Van Hertem - Schuurmans (Neerpelt, BE) win national first prize from Guéret old birds

The successful couple Henri and Lisette Van Hertem – Schuurmans have continued to improve their form. They have been among the most successful fanciers for years and they are never afraid to take new challenges. They managed to take the national victory in the old birds’ category with their pigeon Simen.

Simen, national winner Guéret 2013 old birds


Their pigeons seem to have no flaws. They are always in great shape. They take care of their pigeons as if it were their very own children. Henri told us he would sometimes dream about his pigeons outside the season. “You have certain expectations, you make plans, you pair the pigeons together etc.” They are always hoping for good results and top prizes and they have had some ups and downs on their way to the top.

Great respect

They have great respect for their pigeons. Lisette told us she is truly amazed by what a racing pigeon is capable of doing. “I’m not just talking about our national winner. I have great respect for all of our prizewinners. It’s something amazing.”

Of course they have their share of bad luck from time to time as well. Their loft is surrounded by nature, which means their pigeons have to look out for birds of prey. The long and harsh winter has made the sparrow hawks and the peregrines hungrier than ever. “I guess approximately ten pigeons have been wounded or killed by these birds but this is a natural process.”

From left to right: Lisette, Henri and Franky Appelmans (nat. winner Guéret 2013 old birds)

Young and full of life

Is the breeding loft the key to success for the Van Hertem-Schuurmans family? Henri and Lisette agree that your breeding pigeons should not be too old. “Energetic pigeons tend to breed more energetic young birds”, Lisette says. In fact they hardly have any fixed breeding pairs. They know how to create new pairs and how to find decent breeders. “In general our racing pigeons are raced until the age of three. At that age they have covered quite a few kilometres”, they said with a smile.

Putting things into perspective

Henri and Lisette are positive thinkers. They never give up, even when things are not going as they should. “You have to look forward, not only in real life but also in your pigeon loft”, Lisette explains. Sometimes they try to look for an explanation if something goes wrong but pigeon racing is influenced by so many external factors. “You can’t keep them on a leash”, Henri said in jest.

The lofts of the Hertem - Schuurmans family

Taking care

The weather conditions have played a key role this season. We have had cold, wet and windy weather conditions and fanciers have hardly had any good weather. This was no reason for them to give up. “It is useless to force your pigeons to do training flights or to basket them in bad weather”, says Henri. Still they took part in nearly all races, albeit with a smaller team. “We do not want to be over protective but you have to be careful and responsible with your racing pigeons.” They do not want to blame the people responsible for the releases of training flights and races. “They have a thankless task because of a range of factors to be taken into account.”

No planning

The nominated pigeons are only selected on the day of basketing. “Some fanciers make a selection already on Monday but we wait until the day of basketing”, Lisette says. They get a good idea of the fitness of our pigeons during their training flights around the house. They observe their pigeons regularly so they know their pigeons very well. The racing team, raced on total widowhood, consists of about 90 pigeons. “The pigeons are usually basketed every week, for longer or shorter distances. These weekly flights are especially important for our racing hens.”

Henri in his lofts

A lost pigeon takes the win

The winning pigeon, Simen, born in 2010, is one of the big stars in the racing loft in Neerpelt. He has won many prizes and his national victory from Guéret is the absolute highlight in his career. He also achieved a 112th national prize from Montluçon.

Luck sometimes comes unexpectedly: this blue coloured racing pigeon had been missing for a week after the national race from La Châtre in 2011. “The pigeon looked very sad for a while”, Lisette told us. He was given some time to recover and to regain strength.

The eye of Simen