The Swedish team are off to a flying start at the European Championship in Milan. All four team riders claiming a top 12 spot propelled them to the leading position in the team standings. KWPN mare Iliana ridden by Henrik von Eckermann made a crucial contribution. 

Von Eckermann is regarded as one of the fastest showjumpers in the world and his round yesterday attested to that reputation. Despite one rail down, which added four penalty seconds to his time, the Swedis rider slotted into a sixth place on the individual ranking. The merely 10-year-old Iliana (s.Cardento), that was bred by Jenny and Paul Bocken of Weert, is making her international championship debut in Milan.

“Exactly what we wanted”

“I had a fantastic feeling, she was so calm. Everything went according to plan, I was still quick enough despite that mistake”, responds Henrick von Eckermann visibly pleased afterwards. “Why I got that rail off, is still not entirely clear to me. I have to watch the video first, but I think I was focused on the second jump too much.” On the first fence of the third jump a pole hit the grass. “We (the Swedish team, ed.) have performed four great rounds and are currently leading the team standings and that was exactly what we wanted to achieve on the first day. Only six clear rounds left and we are done”, quips Henrik Von Eckermann.


The Cardento-daughter is renowned for her eagerness and mindset. Traits that seem to suit the Swedish top rider. “Iliana is still inexperienced in competitions like these. I try to keep her calm and relaxed, she is so explosive. But it gets better every show. She now remains calm in the warm-up as well as in the arena. She is still making great progress and that’s great for me of course, certainly in light of the future. I have a lot of faith in Iliana.”

Spotted by Janika Sprunger

Von Eckermann and Iliana have formed a combination since one and a half years. His wife Janika Sprunger had spotted the mare at a show. Untill six years of age, the mare was ridden by Julia Hallberg, then Lars Kersten picked up the reins and guided her up to 1.45m level. All that time, Iliana was still owned by her breeders. After Iliana caught the eye of Janika Sprunger, the mare moved to the stables of her and Henrick von Eckermann.  


“Good experiences are important”

Von Eckerman always believed in Iliana, but she was not always easy. “Before, she was very tense and trotted and cantered at the same time, so to say. It cost her a lot of energy. Now, she saves up that energy for the ring and it only benefits her.” So how did he teach her that? “Through positive experiences only, all her competition experiences had to be positive. We took her out of the stable, preferably more often and for shorter periods, so she would be done before she became tense. Just how you teach all animals things, good experiences are crucial.”

1.60m family

Iliana’s talent does not come out of the blue, she originates from an established damline. Her dam Destiny (s.Gentleman) is a daughter of the prestatie mare Kiovili D (s.Sit this One Out). This mare produced two 1.60m horses: Simon Delestre’s Whisper and Valente of Tim Gredley. Both horses are full siblings to Destiny. Jenny Bocken competed Whisper up to 1.50m level after which she was sold to the French top rider. Since Jenny and Paul Bocken loved this dam line, they purchased the dam of Iliana from her breeder. Unfortunately, this mare got into an accident when she was in foal to her second foal, after which she had to be euthanized. Iliana gave birth to two foals. A foal by Kannan, which was sold to the United States, and one by Diamant de Semilly. 


Today at 13.15 hours the European Championships Jumping in Milan continues. The competitors ride one round that counts towards both the individual standings and the team results. 

All participating KWPN horses, the timetable, starting lists and results can be found in the special media guide


Photo Iliana: Dirk Caremans 

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