When we drive back home after about two hours of pleasant talk about the pigeons, I think about the title to still give a global description of the experience of this visit to Mathias Putman and his father Filip.
Ode to youth
Is a short and powerful phrase with which I think I can describe the impression this visit left on me. Mathias, at 34 years young, is rock-solid proof that there is still a bright future ahead for those who want to discover pigeon racing as a hobby. During the conversation, father Filip (61 years old) is also present and immediately an old saying of apples and trees and traps comes to mind….
Mathias is the 4th generation of pigeon racing at the same residence. The family’s farmhouse was taken over by Mathias a few years back as his father Filip’s place of residence and (partly due to his parents’ support) is currently already very nicely renovated. There is plenty of space and also the historic pigeon lofts have been preserved and are still used to experience pigeon racing in all its glory. Surely, achieving successes is also somewhat at the farmstead’s seams. Father Filip played himself champion of Belgium in 1992 with the young pigeons and history repeats itself in 2023 with Mathias as champion of Belgium Grand Fond with the yearlings.
Mathias is an industrial engineer by training and teaches in the secondary school in Avelgem. He tries to teach youngsters aged 15 to 18 the finer points of physics. At a time of much turmoil regarding the quality and evolution of our education system, this is a task with a lot of content and responsibility.
And responsibility is a quality Mathias has in his genes. He does this not only as a teacher to put students strong in life; he does it with equal fervour in the interest of pigeon racing in general.
34 years old and president of the New Kortrijk Association
The first thing Mathias blurts out when this subject comes up is “yes, I’m only the president, without my fellow board members and our entire team, I can’t do anything”….. And then we know that we are dealing with a person who knows that an association, an organization, can only flourish when everyone, whatever task is performed, is valued and appreciated.
A few years back, a new board was put in place in Kortrijk. Crises are challenges were at that time the only slogan a renewed board could appropriate. We had to sail again… Mathias has been part of this board and this group for about eight years and recently became chairman.
The NKV is a thriving club and with about 90 members it has a very nice line-up on the calendar every week. It is a sought-after club where a lot of Belgian pigeon racings finest gather and cross swords every week. A lot of champions, ace pigeons have already passed the revue here.
Mathias looks at it all very soberly, very rationally and has a very good view of the bigger picture. The club is flourishing, a lot of pigeons are basketed, it is a national basketing club (all national and international races are basketed) and, like everywhere in a sports club, there is a lot of fun, a lot of competition, a lot of muscle, a lot of joy and a good dash of disappointment. This is handled well by the board, the team, and this in an open atmosphere with clear communication and openness of policy to all members. Young forces like Mathias and his team pose vulnerability but are not afraid to tackle these challenges.
When we ask him how he looks at “the bigger picture of pigeon racing in Belgium” he doesn’t have to look long for his answer. We regularly feel like soldiers in the trenches, we fight, but we are supposed to make or invent our weapons ourselves…with the resources we gather ourselves around us. National policy is rather heavily top-down with the dropping of all sorts of rules, novelties and modifications…most of which only move towards more and more expensive. Membership fees are passed on, proceeds from ring sales are passed on…support is regularly requested from the bottom up…when it should rather be the other way around.
Just organize voucher sales and other festivities to keep things going. Mathias stresses that the club is healthy but needs to “look at the board” very carefully to keep all neatly profitable and healthy. It is hard work in a very voluntarist way and much drive needs to be sought in the passion for pigeon racing. Mathias looks anything but pessimistic but is very realistically ambitious in his statements and approach and vision.
It would be a blessing for pigeon sport should such persons with Mathias’ profile (and, by extension, his fellow team members) emerge in policy in the coming years.
A blissful virus…
In recent years, we have had it with viruses of which we still feel the aftermath in our society, but here pigeon racing is rather a blissful and good virus in which Mathias was quietly infected from an early age.
He will and heard little other than that there were pigeons present and competing. Father Filip (and between us said and said…he is equally and possibly more bitten by it than Mathias) was already a strong player with a national title as his crowning achievement. Around the turn of the century, Mathias joined all this as a young lad.
Father Filip was caretaker for 20 years at the pigeon icon of international pigeon racing, Roger Vereecke from Deerlijk. There he also enjoyed many successes and gained a lot of experience. Meanwhile, he did not sit still at home either and was especially strong with the youngsters. The crowning glory was the national title with the youngsters in 1992, a title that is still cherished with great pride.
Mathias became more and more prominent and had the ambition to play the further flights. For this, he could tap into some sublime sources such as (the late) Roger Vereecke, (the late) Sylvère Toye (Sylvère’s grandson, Pierre De Waele is also Mathias’ fellow board member in NKV), Nico Fourneau, Melvin Tempelaere.
In summary, the pigeons on which it all relies today are the pigeons (originated or obtained from friendship relations and or exchange) of Pierre De Waele, Vereecke Roger, Toye Silvère, Fourneau Nico, Melvin Tempelaere, Erik Denijs and then the likes of Germain Imbrechts and Jos Joosen via colleague Bart Blomme.
Father Filip lives 500 meters from Mathias’ place of residence, is now retired and therefore also pulls out a fair amount of time to help look after the pigeons. It is clear that in recent years, 1 + 1 has become more than 2 because of this cooperation. Everything can be a bit more punctual, a bit more meticulous and fewer and fewer things are left to chance…which manifests itself in very nice results.
The spacious lofts (attic lofts, garden lofts) house 25 breeding couples that are paired at the end of November. During the winter period, all pigeons go into aviaries and sit quasi outdoors and are rather sent through the winter in a hard regime.
About 100 youngsters will be ringed and released. These youngsters are trained normally so that they have enough experience to be played on further distances as yearlings. Mathias is fond of late youngsters…he can’t really interpret this but he likes to breed some late pigeons every year and then throw them into the fray fairly “raw”. Some is lost, but what passes this test is apparently capable of fine results. It takes some effort, some more patience, but regularly this is also rewarded nicely.
The 2023 season was started with 40 pigeons (20 old birds and 20 yearlings) that did not breed for the season but were allowed to breed for a few days. In addition, some 50 late youngsters from 2022 were thrown into the fray.
The main focus is on classical widowhood racing with cocks, but because Mathias hears around him a lot of successes with hens, some hens are also played (first on widowhood and as the long distance races approach on nest).
Starting in May, the cocks train twice a day (free training) and the hens train once a day on widowhood in the morning. However, the hens are basketed weekly. Before basketing for the international flight from Agen, they had already been in the basket 9 times.
The cocks are basketed as quietly as possible in the preseason (no nesting dish, no hen). The reward waits upon arrival home and only later in the season when the target races are basketed is a hen thrown into the loft, a nesting hen shown, or towards the last races, a hen shown. There are many roads that lead to Rome….
The feed is a mix of a number of brands depending on…Beyers, Vanrobaeys, types of grit, fine seed, no peanuts,….and preferably feed as light as possible for as long as possible to peak to the heavier flights. It’s not minutiae here but feeling the pigeons and observing their behavior. Because papa Filip now has more time for the pigeons, it can be a bit more organized.
Before, the pigeons got food in a jar and that stayed in the loft for the rest of the day. Now, after feeding, it can be emptied a bit earlier, which increases the feeling of hunger towards the next meal. It is sometimes in the last small percentages to really play top.
Medically, the advice of (almost) neighbor Pascal Lanneau is being followed. Excluding vaccinations, Pascal is visited about three times a year for and check-up. Besides the mandatory vaccinations, the racers are injected with paratyphoid vaccine before the season and are also vaccinated with smallpox vaccine annually. We prefer to stay away from it with as many pots as possible….was a statement that fell during the interview.
Annie & Remi, the couple of the year!
KBDB Champion 1+2 Great Long Distance Yearling is the fine title won in the past season.
And remarkable is the fact that this title (played over 2 long distance races namely Agen and Narbonne) was achieved with the same two pigeons (a cock and a hen). That’s why we like to christen them the pair of the year.
On the flight from Agen, they were bested as follows:
– Club 212d
o 1st at 19.03 hrs. bested
o 2nd at 19.11 h bested
– Provincial 1,665 d
– National 6,667 d
On the flight from Narbonne they had arrived just about together with results:
– Club 137 d
o 4th at 21.08.13 h founded
o 5th at 21.08.19 h founded
– Provincial 1,129 d
– National 6,100 d
With these performances, they outclassed everyone in the championship with 1st and 2nd issued and became national champions.
BE22-317870 Annie is a beautiful hen bred by Melvin Tempelaere. Father is a cock of Pierre Dewaele (race Meirlaen, Erik Denys). Mother is a hen crossing Pierre Dewaele x Ivan Verhaeghe (bloodlines Vandenabeele, Van Kerckvoorde…).
BE22-3017462 Remi is a strongly built cock. Father is a cock by Pierre Dewaele (Desmeyter-Restiaen/Meirlaen race). Mother is a Nico Fourneau hen (Van de Walle Marc & Franky x De Smeyter-Restiaen).
They are two beautiful, strong pigeons that put down a wonderful performance and are very promising for the future.
A pigeon that should also be kept an eye on further is BE21-3010859 who can be labelled as a strongman with a 65th national in Cahors and a 98th national in Bergerac.
But last season did not stop at these two races. A pleiade of nice results adorn “the chimney” in Zwevegem and are very promising for the future. A small overview:
1° KBDB middle distance yearling’s 1st and 2nd place
1° Champion boy NKV
5° and 6° KBDB ace pigeon long distance yearling West Flanders
3° ace pigeon young NKV
Top 100 National 2023
56° Nat. Bergerac
59° Nat. Agen Y
64° Nat. Valence
67° Nat. Valence
65° Nat. Cahors
74° Nat. Narbonne
98° Nat. Bergerac
98° Nat. Argenton
Top 50 provincial 2023
4° Prov. Narbonne
8° Prov. Agen Y
8° Prov. Bourges Y
9° Prov. Aurillac
10° Prov. Bourges Y
12° Prov. Libourne
16° Prov. Agen Y
18° Prov. Valence
18° Prov. Narbonne Y
18° Prov. Pontoise Y
19° Prov. Agen Y
20° Prov. Valence
21° Prov. Aurillac
24° Prov. Valence
32° Prov. Argenton
37° Prov. Cahors
37° Prov. Limoges
39° Prov. Bergerac
49° Prov. Argenton
You are young and you want some…no, better, you already have some. With Mathias (and very much to be mentioned the support of his father Filip) we have a very nice national winner. On one hand, it is because of his passion for pigeons, which he displays with verve, additionally and equally his commitment to pigeon racing in general as chairman of a flourishing club in Kortrijk.
It has become an-and story in 2023. We believe that given the quality and drive here, additional beautiful episodes are sure to follow. But for now it is full enjoyment of these wonderful achievements!