"All my life I have been fond of horses. My first attempt at riding a horse was at the age of six years at a local barn in my village. I fell off the horse three times", Appels told HorsesDaily. At 8 years her parents enrolled her in a pony camp for three weeks. "The camp was such a thrill that I became completely crazy about horses. In September I began riding regularly at a barn called "De Groenendijk". Her parents appreciated her enthusiasm and agreed to buy her a pony. That is when DiDi a New Forest Pony (Sire: Oosterbroek Yago - Dam: Heuvingshof Diane (by Offem Aeolus x Silverlea Jonathan) came into her life. "At first I was very scared on Didi", Appels admitted. "She was only three years old and very green, but we learned together and after two years we really clicked".
Her first serious dressage lessons were given by Josette De Bondt who was affectionately known as "Madammeke", meaning "little woman" because she was so small. Ms. De Bondt is an R judge and the mother-in-law of Patrick Burssens brother. Madammeke was a very tough instructor, setting high standards, and was not easily satisfied. She trained the two youngsters, rider and pony, up to second level.
Appels and Didi went on to win:
- Regional Champion - Training level in 1991
- Bronze Medalist - First Level in 1991
- Belgian Dressage Champion for New Forest Ponies in 1992
- Regional Champion - First level in 1992