We recently received the sad news about the passing of Gerrit Willem van Norel. In the night of June 2nd through June 3rd, he passed away at the age of 76 as a result of complications from heart surgery.

Gerrit Willem van Norel was very dedicated to the KWPN. He committed himself to breeding with passion and enormous enthusiasm. In 1969, he started his own breeding program, specializing in dressage horses. In 1977, the stallion Pretendent, bred by Van Norel, was approved by the KWPN. Pretendent was his first self-bred approved KWPN stallion and formed the foundation of the 'Pretendenthoeve' in Wapenveld. Vanitas, Vincent, Cabochon, Facet, Oscar and his son Uphill followed to become well-known names with their 'roots' in Wapenveld. Together with his wife Roelie, Gerrit Willem van Norel laid the strong foundation for the company, continued by his children and 'children-in-law', as he puts it himself.

At the time, he said about the Le Faquin son Pretendent in an interview in In de Strengen: “This stallion made sure that I became a stallion owner for better or worse. Pretendent was way ahead of his time, if we had him nowadays, he would still fit in modern breeding; ‘tritt’ (reaction speed) in the legs and suppleness in his body and Thoroughbred blood in his veins. I have always loved Thoroughbred in the pedigree, which is why I also had the Thoroughbred Apollonios at stud here.”

Extremely successful
For many years, Van Norel was extremely successful at mare inspections and in competitions for young dressage horses. From the dam line of Pretendent (the Van Wittenstein line) he bred inspection champion Ocironia (Cabochon x Saros xx) and her full brother, the designated stallion No Mercy who was successful in the Pavo Cup. Pays Bas NL (by Cabochon) was successful in both the Pavo Cup and the World Championships for young dressage horses in Verden. Van Norel’s breeding program also produced several UTV and NMK champions, including Vincent’s daughter Melody keur sport (dressage) preferent. Her son Expression is also one of the showpieces of De Pretendenthoeve. This Vivaldi son was not only approved by the KWPN but with Diederik van Silfhout he made it to Grand Prix level. In 2018 the duo won the Dutch Indoor Championships.

Breeder of the Year
With his own- and purchased dam lines, with his own stallions and – if this was necessary for the improvement of his mare stock – those of others, Gerrit Willem van Norel has developed a very typical, recognizable horse: high in blood, with breed typical appearance, nobility and an excess of movement potential. And these athletic movement artists from Wapenveld are making an impression all over the world. In 2004, Van Norel was awarded with the title Breeder of the Year Riding Horse.

Royal award
In 2015, Gerrit Willem van Norel was surprised with a prestigious Royal award during his own stallion show at the Pretendenthoeve in Wapenveld. He was officially promoted to ‘Officier in de Orde van Oranje-Nassau’ for his services to Dutch horse breeding. “Fifty years ago, I dreamed of breeding Grand Prix dressage horses. We succeeded and we have achieved that with the whole family!”, said Van Norel at the time.

We wish his family and relatives a lot of strength with this great loss.

Photo: Jacob Melissen

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The KWPN (Studbook of the Royal Dutch Sport Horse) is a Netherlands-based organization specializing in the breeding of jumpers, dressage horses, harness horses, and Gelder horses.

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