Harrie Smolders

The Early Days

Harrie Smolders grew up with his parents and his sister in the small village of Lage-Mierde in Brabant, The Netherlands. Since he was born, horses have always played a fundamental role in his life, and while his family were never competitive, their simple love for horses was passed on. His father has always been a horse-lover, keen on both the breeding aspect and the sport of jumping, and so was the main instigator for Harrie and his sister Caroline's initial passion. Harrie was 8 years old when he started riding a pony, originally his sister's and who was affectionally known as Smurf - the story goes that Caroline outgrew Smurf and so their father said he must be sold, but the idea of that happening was so upsetting to Harrie he decided to take over the reins and so kept hold of a much-loved pony. 

Harrie was certainly no hero in the beginning and started his riding career out very cautiously. Preferring to keep his pony's feet on the ground, the take-off boards had to be dug into the ground before Harrie would even consider risking a little jump. He was also a football fanatic up to the age of 16 and seriously considered whether he should follow that as his career. However his love for horses prevailed, and in his pony years Harrie managed to win several national titles in jumping, as well as in dressage and eventing.

Turning a passion into a career

Harrie swapped Brabant for Meppel in Drente at the age of 18. For more than 4 years he rode for the stable of former European champion Johan Heins which was an invaluable experience as he was able to work on coaching gifted young horses. Throughout the years it became clear that Harrie's talent lay in being able to understand each horse's individuality and work with them to get the aboslute best out of them.

In 2002 Harrie made the switch-over to the stable of Axel Verlooy where he took over the reins of two prestigious, and very different, stallions Emerald N.O.P and Don VHP Z, propelling him into the spotlight and showing the breadth and strength of his talent. 

As well as riding competitively Harrie attributed much of his time to students, working selectively with rising talent over the years including Jos Verlooy, Audrey Coulter and Jennifer Gates. Harrie's teaching style, knowlegde and ability to get the absolute best out of his students helped garner his reputation for being one of the world's finest coaches. 

Harrie became part of Evergate Stables, championing horses such as Monaco N.O.P, who affectionately became known as "Mr Consistent" and split much of his time between Europe and America. With multiple Grand Prix wins, Championship medals and World Cup Finals under his belt, Harrie also turned his hand to breeding and collaborated with friends to create SLF Horse Auction, a new and successful venture to spot potential stars of the future. 

Despite injuries, such as broken ribs a month before the 2020 Olympics, Harrie's commitment to the spot - and more importantly, his love for horses - remains unwavering. His philosophy is clear, "as long as the horses are healthy and love their job, we'll keep scoring. I won't ever force any horse just to get some extra points and for me it is always about the long game and looking to the future." 

Harrie lives together with his partner Inge and their sons Pim and Siep in the Netherlands. When he is not at a show, Harrie is everyday at the stables. Throughout his career Inge and their sons have been a constant, their support immeasurable and despite being possibly one of the busiest men in the equestrian world, they always come first. 

Recent Career Highlights to Date

Harrie and his team's hard work and dedication have earned him a place among the world's top 25 riders for over a decade, including an 8 month stint as the World's Number 1 in 2018. His extensive career includes multiple CSI5* Grand Prix wins and podiums, competing in multiple European and World Championships, Olympic Games and World Cup Finals. Standout achievements include: 


  • 2016 Goteburg World Cup Final Silver with Emerald
  • 2016 Individuele finale Olympische Spelen Rio with Emerald
  • 2017 European championship Gotenburg with Don VHP Z, silver medal
  • 2017 Longines Global Champions Tour Champion of Champions 
  • 2017 GCL Champion with team Hamburg Diamonds
  • 2017 Rider of the Year, The Netherlands
  • 2018 Runner up in Longines Global Champions Tour
  • 2018 Rider of the Year, The Netherlands
  • 2018 National Sportsman of the Year, The Netherlands
  • 2018 World Number 1 ranked rider for 8 months 
  • 2020 Tokyo Olympics 
  • 2022 World Championships in Herning - silver medal
  • 2022 FEI World Cup Final - silver medal 
  • 2023 FEI World Cup Final - silver medal 
  • 2023 Longines Global Champions Tour Champions of Champions (second time)