The million-euro horse: can he be worth it?

By Carole Mortimer on |


Can a horse ever be worth more than a million euros?

Can a dressage horse ever be worth 1.2 million euro? That (the equivalent of £865,108) was the princely sum paid for an unnamed three-year-old stallion at the recent Hanoverian licensing auction in Verden. It was a record price for the Hanoverian auction – the previous licensing auction record of 1.1 million euro was paid at the Oldenburg licensing in Vechta in 2008 for the stallion Le Champ.

Ultimately, of course, a horse is only worth what someone will pay – one person’s one-million-pound horse is someone else’s one-hundred-thousand-pound horse. Or, in everyday terms – one person’s £10,000 horse is someone else’s £3,000 horse: the price of the horse that stands still and goes first or last in the hunting field will be worth his weight in gold to some but very little to the ambitious dressage rider.

Will stud fees repay the horse’s cost?

It helps that the Verden horse is a stallion and there will be stud fees that can offset his buying price. Compared to the thoroughbred world, sport horse stud fees are extremely moderate. A few proven performers command fees of more than £2,000 and, unless the dressage world goes mad and decides to breed from the unproven stallion, the stud fee will probably therefore be quite modest. However if his dressage potential comes to fruition – which is what he was bought for – it should soon be around 1000 euro a time, which is only 1200 nominations after all. And the stud fee will rise if he goes on to greatness – even winning the World Young Horse Championship or a class at the Bundeschampionat (German young horse championships) will be enough to increase his popularity so he could quite easily cover his cost over his expected lifetime.

Unless, of course, he is infertile. Well, it has happened. The aforementioned record breaking auction horse Le Champ proved infertile and therefore an expensive buy for the Blue Hors Stud. He is at least competing in showjumping – still owned by the stud – and therefore if he proves the talent that impressed at his grading (and stays sound), he too may just possibly win back the greater part of his price.

Expensive records

There have been worse purchases.

One of the most talked about was the ill-fated Poetin, the Sandro Hit mare that sold for a record 2.5 million euro after she had won the World Breeding Championships. She never competed again, became the subject of several lawsuits and ultimately was euthanised because of laminitis.

And there is Totilas – the record-breaking grand prix dressage stallion that changed the face of dressage and was sold from The Netherlands to Germany, so rumours have it, for anything from 10 to 15 million euro. The subsequent and lamentable story of poor performance, lameness and injury has been well documented and the stallion was finally retired to stud this year albeit still for the high fee of 4,000 – whether this is justified now depends entirely on his progeny. However given the wealth of stallions available, one suspects he will have few takers at that price.

His story however pales into insignificance compared to that of racehorse Fusaichi Pegasus, documented as the ‘most expensive horse ever sold’. The 2000 Kentucky Derby winner was acquired by the famous Coolmore Stud for an estimated 70 million dollars with a stud fee of 150,000 dollars. Once again, expectations (and, presumably, stud fees) failed to materialise and he is now back in Kentucky standing for an extremely moderate 7,500 dollars with the dubious accolade of being ‘the most expensive and least-worth-the-price horse ever sold’.

Fancy making money? Don’t buy a horse

One supposes that anyone connected with horses knows the risks and the sorry and cautionary tales that have gone before. Surely no-one buys a horse with the intention of making money – one buys what one can afford knowing that when it all goes wrong, and at some stage it will, you won’t miss the loss.

Which is possibly the theory behind this year’s record-breaking purchase, as the stallion in question was acquired by Danish team rider Andreas Helgestrand in partnership with Hanni Toosbuy Kasprzak who – a quick Google search reveals – is the owner and chairman of the Danish shoe company ECCO and worth $2.8billion. Her daughter is Danish team rider and national champion Anna Kasprzak.

I hope they enjoy their purchase and that we see him have a happy career under saddle followed by a busy stud career. It would be nice to have a happy ending.

Would you pay almost £1 million for a horse? Let us know in the comments.


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