest of three brothers (Paul, Alwin and Wener) and for him there was clearly no place on the parental farm either.
Wiepke van de Lageweg also was not the first-born son at the farm and already knew on an early age that he should be looking for something else.
Both men choose trading as their business. As a child Wiepke already started trading in rabbits, goats and chicken and as a sixteen years old Paul started trading in poultry. Paul’s eight years older brother Alwin was already riding horses at that time. A logical decision, since they did not only have horses at home, but also a stallion stud. “Of course I invested a share of my profits in horses. At my nineteenth I already owned a horse dealing stable and I employed a rider. My trading horses were cheap horses, though”, Paul tells, smiling that at the of sixteen he already made more money than his teachers at school.
“At that age I already quit school and I had thrown myself full-time into the trading business”, says Wiepke. “Every morning before dawn I helped my father milking the cows and then I went on the road for business. My father was no cattle dealer so I had to build up my own clients! After the business I had to be home early, since the cows had to be milked at night too.”
“Apparently we must have had the motivation”, Paul determines. In the start of both companies horses were not the main substance. For Van de Lageweg the main substance was trading cattle, for Schockemöhle in the beginning trading poultry. Later on Paul became a broker in lands and from there he started an international transportation company, a center of logistics, textile industry and participated in plastic producing companies. Nowadays Paul has around thousand employees.
Wiepke choose horse business in his mid-twenties. “At the age of 27 I bought my first horse, but that one was not good enough. My second one would become an excellent one, namely Nimmerdor. I constantly concentrated on trading horses, breeding and the stallion stud. Currently we have around twenty five employees. Besides horses I am still trading cattle.”
In contrast to Paul Schockemöhle Wiepke van de Lageweg did not have an impressive riding career. “As a rider I am a self-taught man, an autodidact. Actually I only used to ride the horses my stable rider had problems with. Because of that my style of riding was not so attractive in many people’s eyes. I did not buy the most expensive horses, so they all had their own problems. I think that taught me a lot and later on it was of a great use. Not only as a rider, but also to help riders like Franke Sloothaak, Ludger Beerbaum and Otto Becker”, Paul looks back.
Wiepke’s first horse was no success-story at the studbook inspection, but the second became the basis to his current imperium in Bears. “I also bought mares and foals out of the best bloodlines. Besides their pedigree also their conformation and movement were important criteria for me. Only mares like Hyazinthe – the dam of Ahorn and several international show jumpers – and Shoraya – grand-dam of for example Bubalu – you are able to go forward”, Wiepke says. Paul: “With a stud farm like ours you only need the best of the best. Thanks to transportable semen a breeder can use semen of the best stallions from around the world.” Wiepke adds: “We must set the bar as a high as possible, otherwise we will lose the battle in the future.”
Nimmerdor formed the foundation for the VDL Stud and Askan did the same for Paul Schockemöhle. “Before Askan the most expensive show jumper I ever sold was Palermo to Wolfgang Kuhn. In 1971 I received 750.000 German mark and however I lost my chance for competing at the Olympic Games, I did lay a healthy financial foundation for my company. With Askan – at that moment world’s best show jumper – Gerd Wiltfang won the gold team medal at the Olympic Games in München 1972. With the money I got for Askan I built my indoor riding arena and my stables.”
Wiepke: “I bought Nimmerdor for 25.000 gulden and that was five times as much as I paid for the house we were living in back then. Nimmerdor gave us a financial foundation and after him Jus de Pomme was of great importance. After Jus de Pomme won two gold medals at the Olympic Games in 1996, he passed away. After the death of Jus de Pomme the mood at home reached a low point, but I said to the family and employees: ‘We have been lucky. We have been lucky because Jus de Pomme died after the Olympics instead of before!’ Since then the VDL Stad was world-famous and all the doors we could not open before, were opening in front of us. Nimmerdor and Jus de Pomme laid the foundation for our company”, Wiepke explains.
When Deister came into Paul Schockemöhle’s life he already had the financial situation that he did not have to sell this horse. The main difference between Paul and Wiepke is probably that Wiepke never even competed at a horse show, while Paul won two gold medals at the European Championships in München 1981 and two years later repeated his individual gold at the Europeans in Hickstead. In 1984 Paul won the bronze team medal at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles and one year later Paul won his third individual gold medal and bronze team medal at the European Championships in Dinard. And all of those great victories he achieved with one horse: the legendary Deister.
But there are many more similarities between Paul and Wiepke. With both men their father was no businessman, while their mother was the strict leader. Of course they both had the genetic constitution, but both Wiepke and Paul are convinced you should also have the will to do it. “When a show jumper does not wants to jump – no matter how well-bred he is – you can forget about it”, both gentlemen agree. They also share the opinion that they both knew on an early age that they should make something of their lives themselves. And they knew they could only achieve something if they were willing to work enormously hard.
Paul admits his love for horses comes from his father, while Wiepke says he inherited it from his mother’s father. A little difference is that Paul says he is more of a horseman than a businessman, while Wiepke adds that also cattle really belongs to him. Most of all, there is great mutual respect between the two men. “What I really appreciate from Paul is that he is always willing to help is clients to be successful in sports”, Wiepke emphasizes. “What I appreciate from Wiepke is his clear mind and no fear to work enormously hard”, Paul determines.
Soon the two gentlemen will reach the age of seventy. How do they see the future? Paul: “The steady flow of young people makes sure the innovation will continue. These young people will find new ways. For me it is more difficult than for Wiepke, since he has three sons who continue the business. With me it is a ‘one man show’. I have great employees and I think I have my business well organized. Many in the equestrian world are on the right track. To discover a new way, you should try a lot. Sometimes it works out, but most of times it does not. I keep on seeing new challenges and try to affect companies. I think for Wiepke it is the same. The last ten years around fifty percent of the foals born at my stud are born through embryo transplantation. When it comes to cloning horses, I unfortunately have to determine that there are around two hundred clones, but I did not see one that equals it’s original.”
Van de Lageweg has been less lucky with embryo transplantation. And in cloning horses he sees nothing. “As regards genomic selection, you must determine that a top show jumper or dressage horse at least has twenty features. Besides those features there is education, health and of course fighting spirt. Both show jumpers and dressage horses need the will to fight!”, Wiepke emphasizes.
Both men are confronted with some quotes out of their birth horoscope of March 22 1945. However both men give no value to something like that, they are amazed how they recognizes themselves in the horoscope. “A strong personality, full of creative energy, tries to be the best in everything, ambitious, loves for traveling, uses aggression for the social battle for freedom and independence. Loves order, organization and harmony, does everything to getting by in everyday life, loves friends around him who are full of enthusiasm and are steadfastly by nature. And have a strong spirit of entrepreneurship”, says the horoscope. Both gentlemen are a bit dazed by the similarities that characterize them.
The conversation has taken long enough. Paul and Wiepke are going to look for horses again, with their knowledge they only need a brief moment to judge a horse standing in his box. Paul Schockemöhle and Wiepke van de Lageweg, both almost seventy years old with more similarities than differences. No friends in business, since their spirit is too great. But full of mutual respect. As horsemen they are friends, because the love for horses connects them even more than their shared birthday!