Honouring ‘The Flying Dutchman’

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Peter Van Eerd, 90, gets an up-close visit from Freedom, one of the horses from TJ Stables, as part of the Make a Difference celebrations honouring Van Eerd Friday at Meadow Park Chatham.

What better way to commemorate the rich life of an equestrian legend than to bring a horse to the party?

Not just any horse, but one Peter Van Eerd once shoed for long-time friend Terry Jenkins.

In marking the celebration of Van Eerd’s winning of the Make a Difference Award at Meadow Park on Friday, Jenkins of TJ Stables, showed up with Freedom, about as friendly a horse as you’d ever meet.

The 21-year-old animal spotted Van Eerd, approached with Jenkins at his side, and nuzzled a familiar face.

The moment brought smiles and tears to family and staff at Meadow Park.

Van Eerd, known as The Flying Dutchman in equestrian circles, received the award from Jarlette Health Services for making “an outstanding difference” in the lives of others.

Jenkins said that’s exactly what Van Eerd did with her.

“Peter Van Eerd was a mentor to me. He knew my dad. He’d have little competitions with my dad on who could teach a certain trick to a horse first,” Jenkins said, adding she’s known him since she was a little girl.

But his accomplishments go well past Jenkins and TJ Stables.

“He is a world renowned horseman. He was the youngest man ever on the Dutch equestrian team,” Jenkins said. “He came to Canada and took over the rodeo circuit. He won all kinds of championships. He’s done movies with his horses too.”

Van Eerd was born in the Netherlands in 1931 and moved to Canada in the early 1950s.

He rode his first horse at age five and was a competitive rider by age 15.

At the age of 22, now living in Canada, he took an interest in rodeo riding and started hauling in the hardware.

He married and established The Flying Dutchmen ranch near Windsor in the early 1960s. He turned his attention from rodeo riding to raising show horses, and continued his winning ways.

Through it all, Van Eerd led by example, entertained and enlightened.

According to his daughter, Jackie, “Pete is such an unlikely hero…a man short in stature but tall in integrity; the rugged cowboy with the thick foreign accent, more akin to Clint Eastwood than the little Dutch boy he once portrayed,” she said. “To his friends, family and colleagues in the horse world, he is larger than life. To those who know him, The Flying Dutchman is a living legend.”

For Jenkins, Van Eerd will always be a friend and mentor.

“When I started my riding stable, I learned from him. He would guide me along,” she said. “We’ve been longtime friends.”
Despite that lengthy friendship, COVID-19 has kept them apart…until Friday.

“Today is the first time I’ve seen him in a couple of years.”

That meeting brought more tears, and smiles, as Jenkins coaxed Freedom into a few tricks of his own for those present, including a bow to the legend, Van Eerd.

1 COMMENT

  1. I am first cousin to the late Ronnie Van Eerd and remember visiting the Flying Dutchman Ranch with my parents (dad was Ronnie’s uncle Bill).

    I still have a picture of myself as a toddler sitting one of the horses (with assistance, of course).

    Now, at 62 years of age and retired, I finally have time to go thru old pictures and relish childhood memories.

    It is great to run across this article and to know Mr. Van Eerd is doing well and being honored in such a nice way!

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