Want to become a champion in the world’s most glamorous arena? You’ll need guts, determination, understanding parents – and a stable full of cash | Source: Facebook

Inside the Elite World of the Global Equine Industry

They are the status symbols of the well-to-do and investments that can make enormous profits through winning lucrative prizes and breeding.

With competition sponsors including Rolex, Hermès, Gucci and Longines; chic outdoor arenas at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, on Miami Beach and in Monte Carlo; and single competition prize money topping €1.2 million.

Showjumping is enjoying an unprecedented era of prosperity and prestige, revelling in its status as a chic, big-city affair that marries athletic prowess with high-stakes panache. 

Johnny Depp famously bought an Andalusian Stallion, the horse he rode in the movie Sleepy Hollow even though he fell off it. Elizabeth Taylor also ended up owning her horse from the movie National Velvet, its name was King Charles. In the movie, Taylor’s character falls in love with a horse and Taylor was just as fond of the horse in real life.

He was given to me on the last day of shooting and it is a memory that I cherish. There never was a sweeter, more noble animal, and caring for him was a great source of responsibility and happiness. We trusted each other. We loved each other. He lived at stables in Pacific Palisades, California, and I rode and visited him whenever I could. Every little girl deserves the kind of miracle experience that I enjoyed while doing National Velvet and bonding with that magnificent soul. My heart still swells whenever I think of him, and I still do — often.

Elizabeth Taylor

Horse Breeding is big business. According to the Equine Business Association, the global equine industry as a whole is worth A$420 billion.

The average horse usually costs anywhere from A$700 to A$3,500 in upkeep, depending on where you live and the availability of the facilities, services and products needed to raise them but a well-bred steed with a bloodline that can be traced to one of three sires; Byerley Turk, Darley Arabian, and Godolphin Arabian can fetch prices in the millions.

Thoroughbred racehorses are descended from one of three stallions, including the Darley Arabian | Source: The Times

Thoroughbreds can reach the highest prices earning the most money through racing. In Australia, the thoroughbred Winx made A$26,451,174 over its career in winnings, with the top 300 earners all making at least A$1 million.


A$10,000 – A$140,000

Nowadays a common breed of horse – thoroughbreds are from England and are often descended from famous bloodlines. A successful thoroughbred will have won many races and can be bred, its offspring sold anywhere between A$50,000 to A$250,000, they are worth more if they have more than one successful racehorse in their lineage.

The most expensive thoroughbred ever, Fusaichi Pegasus won the Kentucky Derby and then went on to be sold for almost A$100 million. As this breed has an average racing career of only 3-4 years, there are many ex-racehorse thoroughbreds that are in need of caring owners, they can be used for trail riding and equestrian events.

Elizabeth Talyor’s horse, King Charles, was a 7-year-old thoroughbred who was reportedly difficult to work with for anyone except Elizabeth Taylor, the horse would bite crew members and be described as a “diva.”

Elizabeth Taylor rode this horse in her movie “Reflections in a Golden Eye” and later bought it | Source: The Times

Sir Paul McCartney also bought his father a thoroughbred racehorse in 1964 for the sum of around A$1.8 million which went on the win the race preceding the Grand National Steeplechase, other famous owners of thoroughbreds include Stephen Spielberg and MC Hammer.

Dutch Warmblood

A$7,000 – A$21,000

The most expensive of the European horse breeds, the Dutch Warmblood has been bred to excel in dressage, equestrian events and pleasure riding. The Dutch Warmblood is also known to be calmer than thoroughbreds and respond well to training. Supermodel Bella Hadid was well on her way to becoming a professional equestrian athlete before she was tragically diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2016, she owns a warmblood stallion called Blue.

Viggo Mortensen is another notable owner of a Dutch Warmblood, a very accomplished rider, he owns many of the horses he rode in the Lord of the Rings movies and Hidalgo.

Originally used as a light draft horse, true Dutch Warmbloods have some thoroughbred in them, making them more athletic while other less pure Dutch Warmbloods have more Gelderland in them and are generally more placid and calm.

They are adept at show jumping and dressage, but where they really set themselves apart is their adeptness when harnessed. You will often see Dutch Warmbloods pulling carriages in cities, where their calm temperament and gentle nature are perfect for negotiating streets and walkways.

Because of the special bond that developed between Viggo and TJ, the actor bought him after filming | Source: Eqlife Mag

North America has its own Royal Warmblood Studbook of the Netherlands which has started breeding a “Dutch Hunter” Breed from a Warmblood sire. There has only been one Warmblood stallion bred with a Dutch Warmblood/Thoroughbred mare for the arduous show jumping division known as Show Hunter so far.

The greatest champion in dressage history, Totilas, a Dutch Warmblood, sold for A$12 million in 2010.


A$21,000 – A$70,000

A well-bred and hardy horse, the Andalusian is originally from Spain and is a very good competitor over long distances, they are disciplined and can be kept in a farm stable, making them perfect for equestrian events such as dressage.

Their athleticism is handy when it comes to jumping and their toughness is perfect for trail riding, they were bred as a warhorse for the Spanish Civil War and so can withstand extreme conditions.

After filming the movie Sleepy Hollow, in which a detective rides into a town to help solve a murder, the one-eyed Andalusian that played Depp’s character’s horse, Gunpowder, was going to be slaughtered.

Depp, famously an animal lover, stepped in and bought the horse that played Gunpowder, whose real name was Goldeneye.


A$56,000 – A$85,000

In Middle Age Europe, you would see knights in shining armour riding into battle on the back of one of these elegant steeds, they are one of the most beautiful breeds in the world with their long, flowing manes and graceful gait.

Due to their temperament the horses make excellent beginner horses or can also keep up with more advanced riders, they are big-boned and solid, always with black or dark chestnut colouring.

They are used under saddle or harness and are reputedly very brave and calm when another breed would be spooked, they can excel in dressage and do quite well in equestrian events.

Friesians must be groomed daily and do not do very well in hot climates, they are susceptible to skin conditions and dwarfism with 0.25% of all Friesians will be born with some degree of Dwarfism. Martha Stewart owns five Friesians and keeps them at her property in Bedford, New York.

American Quarter Horse

A$7,000 – A$22,000

Named the Quarter horse because of its short track speed and incredibly quick acceleration over the quarter-mile racetracks of the Colonial United States, this breed is the result of the cross-breeding of English thoroughbreds and the local horses in North America, which were introduced by the Spanish conquistadors before the English arrived.

Their quick speed and innate cattle sense mean they were a very popular choice for ranchers on America’s frontier west, they remained useful after the proliferation of combustion engines due to the unforgiving terrain of many of the ranches.

The compact dimensions of the horse make it perfect for the tight manoeuvres and difficult turns in reining, cutting, as a working cow horse, barrel racing or calf roping, almost any western horse riding sport you can think of, especially when live cattle are involved.

They make excellent equestrian competitors and are well tempered and generally intelligent and quick to learn new things commonly seen in western movies, Jaimie Foxx rode his own Quarter horse, Cheetah, in the movie Django Unchained. The most expensive American Quarter Horse sold on record was Moonin The Eagle, which sold for A$2.1 million in 2018.

Source: Columbia Pictures


A$7,000 – A$22,000

Renowned as one of the most beautiful and graceful horses in the world, the Hanoverian was originally a warhorse breed but was mixed with thoroughbred bloodlines to create a more slight, agile horse for competition.

A genetic register stretching back almost 150 years and a large population make the Hanoverian one of the best horses in the world for breeding, finding the right stallion and mare combination is made vastly easier. the breed has excellent balance and control, making it perfect for showjumping and an impressive gait means it is also very good at dressage.

They have a calm temperament and are quick learners, they are generally quite tall and have a strong back, powerful body, athletic movement, and strong limbs. The most expensive Hanoverian on record, named Dante, sold for A$3.25 million in 2014.

At the 138th Elite Auction Online, the dark bay gelding Sedamo K was the most wanted horse in the Hanoverian Autumn elite auction in Verden, selling for 305,000 euros, approximately A$455,000.

Selle Francais

A$22,000 – A$1,000,000

This “French Saddle Horse,” started with very diverse ancestry, from Anglo-Arabian horse breeds to French trotters. The idea was to breed a horse in a calm manner that could still meet the needs of horses that compete in equestrian events.

With bloodlines stretching back to the time of William the Conqueror when Norman invaders imported thoroughbreds and Norfolk Trotters to create the Norman Cob breed, a predecessor to the Selle Francais, the intelligence of this breed is legendary.

Adept at Equestrian events, the Selle Francais has for a very long time been crossbred with Thoroughbred, Arabian, Anglo-Arabian and French Trotter, making them one of the most genetically diverse breeds of a horse with the fewest genetic defects.

For a horse to be classed as a Selle Francis, it must be bred from two accredited Selle Francaises or a Selle Francais and another horse of the above breeds that have passed studbook selection procedures, the most expensive Selle Francais on record, Palloubet d’Halong, sold for almost A$20 million in 2013.

Source: Insider Magazine

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