August 2018 - DressageQuest Vacations
Written by by Alana Andrews
Friday, 27 July 2018 17:46
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Los Angeles dressage rider makes a return trip to Helgstrand Dressage.

by Alana Andrews

Last September, I travelled to Aalborg, Denmark for the first time to experience an incredible week at Helgstrand Dressage through luxury equestrian travel company, DressageQuest Vacations.

Founded by Amanda Freeman, the company specializes in organizing equestrian vacations in Europe centered around in-depth and quality instruction at premiere training stables. Participants are matched with their “own” horse for the week and take lessons and engage in other equestrian activities (stable management discussions, riding demonstrations, etc.).

Our castle/hotel for the week

When I first met Amanda at Middle Ranch in Lake View Terrace, I had just made the switch from a lifetime of riding hunter/jumpers. The idea of signing up for a clinic at one of the top dressage stables in the world was a bit intimidating. However, she assured me that the clinic opportunity would be a great way to improve my riding and participants would be paired with wonderful schoolmasters. Where else can you find an opportunity to ride upper-level horses with Olympic riders at a world-class facility? I knew immediately that I had to sign up.

Last clinic - watching the 4* Grand Prix

Amanda and her business partner, Dina Sigmundsen, met us at the airport. Another clinic participant had arrived at the same time and we were soon on our way through the beautiful Danish countryside. After a quick drive, we pulled into the entrance of a stunning, almost postcard-like 18th Century Danish castle. I couldn’t believe that this would be where we were staying for the next week.

All of the other participants had already arrived and, after checking in and getting settled, we were off to Helgstrand to meet Andreas Helgstrand and his team. Another short car ride through the Danish countryside took us to the most pristine and magnificent equestrian training facilities. Andreas and his wife Marianne welcomed us with champagne and a stable tour.

We had the chance to meet some of the famous stallions and World Young Horse champions, as well as check out the new Helgstrand Academy and competition facilities across the street. To say that the facility and grounds were incredible is an understatement. Every last detail was accounted for and the atmosphere that it created was nothing less than the very best. All of us were so excited to start riding the next day!

Severo Lopez (Bronze medalist at Rio)

Eager Riders

Bright and early the next morning after breakfast, we all arrived at Helgstrand eager to get on our horses. Each participant was matched to their horse according to ability and preferences. Everyone then got the chance over the following four days to ride with Andreas and a variety of the other Helgstrand riders/trainers including Simone Pearce, Soren Vallentin, Thomas Sigtenbjergaard and Kenneth Damgaard.

Our group of riders included all-levels ranging from beginner to professional, and the Helgstrand team made each and every one of us feel welcome and catered to. Over the course of the next few days, every rider demonstrated marked improvement and took away valuable tips and insights. A couple of the riders even tested out a few other horses for possible purchase consideration. My horse for the week, Harlem, was a 10 year old gelding schooling all of the Prix. St Georges and Intermediare I movements. His willing demeanor and correct training made him a perfect partner for the week. I was able to experience tempi changes for the first time and learned so many other things that have helped me with my own horse and training back home.

Dinner with Andreas and his wife, Marianne

Aside from the incredible training we received, every evening we enjoyed fantastic Danish cuisine. A member of the Helgstrand team accompanied us and they shared stories and insights into the world of top-level dressage. The hospitality of the Helgstrand team was truly delightful and we all felt as if we were part of the team….even if just for a short time!

I returned home to Los Angeles with great memories and a new sense of determination. I made my Third Level debut shortly after the trip, and ended up coming home as a high-point champion. I definitely knew that the training I received in Denmark played a role.

Foal auction

Irresistible Return

When Amanda announced that DressageQuest would return to Helgstrand, I knew that I couldn’t pass up the chance to improve upon the last trip’s wonderful learning experience. When I first started out in dressage, I had wanted a new challenge and to learn quality basics. In two short years, that has rapidly changed and I now have my sights set on being competitive at the FEI levels.

And so, I found myself back in Denmark amongst the world class horses and riders this past May. This time, DressageQuest included an extra day spent at Equitour Aalborg. Equitour Aalborg is a five-day horse show featuring 4* CDI Dressage events and 3* jumping competitions located at Andreas Helgstrand’s property across the road from his main training stables. Clinic participants were given VIP bracelets which accessed the Helgstrand VIP lounge. Here, we had stunning views from the rooftop terrace overlooking both dressage and jumping rings. At one point, Nation Cup classes in both disciplines were going on at once and it was incredible to see so many top horse and rider combinations. The food and shopping were also a highlight, as well as the evening entertainment. A foal auction took place after the final class, and 30 hand-selected foals were individually paraded with their mother in the main dressage ring. The highlight price for one foal was over 100,000 Euros! (Approximately $117,400.)

Riding one of their sales horse / Grand Prix Gelding

The following day, it was back to the stables to meet our horse for the week and start riding. This time, I had the chance to ride an amazing 11 year old, Danish gelding schooling all of the Grand Prix.

His lateral work was super and I have never ridden a horse with such engagement in the half-passes. I practiced the two-tempis and even got to ride my first ever line of one-tempis. That was quite the rush! On the third day, Simone Pearce helped me with some piaffe/passage transitions, which followed with a hack through the green countryside. I was on cloud nine and so happy that I was able to experience this a second time.

Once again, the Helgstrand team was more than welcoming and all of us enjoyed the friendly atmosphere. Each day, we had lunch with the riders and grooms overlooking the main training arena prepared by Helgstrands’ on-site chef, Anita. Hearing directly from the riders their training techniques and secret tips from the grooms only added to the overall learning experience. It was hard to say goodbye on the final day as we all felt like we could have easily stayed for another week...or perhaps a month!

However, the memories will last a lifetime and I have already started putting the skills I gained to good use with my horse back home. The next time I go down centerline, I will channel all those tips and techniques from Helgstrand Dressage!

Article provided by DressageQuest Vacations.