Being General Champion from Belgium, what does it mean? It means that you have several top results on the short distance, small middle distance ,middle distance, long distance and extreme long distance races. And this with the old-, year- and young birds. That’s quite a lot, no? And knowing that this only counts with the first signed makes the mission even harder. The former season the man/wife tandem Ameel-Vanlake from Dadizele were the best of the country. This didn’t come as a big surprise for me. I personally follow them since several years now and you see the colony going to a higher level each year. The last fifteen years they managed to achieve a long list of provincial championships. And this in the most different disciplines; 1st Provincial Ace bird short distance 2003, 1st General Provincial champion 2005, 2nd General Provincial champion 2006. In 2008, 2009 and 2013 they became General Long distance champion in the iron strong club of Ieper. Meanwhile they won in 2014 with their super crack ‘Pinokkio’ the 1st National Gueret. The last 4 years they classified themselves no less than 8 times within the national championships. Last year they got the bronze metal in the extreme long distance category year birds. But off course is winning the most wanted title in Belgium pigeon sport, General Champion of Belgium, their (for now) high light in their succeeded career!
Pigeons that can race everything? Yes, they do exist!
Make no mistake about it, at Ignace Ameel and Sabine Vanlake you won’t find a mega pigeon loft. No uncountable lofts where the short distance racers, the middle distance racers and the long distance racers are separated. No, in Dadizele are just a few lofts, just like the average pigeon fancier. How do they do it, shine on every distance? Well, Ignace managed to create a pigeon strain that can perform on any distance. I’ll give you an example, when I went to visit them last year concerning their 3rd spot in the national championship extreme long distance year birds the widow cocks raced twice Arras (64km). After these two weekends the count of victories was already on 2. A few weeks later there was their first stunt on Bourges. They dominated this race in an impressive way. They took the entire head lead against 1,340 old birds; 1-5-7-11-23-28…..Phenomenal! And also on the first extreme long distance races it was bingo immediately, 3rd national Pau, 4th national Agen and 11th national St.Vincent and Valence. And yes, all of this with the same pigeons, UNIQUE! Some more figures to give you even a better view to see how all round this colony now exactly is. Ignace and Sabine managed to get 20 pigeons within the top 100 national. The first was Pau with a 3rd place, next followed; Agen 4th(yb), Valence 11th ,Sint-Vincent 11th , Montélimar 18th (yb), Jarnac 27th (yb), Brive 35th (yb), Agen 38th ,Châteauroux 50th, Châteauroux 57th, Châteauroux 63rd (yb), Montluçon 63th (yb), Jarnac 67th, Agen 75th (yb), Brive 78th (yb), Châteauroux 85th , Limoges 87th, Agen 93rd (yb) and Brive 99th. After a wonderful season the tandem had 19 first prizes and this from Arras up to St.Vincent with amongst these two zonal victories, Bourges and Montluçon.
How do you build a pigeon strain like this?
It is a cliché but true; breed a lot, race them a lot and select very strong! But to build up an entire colony you need to have a few good ones to start off with, otherwise you’ll be lost upfront. At Ameel-Vanlake it all started with a few pigeons from Ignace’s father Marcel, himself a very dedicated fancier. In combination with the better breeding lines from two West-Flemish icons in the national pigeon sport namely Antoon Reynaert and Silvère Toye, the base breeder of the colony Ameel-Vanlake was born namely “Witterugge”. His breeding palmaris in Belgium is unique, and without exaggerating I would dare to say even worldwide. The “Witterugge” was a small factory that only produced first prize winners. Off spring shined from Arras up to St.Vincent. In 2007 Ignace decided to breed more content into his pigeons. He didn’t have to think about this for a long time and found what he was looking for at Ludwig Vandecasteele from Oekene. Ignace bought about 20 late youngsters and it was bingo straight away. He noticed rather quickly that the Vandecasteele-pigeons possessed a huge potential in racing-and breeding capacities. The first direct top pigeons was “Lionel”, he became 6th provincial ace bird extreme long distance. Both fanciers became closer friends and also the confidence in each other’s colony grew year after year. That’s why they decided to ‘strengthen’ each other, and this is how they co-breed since a few years now (with successes for both). The most beautiful example is the 2nd national Limoges from Ludwig, he won this with a pigeon bred in Dadizele!
A young team of widow cocks
When I spoke to Ignace last year, also after a marvellous season in 2015, he looked at the future a bit insecure. He just moved some of his best racers onto the breeding loft. Pigeon with a huge palmaris. ‘I’m going to feel this on the racing loft’, were his words back then. And look, one year later the tandem became general champion of Belgium. So the start in 2016 was taken with a young and rather unexperienced racing team, existing out of about 60 widow cocks. Yet remarkable that they manage to finish this kind of heavy program (from short distance up to extreme long distance) with 60 pigeons, year birds and old together. Last year the widow cocks could raise a couple of youngster before the moulting season. End of November Ignace and Sabine coupled all their pigeons, both breeding as racing pigeons. When I went to visit them at the beginning of this year it was very busy over there. But with Sabine, Ignace doesn’t only have a fantastic wife but also a marvellous pigeon fancier in his house. There won’t be a second breeding round as they don’t like to speed up the moulting period (what is disadvantageous for the last races). The widow cocks and their hen do come together a few days with Spring break. Ignace is a teacher and with spring break he is a few days at home. As the cocks are ‘more easy’ to fetch these days, he likes to take advantage of this to train them this period.
Ignace and Sabine have a strict training schedule during the racing season. The widow cocks come out for the first time at half past six sharp. The (non-obliged) training takes one hour. But when the form is going up, the longer they will be in the air. This process starts over again at 5 o’clock in the afternoon. Also at the day of basketing, according to Ignace they do eat well before they leave. They only will be motivated by turning the nest dish. The nest dish, by the way, stays turned around the entire season next to them.
I also want to share a few remarkable points in the West-Flemish tandem in their racing system. Maybe the most outstanding one first. As you could read in the building of the strain is that this colony exists as one. So, the ones who race well on the short distance as on the extreme long distance do have the same ancestors. But how does it work in real life? Well, Ignace keeps his pigeons as long as possible (or if possible always) on the races they perform the best on. If he notices that an extreme long distance racer doesn’t perform that well any more he will be basketed for a long distance race and maybe later again on an extreme long distance race. Often they start to win head prizes again. Also the story of the ‘stand-by’ pigeon is something special. Every time the pigeons are being prepared for a race, Ignace get one extra in. If one of the foreseen pigeons doesn’t have the right form on the day of basketing, he baskets the ‘stand-by’ pigeon. This happened on Pau and the ‘stand-by’ pigeon won the 3rd national on that race. And as last, I want to give you the weekend regime. On Saturday all widow cocks get to see their partner, this is how the love remains big always according to Ignace. And on Sunday it is ‘spoiling’ day. The widow cocks get a few hours off and have the opportunity to take a bath. Also Sabine will be in between her guys and spoils them with peanuts. Everybody happy !
Finally they managed to work on the young birds game.
Every year Ignace and Sabin started off with the idea to make something of the young birds season. And it got stuck mostly at the start of the season. The youngsters where being darkened at the beginning but after a while, when the widow cocks took over all their attention, it got lost a bit. With the consequence that the youngsters were moulting too hard by the time the nationals came by. Nevertheless this was ok at many times. Last season their attention wasn’t lost and they could go at full strength for the head prizes. With as outcome three marvellous results that were necessary to become general champion. The youngsters were being raced on sliding doors and especially the young hens performed very well. This is why the tandem decided to have a team of year hens on widowhood in 2017.
Medically, control by the vet and by…..Sabine
Leaving nothing to the coincidence! A champion like Ignace knows off course that every season is equal important. That is why he goes for a check up to vet and national champ, Norbert Ally, before the start of the season. During the season Sabine takes over the check-ups for a major part. Norbert taught her how to examine a pigeon for trichomonas, easy no? But not only by these check-ups do they know whether the widow cocks have trichomonas. The widow cocks all have their own drinking pot onto their box. If there’s one that drinks remarkably more as the others can get an extra check up by Sabine. Most of the time this one is ‘positive’ and gets a yellow drop in the beak. Last season the use of yellow drops has exceeded. Now they get it the entire season through over the fodder. To discover the problem of head diseases is also something they have their own method on. He walks behind the lofts every evening, during the racing season off course. He does this with his ears wide open and listens if there’s a widow cock that sneezes. If he founds a loft that is being sneezed on, this loft gets an appropriate cure antibiotics. Against paratyphus they are being treated preventively by means of a 5-day cure with Theraprim.
The natural strength of side products
During the calm period yellow root powder (Kurkuma) is being given over the fodder. This powder is known as highly curing. Also they give often Avidress (Rohnfried) in the drinking pots, many champions know that this product suppresses trichomonas. Also during the racing season several side products pass by the menu. On Tuesday they have vitamins, Gerwit-W (Rhonfried) or VI-SPU-MIN (Backs) and brewer’s yeast over the fodder. After the race electrolytes from Eurovet is being supplied during two days.
Never hungry !
Ignace and Sabine don’t have a fixed supplier of food. And this only has one reason, they like to give a mixture with as many cereals and seeds as possible. That’s why they buy their mixtures at several suppliers. These are: Mariman, Versele Laga, Vanrobaeys, Teurlings, Matador, Bonduelle, Muylle and Dhoca. He mixes them as he likes. He does follow a fixed feeding system for years now, after the race always a lighter high digestive mixture, this exists meanly of ‘Super Diet’. Afterwards they get 80% sport mixture (a mixture of several different suppliers) and 20% ‘Super Diet’. As the basketing is getting closer they also get aside the sport mixture a large amount of corn and ‘Energy’ from Matador. Remarkable is the fact that the widow cocks constantly have their feeding pot with them (next to the drinking, they also eat individually). What is left before the evening training is being taken away and refreshed. Sabine and Ignace don’t like to have any hunger themselves, so they don’t like their pigeons to be hungry. During the breeding period they get 100% breeding mixture and during the moulting period this is being accomplished with wild seeds. As many fanciers they give grit and vitamineral to their birds but with this tandem this is an extended selection. The “Ameel-Vanlake”-grit exist out of 4 parts P40, 4 soup spoons vitamineral, one clay biscuit and half a portion of rice (to keep everything dry). During the racing season, 4 small spoons of electrolytes is being added.
Figures with a golden edge
In underneath list you can find the unbelievable results that the tandem had to achieve to become General Champion of Belgium. And don’t forget, this with the first signed:
- Long Distance: Agen Nat. 38th /3,648 old, Perpignan nat. 411th /4,191 old
- Long distance old: Valence nat. 35th /6,236b. , Limoges nat. 87th /6,492b., Tulle Prov. 10th /1,028b.
- Long Distance year birds:Brive nat. 35th /5,929b., Agen nat. 75th / 2,932b.
- Longer MD old: Châteauroux nat. 106th /25,146b;, Bourges zone 2nd /2,240b.
- Longer MD YB: Argenton zone 10th /1,464b., La Souterraine zone 15th /585b.
- Longer MD youngsters: Bourges zone 2nd /1,339b., Châteauroux zone 82nd /880 b.
- Short distance old : Clermont 4th/340b.
- MD old : Tours 1st /225 b.
- Short distance youngsters : Compiègne 484th /19,493 b.
- MD youngsters : Tours 19th /205 b.
Next to these prestigious ‘General champion title from Belgium’-title they classified themselves 4 times amongst the national champions. And this in three different disciplines !
- 4th National Champion Long distance year birds
- 7th National Champion Great Long distance year birds
- 10th National Champion Longer Middle Distance old
- 15th National Champion Great Long distance old
Another strong story I want to share is the ‘St.Vincent’-story. This symphatetic couple wins 4 times the first prize from St. Vincent within 5 years. But the most unique fact is that it always is within the top 15 national!
Introducing some top pigeons
I will start off with the youngest of the pact. Her name alone says it all ‘Eeuwige Roem’ (‘Eternal Fame’). This beautiful hen with ring number “3037247/16”took care on her own for three important points in the General Championship. She won the 2nd zonal Bourges against 1,339b, on Chateauroux she became 82nd out of 880 peers. Also out of Compiègne (short distance) she proved her reliability with a 484th out of 19,493b.
Beside her I want to put 4 other cracks into the spot light. Namely “Big Brother”, “Buddy”, “De Gedraaiden” and “Mauro”. It wasn’t easy just to pick out 5 as the general championship was won by fifteen different pigeons. This proves once again the strong base of the colony “Ameel-Vanlake”.
Ignace and Sabine, you proof that one can achieve the highest level of Belgian pigeon sport by hard work, an overload of animal love and off course the right knowledge. Congratulations, from the HERBOTS-team with this title, you deserve it!
Kris Steeman, Zele