Horse-trading and teaching are, hands down, the most profitable aspects of any horse business. But these things require expertise. At Stall Bergan, 48 horses are awaiting a future as either excellent showjumping horses for amateurs, or as new stars for the world’s top riders. This is mainly due to the efforts of the previous Olympic rider Stein Endresen, and his wife Kristin.
By Rebecca Mender. Photos by Malene Nilssen & Therese Alhaug
“Welcome,” it rings loudly when you open the door to the white farmhouse. Kristin comes first, followed by Stein, who a little more mellow follows Kristin’s greeting with a crooked smile and a lower decibel. At Stall Bergan one is simply always welcome. Kristin emphasises the fact that here it is vastly important to be positive and welcoming. – That is how one makes real and close connections, she says. This attitude is incredibly rewarding, as it serves as an icebreaker and creates a solid foundation for a good neighborly environment and a happy atmosphere, she explains.
The Endresen family also has a certain responsibility in maintaining the reputation of the sport, as role models for a new generation of Norwegian young riders. Many younger riders spend a portion of their lives at the farm with the family – during shorter or longer periods. – Therefore, one of our tasks is to instill good morals, Kristin says. Stein quickly adds: – If we want riding to be respected and accepted as a sport it is important to make a good example, and pay attention to how we present ourselves and what we do.
20 years together
Stein and Kristin are approaching their 20th year as a couple. 15 years in the making, there is little at Stall Bergan that gives away its nursery past, except perhaps the lovely flowers that surround the farm. Two indoor schools, a large outside manege, modern stables, built-in walker, large paddocks and fields, all well placed at the farm on the top of the hill. Everything has its place, neat, clean and tidy. The standard has slowly risen and steadily been expanded and upgraded. Today, the yard has everything required to make it a facility fit for top competition horses and riders alike.
– The fact that we share similar interests is obvious. However, the reason that this works so well goes beyond that. It comes from a similarity in the way we look at the philosophy behind the training and education of a horse. We share the same vision and both have the drive to run the facility, Stein exclaims.
Stein is the rider, with a successful international show jumping career serving as the backbone to operating the sales and training stable. Kristin, who loves to ride and is a show jumper as well, despite her efforts in the dressage world, runs the operations behind the scenes. They both think in terms of what is the best for the yard and the business.
– That’s how we have divided the work over the years and that’s how I like it, the blond female entrepreneur smiles timidly. When Stein travels off to international competitions, I always have a lot to take care of at the yard. Him going away for shows does not affect the operation, I have mine and that’s important. If it did not work like that the nature of the business would mean that we would walk all over each other most parts of the day, and that could not work in the long run.
The work ethics and willpower between them are impeccable. -Yes, it ends up being horses 24 hours a day. We don’t go on vacation much, not because we don’t take the time to do it, but more because we usually get bored after only three days. Within those days we have restored our energy, feel well rested and mostly just want to return home to fix things around the yard. We are so passionate about what we do that we would rather cancel the vacation, they say.
“The recipe is simple. You have to learn how to ride, be patient and have a strong work ethic. That’s when you’ll get the opportunities.”
Stein Endresen has been a part of Norway’s elite show jumpers for more than two decades. You need a lot of hands to count his many years representing the Norwegian national team. As a 16-year-old he challenged his sister – stating that horse-riding was challenging. This quickly evolved into getting his own horse, where he discovered the joy of the competitive element of riding. From this moment, his competitive instinct has become stronger and stronger – in which has brought him to newer heights in his career both as a rider and a businessman. Everything from the Olympic games to the European Championship – his goal to become one of the best, most experienced and one of the oldest.
– This is where horse riding separates itself from any other sport. This is a lifestyle. If I have been away from the arena for a couple of weeks, I miss it. Competitions are about more than just the sport; it is the foundation of our business. This business evolves around educating and selling horses at the right time. For that to happen you need to have top quality horses. I always tell myself that I might be over the hill to be at the top of this game. However, I know that with the right horse, I am one of the best. In addition to this, I love the educating aspect of it. I love to have good horses to educate and to watch them develop and improve –also in competitions. Today, I am probably a more nuanced competitor than I used to be. It is all about having the ability to read the horse and understand it as an individual. Nurture the talent and develop it. There is a certain joy that comes from seeing the horse develop to its’ full potential. I read horses better now than when I was young. It is this quality that I use to my advantage, he says.
” We import both top horses and amateur horses for the international market. “
Knows the art of educating
Stein knows what he is doing. His name is praised within the show jumping community, both nationally and internationally. In terms of horses, Norway imports way more than it exports. Stein, however, is a large contributor to the export portion. He has a knack for finding talented young horses and developing them into the quality horses that the worlds top show jumpers want. Horses that Nimble, the Olympic winner, and world champion Scott Brash, now get to enjoy. Super Sox, ridden by USA’s best young rider, and the super-stallion Cabachon, previous owned by Kathrinelund Stud & Stallion station in Denmark and Kristin Andresen, whom after having been under the saddle of Katharina Offel, went to Schockemohle´s. They used to be a unique combination Stein and Cabachon. Emotions take up the room. Kristin steps in and says lightly; -it was very nice, during the European Championship in Herning, Paul came up to us and said that he would have loved for Stein to continue riding Cabachon.
“Today there is almost a lack of good riders. We are struggling to get hold of them.”
Small environments, yet great possibilities
Kristin and Stein love their home. They have considered moving abroad, however, it is much more competitive in other countries. – To make a living out of horses will not be easier that way, they both say firmly. There are several cons about staying in little Norway, it is a smaller environment and few people with whom you can discuss issues. In other countries, such as Germany and Holland, there are more educated horse-people around you. The professional environment in Norway is minuscule. It is not the same talking to parents who have only just come into the sport due to their children’s newly found interest. I would have loved to have more professionals around to discuss business related topics with, as well as the sport. On the other hand, if you love horses it does not require a lot to making a living out of it here. With a smaller community, it is easier to establish yourself as the best. In all areas of the field, it is less competitive.
Running a horse business
Stein looks beyond Norway’s little horse world. He evaluates how the sport is viewed in other countries and the differences disappoint him. In countries like Netherlands, the horse industry is a part of the nation`s gross domestic product. In Norway alike, there are many people who make a living from horse related activities. This sport has a large turnover with sizeable sums involved. A horse business is just as valuable as any other business – it all comes down to selling a product. Whether is coffee or a horse – it does not matter. A well functioning business is a good business and should be respected and treated like the institution it is. However, in Norway, the equestrian sport is largely viewed separately from this, which is completely wrong. We are running a professional business, with a high level of competence and deliver top quality products within our field.
” I would have loved to have more professionals around to discuss business related topics with, as well as the sport.”
The sport as a foundation
My career as a show jumper has made my name well known both in Norway and internationally. Without that, I would stand no chance selling horses to world-renowned riders like Scott Brash. My results in the sport and my effort within the sport provide the foundation from which I build the business and it provides a quality assurance that customers of that caliber require. Unfortunately, a lot of people think that there is a dishonest link between being both a trainer and a horse salesman. This isn’t really a tough thing to balance at all. Both as a trainer and a salesman I want the best possible results for my clients. As a coach, I do have a certain influence as to which horses my students buy. The thing is that I want my students to do well, and to get that to happen I have to sell them quality horses that suit their riding. And if there is a mismatch between rider and horse it is easier for me to switch horses, because I know the horses individually. As a coach I have a huge responsibility, this is something that one has to be aware of and never compromise your integrity.
“A horse business is just as valuable as any other business – it all comes down to selling a product. Whether it is coffee or a horse – it does not matter.”
Stall Bergan has a turnover of approximately 50 to 80 horses a year. – We import the best horses. We are good at spotting them and have a lot of connections in Germany, Netherlands and Denmark who know what we want. We import both top horses and amateur horses for the international market. There’s so much joy in this process, Stein says proudly. – The joy of making it, and seeing a new horse owner who fits perfectly with their horse. There’s a pride in seeing one of the world’s best riders visit us for buying horses.
Not hard to sell horses
Economically tough times are a supposed to come ahead. The newspapers are crammed with one corporate leader after the other worrying about a decline in the market. Stein is yet to experience this. The equestrian market, he states, has remained rather constant.
– We could have sold more horses than we do. Everyone says it is so hard to sell horses, but that’s only if you sell a horse that isn’t as good as what you make it out to be. We have a lot of experience and know what constitutes a good horse. Private sellers usually overestimate the price and try to sell unrealistically.
“A well-functioning business is a good business and should be respected and treated like the institution it is.”
Letting through the next generation
The horse market is constant Stein says. –The level of the Norwegian riders has risen dramatically amongst the juniors and young riders. But at the top, the development is less. Still, there is currently a positive trend, with a lot of talented young riders. Most of them are either 2nd or 3rd generation riders. Stein’s own two daughters are also both active riders. The oldest, Benedikte Serigstad Endresen, has many results and medals in international competitions and has a bright future in the saddle ahead her. – We are also pushing Benedikte to take an education within economics, just to have a back-up, Stein says. The youngest sister, Siri, is stepping into her parent’s footsteps and is currently riding everyday. The national team rider gets excited and his engagement for the future of show jumping Norway shines through. – The federation needs to get better at helping out those that are in their early 20’s as it is here that the sport loses most of its riders. A similar problem has occurred internationally, and therefore you have got the development of for example the U-25 category.
Stein underscore: -It is possible for those who have the will, but not the economy to have good horses. Today, more than ever. The recipe is simple. You have to learn how to ride, be patient and have a strong work-ethic. That’s when you’ll get the opportunities. Go to the right places, learn. Look at those who are at the top today, they haven’t bought their way there. They have worked hard for it. -Today there is almost a lack of good riders, Kristin exclaims. We are struggling to get hold of them. To get a job as a rider is definitely possible. You don’t need to compete in the European championships for ponies and all the junior competitions, to make a career in the sport. Back, in the beginning, our stable was full of people who just wanted to get out, and people were more than thrilled just to go for a hack. Today it’s different, I think it has something to do with the fact that young people have so many options. The choice can be hard to make.
Excited about future recruitment
A lot of the activities related to Stall Bergan used to come from the riding school. Kristin was the main educator and a lot of kids got their first experiences on the school horses before they moved on to having their own ponies and horses. Now it is several years ago since there was a schooling horse at Stall Bergan. Just like a lot of other riding schools Stall Bergan has turned to other ventures within the equestrian industry. They have succeeded in their goals and projects. One visit to the yard confirms this. Yet Stein continues to reflect about the long-term effects of having fewer and fewer riding schools.
– I’m nervous about how recruitment will develop in the future, when there are so few riding schools left. There are still a lot of horses at the competitions, but what the future holds, that is what I worry about, Stein concludes.