Written by Jacob Melissen
A justification for why the endurance sport with horses in relation to the horse is still a completely acceptable discipline within the framework of the well-being of the horse.
Part Three - The History behind the 'raid' Brussels - Oostend
In 2013 the book “A life on horse” was published. It was a collection of five publications in “Hoetwas”, the quarterly magazine of the Historical Association Leersum and written by Cornelie Petter and Herman Schuitema. It is an extremely fascinating book from which we have borrowed a lot in the following.
Jonkheer Johan (Jan) Willem Godin de Beaufort was born on June 13, 1877 in Utrecht. His father Karel Antonie (16-01-1850 – 07-04-1921) was a conservative anti-revolutionary. He had studied law and received his doctorate in this field. Before he became a member of the House of Representatives, he was a water board, a member of the States in the province of Utrecht, and a city councilman in Utrecht. In 1888 he became Minister of Finance in the Mackay cabinet. According to Wikipedia, he did not show great zest for work and did not enact major financial legislation. After his ministry he became a member of the Senate from 1893 to 1910 as a free anti-revolutionary. This party (VAR – Vrij-Antirevolutionaire Partij) existed from 1898 to 1903. The VAR strived to maintain and implement the anti-revolutionary or Christian-historical principles. She had a predominantly conservative and anti-Roman character. The extension of the right to vote and far-reaching government intervention in the socio-economic field were rejected.
The party granted great independence to the individual local electoral associations, had a strict separation between the parliamentary fraction and the party, and was in favour of its MPs’ freedom of action: MPs should be able to vote without being forced to vote. The framework of the VAR was formed by noblemen, who were generally very wealthy. The most important foreman of the VAR was Jhr. A.F. de Savorin Lohman and beyond were J.E.N. Baron Schimmelpennick van der Oye, W.K.F.P. Count van de Bylandt and B.J.L. baron de Geer van Jutphaas leading figures. In 1903 the VAR merged with the Christian Historical Voters Union and the name was changed to The Christian Historical Party that merged in 1908 with the Frisian Association from which the Christian Historical Union arose, which merged with the ARP and the KVP in 1989 to form the CDA.
Jonkheer Karel Antonie Godin de Beaufort was also the grandfather of Carel Pieter Antoni Jan Hubertus (Carel) Godin de Beaufort (Maarsbergen 10-04-1934 – 02-08-1964 Cologne). Carel Godin was the first Dutchman to take points in 1962 in the battle for the Formula 1 World Championship. Godin de Beaufort started in 31 F1 GP races and finished sixth four times. The Netherlands (Zandvoort), 1962, France (Rouen les Essarts) 1962, Belgium (Spa-Francorchamps) 1963 and USA (Watkins Glens) 1963. In 1964 Carel Godin de Beaufort got into an accident on the German Nürburgring during practice for the German Grand Prix. Three days after the crash with a Porsche 718, the man who had called Jonkheer Johan (Jan) Willem Godin de Beaufort uncle died in a hospital in Cologne. Father Karel Antonie had a military career in mind for Jan-Willem and after primary school in Utrecht, he went to the cadet school in Alkmaar. In addition to all the normal subjects, there was a lot of physical exercise. Fencing with the sabre became Jan Willem’s much-loved sport. After Alkmaar, he was educated at the Royal Military Academy in Breda. Here he studied with little joy, but the theoretical education in everything regarding horses received his full attention. He enjoyed the practical exercise in horse riding and also the fencing with the sabre. At the end of the 19th century, there was very little interest in sports in the Netherlands. The training at the KMA therefore only included riding technique; exercising a lot in walk and trot and practicing in the riding school during winter. At that time, sport was not considered to be in line with military dignity.
Jan-Willem and his horse Mascotte
In 1899 Jan-Willem completed his studies in Breda and was appointed 2nd lieutenant. How happy he was is shown by the story of how he threw the textbooks (with exception of those of horse leather) on the heads of the teachers from a window in the gate of the academy. His first garrison place was Deventer, where he was fortunate to serve under captain A.J.P. Metelerkamp van Bronkhorst (1856-1920), a great equestrian and sports fanatic. He took part in racing, organized hunts and above all, aroused enthusiasm for equestrian sports among his young officers. From Deventer it was also possible to hunt at the Royal Veluwe Hunting Association. Partly due to the stimulating influence of Metelerkamp, Jan-Willem became a very experienced rider and when he heard in 1902 about the long-distance ride that would be held in Belgium that same year, he decided to participate. Five weeks before the raid, he bought the six-year-old mare Mascotte especially for this purpose. There was little time to train together. Fortunately, it turned out to be a very well-trained horse in which he gained a lot of confidence. It was therefore this Mascotte with which he rode the very tough long distance ride Brussels – Ostend in 1902 and would complete his journey from Amsterdam to Vienna in 1903.
The ‘Raid’ Brussels-Ostend
‘The ‘raid’ Brussels – Ostend, in which cavalry officers from the various European armies took part, covered a course of 132km.
About sixty participants, including a large number of officers from the French army, were lined up. According to the programme, the departure had to take place between seven and eight o’clock from Molenbeek-Saint Jean, one of the suburbs of Brussels, and the arrival in Ostend between one and five o’clock.’ That not everyone was satisfied with the course of events during this very difficult journey is apparent from a report by the Belgian animal protection organization: Quelques documents relatifs au raid militaire Bruxelles-Ostende du 27 août 1902. – s.l. . : Sociétées protectrices des animaux de Belgique, 1902. During the ride, which would later be known as the death ride, many victims fell among the horses.
The reason for the ‘raid’ of 132 km
The ‘Raid’ Brussels-Ostend
We must now first place ourselves in the military world of thought of the first years of the 20th century. Telegraphy and telephony were already available for rapid exchange of messages, but these connections were wired and it is easy to sabotage. One still had to be able to rely on a liaison officer on horseback. Speed and endurance are obviously important. General De Rosenberg expresses this as follows: “Since we are not constantly at war, our manoeuvres and exercises are not sufficient for our officers; in peacetime we have to find compensation for the use of our horses: this can be found in chasing the pack [where the rider follows a ‘pack’ of hunting dogs] and in the races [steeplechase and flat track races]. In the second half of the 19th century, long journeys were made and described. On the basis of these data, an average speed of 25 km/h over a distance of 25 km could be established, decreasing to 15 km/h over a distance of 100 km; beyond this distance, the average speed decreased even further. For the participants in the Brussels-Ostend raid, this data was the norm – until a new record was reported. In April 1902 a competition was held in Sweden over two different courses ending at the same point: one 100 km, the other 110 km, the riders and horses of about equal strength. Swedish Lieutenant Carl Silfverswärd completed the 100 km in 4 hours and 20 minutes – and the participants in the raid have stared blindly at that record, without delving into the results on the 110 km. That distance was covered by the first two in 5 hours and 15 minutes resp. 6 hours and 24 minutes. The last of this group needed 2 hours and 30 minutes for the last 15 kilometres. This omission had a major impact on the competition of August 27th of the same year.
The goal of the raid was to cover a distance of 132 km in the shortest possible time in order to obtain data for training of man and horse, about horse shoes, tack, nutrition and hygiene en route, about the alternation of gaits and rest breaks. A large part of the participants in the raid had clung to Silfverswärd’s record. It was believed that the speed of 23 km/h – achieved in 100 km by a hitherto unknown officer on a horse without any reputation – could certainly also be reached at 132 km on select horses specially trained for the raid. Nobody had taken the course of the speed curve into account: above 100km the average speed dropped sharply. One of the 46 Belgian officers committed to the following schedule: 1 hour to arrive at the first checkpoint (Aalst, 24 ½ km) 2 ½ hours at the 2nd checkpoint (Zingem, 59 km) and 4 ½ hours at the 3rd checkpoint (Koolskamp, 100km). If after that his horse kept the same pace, he would arrive in Ostend in 5h35m. To compete with this schedule, an average speed of 24 ½ km/h had to be maintained from the start.
Next Saturday in the final part of “The History of the Endurance Sport”, written by Jacob Melissen, you will read more about the experiences of riders who competed in the ‘raid’ from Brussels to Ostend.