Raf Den Haese, Moortsele (BE) Winner 1° Nat. La Souterraine 4.460 old birds

A good number of old birds were entered for the penultimate classic of the 2009 racing season, no less than 4.460. The old birds and yearlings raced in one and the same race and the same national doubling for the first time this season, in the joint category ‘old birds’. It was excellent racing weather, and there was a very gentle wind that varied between east and south-east above Paris, and west to north-west under Paris to our own countries.

Ideal conditions then, which no one could blame for any failures … unless the pigeons themselves missed the ‘right train’ that day. It is and remains ‘national game’… the field of competitors laid completely open, the pigeons had to be ‘alert’… be with the right ‘group’. It was then a question of ‘can’, coupled with ‘racing experience’ and ‘top condition’ at the right moment.
By the old birds the first pigeons were very close. In the end it was Raf Den Haese from the East-Flemish Moortsele who was allowed to stand at the highest place on the podium, with a hen clocked at 15h19’29” from a distance of 551,063 Km, which resulted in a velocity of just over 1255 m/min. In 2° place nationally we find Bouckaert-Deneir from Olsene-Zulte with 1252,97 m, 3°for Gevaert-Lannoo from Meigem-Deinze with 1249,68 m.

Raf Den Haese laureate old birds
The well-known fancier Raf Den Haese has won this nice classic from La Souterraine by the old birds. Raf (now 70 and a retired potato dealer) inherited the pigeon bug from his father, and for the whole of his life he has been involved with the pigeons and the ‘spuds’. To give you an idea… every year he grew about 1,5 million kilo’s of potatoes on his 30 hectares of land… which he then sold to factories, wherefrom some ended up as ‘chips’ on our plates! As a pigeon fancier we can describe Raf as someone who is ‘straight to the point’… pigeon sport without any frills, where only the pigeon counts! After all, you race with ‘pigeons’, not with pedigrees… according to Raf. ‘Good sort’ is necessary, along with optimal health and especially… a ‘tough selection’. In short, it is the way that Raf Den Haese has practised the pigeon sport for the almost 55 years of his pigeon career. The selection is based on the performances of the pigeons in his own district, his own club… for Raf this is the club in Zottegem… provincial and national results are not taken into consideration. Pigeon sport is pure hobby, you haven’t to make it too complicated says Raf. A great deal of bookkeeping or constructing pedigrees is not for him. It is enough for him just to know who the parents of a certain pigeon are… once again, you race with the ‘pigeon’, not with the ‘pedigree’… Raf declares once again!

Though Raf knows where his pigeons come from! His pigeons are built up for almost 90% with direct pigeons from Eric Limbourg from Brussegem (wherefrom 30 direct, generally bought as eggs), supplemented with pigeons out the own old sort, built up with pigeons from Martin Dhondt from Vurste… now supplemented with the pigeons of ‘close friend’ Eric Hofman from Scheldewindeke… with whom Raf is now developing and expanding a joint breeding loft!

According to Raf, In order to win nationally , sometimes a number of factors need to be in your favour.. but the most important thing is… pigeons that have the right ‘form peak’ at that moment! The ‘050’-hen ring was clearly in such a ‘peak’! However, she is certainly not my ‘best’ hen, says an honest Raf Den Haese… that’s why she was only nominated as 6° of my 8 old birds basketted for La Souterraine! Rather, it is a hen that is ‘erratic’, it is ‘all or nothing’… she is either ‘very early’, or hours too late. On her honours list from 2009 we see, amongst other things:
Bourges I 545 p. 3 (Prov 13° against 3.981 p.)
Blois  466 p. 5
Argenton 722 p. 11
Bourges II 348 p. 12
La Souterraine 4460 p. 1  National !!

She is a 100% Eric Limbourg-pigeon, coming out ‘Son Slappe 040/07’  (The ‘Slappe’ is a direct Limbourg and won self 9° Nat Bourges 11.875 p in ‘08, 47° Nat Tulle 5.676 p in ’09… and is a grandson of the star breeder ‘Joost’) x ‘Blue Erika 403/05’ direct Limbourg and 100% De Rauw-Sablon pigeon (out the 2° Nat Ace pigeon Long Distance KBDB ’07: the ‘Blue Ace 095/03’ x ‘Sister Dromer 083/03’ De Rauw-Sablon’). Noble blood… that much is clear!

Raf started the 2009 season with 22 widowers, 15 racing hens, bred 80 youngsters, and has 20 breeding couples. It was the racing hens which were basketted for La Souterraine. These were trained for the racing season as follows. These ladies are not allowed to raise youngsters before the season… they are however coupled around Christmas and allowed to brood for 5 days. Directly afterwards they are placed in the aviary. To keep them paired to their cocks they are allowed to stay with their cock for 3 days in February and March. A couple of weeks before training they return to the loft, where they are lose in the loft on ‘triangles’, their living boxes remain closed during the week. During training they come together again for 3 days, after which widowhood begins. Via sprint and middle distance they then race ‘grand middle distance races’ for which they are basketted weekly. These ladies even raced in widowhood up to La Souterraine! Because they were basketted weekly, they kept hold of their flights, which meant that they had an optimal condition for La Souterraine. Before leaving, they are allowed to see their cocks for 5 minutes, when they return they are usually allowed to stay with their cocks until the following morning!
And.. we asked Raf, don’t you have any trouble with them pairing with each other? That is the art of pigeon sport, keeping the ‘urge’ under control. When 2 hens look like they are going to pair with each other, then the ‘lesser’ of the two is put into the aviary for 5 days for punishment. She is then returned to the loft, but if she tries it again with another hen… then I have no mercy and she leaves the loft for good, says Raf! They train 1 x per day together with the young hens. This makes the group bigger, and a bigger group also has a better ‘training urge’. This system is used for the yearlings and 2 year old hens… then they know the tricks of the trade, and are stopped. For feed they are mainly given ‘Super diet’ and this until Wednesday. On Wednesday and Thursday they are given breeding mixture, and  they are basketted every week so. Their health is carefully monitored, a sport friend checks the pigeons for ‘tricho’ and ‘cocci’ almost every week, for which they are only treated when necessary. During the season the pigeons are given ‘Soludox’ to drink twice for the airways. With this system, Raf Den Haese has achieved the top performances below, now crowned last weekend with national victory from La Souterraine. In the club in Zottegem the result looked like this:

La Souterraine
34 old birds 1,2,5,6,7,9 (8)  (the 2° pigeon clocked will be around the 10° spot Nationally)
741 youngsters 38,58,94,105,123,126,131,133,195 (19)

Congratulations on this fine national victory, which is a logical follow-up to the magnificent performances put down on paper during the entire sport season 2009 in Moortsele!

Blois : 187 yl.: 8-9-18-23-29-32-46 (11)
Chateauroux: 422 old birds: 5-6-10-15-19-20-26-41-42-56-81-86 (22)
Chateauroux: 463 old birds: 5-9 (2)
Chateauroux: 606 yl.: 4-12-38-62-82-109 (10)
Chateauroux: 819 yl.: 1-4-18-23-39-42-51-63-70-101-115-127-179 (17)
Poitiers: 273 yl.: 1-11-12-15-31-44-59-76 (10)
Argenton: 236 old birds: 4-6-54-57-72 (10)
Argenton: 722 yl.: 11-31-32-52-57-60-61-135-171-182 (15)
Limoges: 477 old birds: 12-13-38-54-58-63-99 (8)
Limoges: 343  2-year olds: 9-10-27-41-45-50-78 (8)
Blois: 52 old birds: 1-2 (2)
Blois: 108 yl.: 1-5-6-12-17-20-21-25 (10)
Blois: 67 yl.: 1-4-6-10-11-20-22 (9)
Bourges: 348 yl.: 7-12-16-41-59-74-90 (10)
Vierzon: 127 old birds: 2-6-12-20-29-32-38-42 (11)
Tulle: 212 yl.: 2-9 (3)
Argenton: 128 yl: 1-15-24-38 (5)
Argenton: 1067 young: 3-19-...... 1st+2nd nom. and 14/36