In late November, Danish Grand Prix dressage rider Andreas Helgstrand shipped 22 horses, from 4-year-olds to Grand Prix campaigners, from his home base in Denmark to Florida to offer for sale on the American market.
“When we do something, we do it 100 percent. All in,” said Helgstrand. “I don’t think there is anywhere better in the world to try this than Wellington. There is something special about this place.”
The official opening of the new sales barn in Wellington, just minutes from the Adequan Global Dressage Festival venue, took place on Dec. 10, with around 200 guests treated to a champagne brunch and private viewing of the collection of horses.
Germany’s experienced rider and trainer Ulf Möller is spearheading the operation, and he talked through the many and impressive accolades of each horse presented.
The barn has been running for barely two weeks but is already a slick, international operation. Helgstrand has brought some staff over from Europe, re-recruited some former employees, and also sought some new, upcoming American talent, like Genay Vaughn, whose tidy, effective riding drew praise. Adrienne Lyle also stepped in to lend a hand, sympathetically presenting some of the sales horses.
But how deep will your pockets have to be to scoop up one of these horses?
Helgstrand won’t name a figure, or even a price range, but said: “Put it this way, people won’t be able to come and buy a horse for $50,000. For sure not. They will be high-end clients, but I’m not 100 percent sure that Americans are ready to hear these sorts of numbers yet.”
So why did he choose to bring horses to Wellington?
“It’s not just about making money anymore; it’s about having fun,” he said. “I’m not even sure we will make money on this trip, but we will meet a lot of people, and it is a good opportunity for branding. We are always trying to get people to associate our brand with top-quality horses, so hopefully they will think of us and call us first. I mean, why do people bother buying a Ferrari when they can’t go over 70 miles an hour? They just want a nice car. It’s the same with horses; you can feel a big difference with a top horse.”
Helgstrand is well known for selling expensive horses out of his barn in Uggerhalne, Denmark, but he is also known for investing eye-watering amounts of money for raw young talent, particularly at European stallion licensings. The group bought two stallions at the Hanoverian licensing in October, paying €1,010,000 (about $1,190,000) for the pair. Two years ago Helgstrand acquired Revolution, a Rocky Lee x Rouletto son, for €1,200,000 ($1,400,000).
At the European Championships in Sweden this year, seven of the 15 horses that qualified through to the freestyle were sold through Helgstrand Dressage. And 10 horses from the yard qualified for the World Young Horse Championships, with eight of them qualifying through to the big final. The list of horses Helgstrand and Möller selected to travel to Florida took some time to arrive at, because Helgstrand kept selling them and had to choose more.
“We selected horses with vet records as clean as possible and ones without problems,” said Helgstrand. “We didn’t bring a horse with a walk for a 5 or some other problem—we wanted to bring ones that will give success and have been doing big things in Europe. To find 22 of those is pretty hard.”
Helgstrand is not unfamiliar with American clientele; Kasey Perry-Glass’ 2016 Rio Olympics team bronze medalist Goerklintgaards Dublet came from him, as did both of Charlotte Jorst’s horses Akeem Foldager and Lorenzo (who was fifth at Rio 2016 under Spain’s Severo Jurado Lopez, who works for Helgstrand).
“For sure we can sell all these horses in Europe, but perhaps we can do it faster here,” Helgstrand said. “Here in the season people don’t have the time to fly to Europe, so we have brought the horses to them.”
Helgstrand will visit the new barn once a month, but Möller will handle the day-to-day running of the enterprise. The rental on the barn is for one year, but if the venture is a success, they’ll extend the lease. If all the horses sell over the winter, Helgstrand will decide whether to ship another batch over.