Sven Harmsen, chef d’equipe for the Royal Dutch Equestrian Federation, suffered from a severe heart attack on Sept. 8 while at the Spruce Meadows Masters in Calgary, Alberta. He was taken to a local hospital immediately, but he died Sept. 10. He was 51.
Harmsen was the silver medalist at the FEI Young Rider European Championships in 1982, and he competed internationally in the 1980s and 1990s before becoming the Dutch chef e’equipe for ponies in 2005. The following year he was appointed as chef d’equipe for the juniors and young riders as well. In addition to coaching, he also ran a training and sales facility in the Netherlands.
The Dutch team of Jur Vrieling, Harrie Smolders and Jeroen Dubbeldam won the bronze medal in the BMO Nations’ Cup on Sept. 8 under the leadership of Harmsen, who had stepped in for Rob Ehrens. At dinner that evening, Harmsen suffered a severe heart attack. His wife and daughter flew to Calgary and were with him when he passed.
“Sven was highly committed and motivated, giving 200 percent to his role,” said Maarten van der Heijden, technical director of the Royal Dutch Equestrian Federation. “Since he became chef d’equipe, there has never been a year that we have not won a medal. He focused so much on getting the best from every rider and horse under his guidance, and this passion made him extremely popular with everyone. We will miss him greatly.”
Harmsen is survived by his wife, Anne, and two children.