Horses Arriving from Europe for New Helgstrand Dressage Sales Operation in Wellington, Florida
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
WELLINGTON, Florida, Nov. 28, 2017–In possibly the most ambitious effort ever to bring the cream of European dressage horses directly to Americans at home, the first shipment of 24 horses from Helgstrand Dressage arrives here Wednesday in time for the winter-long Global Dressage Festival.
The mini version of Andreas Helgstrand’s operation in Denmark is at a 40-stall barn in the heart of Wellington’s Equestrian Preserve, a $1 million gamble that America is ready to spend the money on horses with the quality that in the past have required trips to Europe to find.
Andreas has enlisted the help of Ulf Möller, who for years handled dressage training, competition and sales for Germany-based Performance Sales International, and Andrea Woodard, an American rider who worked for Helgstrand in Denmark before moving to Wellington where she manages the operation.
Horses that were selected from the 200 at Helgstrand’s stables in Denmark are already on American teams– Dublet ridden by Kasey Perry-Glass based in Wellington and on the 2016 Olympic bronze medal team and Charlotte Jorst with both Akeem Foldager and Lorenzo that was ridden for Spain by Severo Jesus Jurado Lopez to fifth place overall at the Rio Games.
The quality of horses that have been bred or bought and developed at this year’s World Young Horse Championships in Ermelo, Netherlands were described by Ilse Schwarz of dressage-news. com on the scene: “The REALLY big story of this competition so far is the sheer dominance of the Helgstrand Dressage juggernaut. They have a huge team of horses and riders here and are medal contenders in each division. Their riders compete under the flags of multiple countries–Denmark, Spain, Australia but they support each other as a team.”
Visits to Wellington by Andreas and his wife, Marianne, an accomplished jewelry designer, convinced them that an American version of Helgstrand Dressage could be created in Florida.
“There are a lot of small stables with one or two or three sales horses but nothing seriously where you can go in and see 10 horses if you want, and especially with quality.” he told dressage-news.com in a recent interview. “I saw it work really good at Helgstrand Dressage; people don’t have to drive two hours for one horse then another two hours for another horse. At my place they can see what they need and that’s why I think people are coming to us.
“I was in Wellington and I thought it must be possible to make a small Helgstrand Dressage over there.
”I don’t want to do it different than at home, a bit smaller but the same.”
Not every trainer and horse dealer in Wellington would agree. Some trainers bring 10 to 15 horses for the season. Plus, the area comprising Wellington and adjoining Loxahatchee/White Fences is so compact that a buyer could try out six to 10 different horses in a day–most of them selected during extensive searches by trainers in Europe.
A previous similar attempt several years ago of bringing in large numbers of jumper horses failed.
Andreas said he is aware of that but that prospective buyers went to Europe because the horses in the U.S. were not good enough and they could find better in Europe.
“That’s why I said, ‘we need to bring some horses with results, they have been winning this, been winning that.’ They see that we can offer a better horse and they don’t have to go to Germany or Holland or wherever. I think that’s what went wrong.
“My opinion is that a lot of people think we just bring old schoolmasters and they can buy them to learn riding. Bring good young horses. It could be the winner from the world championships, something special, some extraordinary horses and I’m sure there will be clients for those.
“People want the best, and why not. I’m not afraid to do that.”
Asked how many horses he had sold to the U.S. in recent years, he said: “I’m more thinking about not the quantity of horses but the quality. I’m happy when I see at Aachen this year two of the American horses come from Helgstrand Dressage.
The horses flown in by the Dutta Corp. for sale in Wellington will be a mix of young horses, medium level, small tour and Grand Prix that are all owned and have been trained by Helgstrand Dressage.
Space is set aside in the barn for clients who stay for what Andreas describes as “super important” after-sales service.
“We get asked a lot to help sell other horses but,” he said, “I buy them myself so we know what we are selling.”
If a buyer doesn’t like the horse, it can be exchanged.
Andreas built his business from scratch after a riding career as the successor to Lars Petersen, now an American and based in Florida, at the famous Blue Hors stud in Denmark. He rode into the limelight aboard the spectacular Blue Hors Matiné taking the freestyle silver medal at the 2006 World Equestrian Games. Rumors were rampant at the time that offers for the horse were as high as the then stratospheric price for a dressage horse of €8 million (US$10 million at the time).
Now, at the age of 40, he recalls that he was asked in 2008 about his career at that point. His reply: “I have the best job, I have the best horses, I have everything that I could ask for.”
What about in 10 years?
“That question for me was a wakeup because I had been trying for Olympics, world championships, everything, at a pretty young age and then… I thought: ‘Do I want to be this kind of rider traveling around the world every single weekend. No, I’m not that kind of person’.”
He got the most kick out of finding horses and then selling them.
“I also find the dealing fun. It gives me a kick when I find a horse—more than selling them, finding
He was approached with funding for a startup business, but instead of taking the money the prospective investor guaranteed a bank loan.
In August, 2009 he moved into the sprawling complex that is Helgstrand Dressage.
The growth of the business has been explosive.
About 200 horses under saddle, 18 riders among the 55 employees developing horses from youngsters to Grand Prix, some he has bought for €1 to €2 million.
He has become known to have an eye for finding outstanding horses, a characteristic about which his wife says, “The worst thing that could happen is that you go blind.”
The ability in his view is a combination of being a rider and knowing the horses required and buying a lot of horses, including many at mare and stallion shows, along with breeding new stock.
“I buy the horse that everyone can see is a top star, but I’m the only one who pays big money for them,” he said.
“In general,” he said, “we are very happy. I see what I’m doing is right because people want the best, they don’t want the second best.
“For me when I pick these horses, you need something ‘wow,’ something extra.”