Marcel van der Burgh runs dressage farm amid alligators and hurricanes
From De Paardenkrant, by Dinette Neuteboom.
Every year the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington attracts many Dutch horse people. Whether grooms who escape the Dutch winter for three months and want to earn good money or merchants who come and do networking; Dutch people are there every week. The seventh week of the WEF ‘De Paardenkrant’ spoke with Marcel van der Burgh, who has been running his own dressage farm for ten years just a stone’s throw from Wellington, in the slightly more northern town Loxahatchee. Van der Burg has not only seen the WEF develop to the biggest horseshow in the world but now sees the Adequan Global Dressage Festival going the same way. Both events take place in the winter, when the temperature during the day reach a pleasant 20 to 30 degrees and the weather shows little whims. Van der Burgh lives and works however also in the tropical summer when extreme heat, heavy rain and even hurricanes do not make life easier in South Florida. To top it off alligators are ten meters from the stables and paddocks in the canals.
LOXAHATCHEE – “Oh, the alligators aren’t that bad. There are very big, but I’ve never seen one lying in the paddocks. And you get used to the weather in the summer”, says Marcel van der Burgh laughing. “But the hurricanes, that is the worst thing there is. You cannot imagine how scary that is, you do not know what’s happening to you. I have experienced two heavy hurricanes now. One of them was not so bad, but the other was terrible. I thought I was going to die.”
But despite the alligators, the heat and hurricanes Van der Burgh is enjoying his life in Florida. “The weather is always good and you can earn decently with horses.”
Twenty years ago the Dutchman (41) went to America for the first time. “I had finished my education at the National Equestrian School in Deurne and I wanted to start a riding school in the Netherlands, but I quickly found out that this wouldn’t work. It was too expensive. Then I started traveling and through a friend and I came to work at a farm in New York.” Like many of the American horse people they spent their winters in Florida, in the south of the United States. After a few detours Van der Burgh eventually started building up his own stable. “It’s easier here than in the Netherlands to start your own horse farm. In the Netherlands it is only profitable if you have a large farm. You should have something like a hundred horses. Here the numbers are much smaller.” Van der Burgh usually has around twenty horses in his barn. “On the one hand, the costs are higher here, but people also pay more for the horses and the training and you have a lot less problems with regulations regarding manure for example.”
Van der Burgh is multifunctional in Florida. “I have an all-round farm. Purchasing and sales, I import many horses from the Netherlands, I train and show horses and I train riders. I also do the tricky beasts and real young horses. That piece is often missing here. Often people try to break in their young horses themselves and if it doesn’t work, they come to me to solve things. But I also have young horses I break in and train them for the first years and after a few years the owners can ride them easily themselves. People often forget how important that first part of the education of a horse is. If it’s done right, you can enjoy it for the rest of the horses’ career.”
As in the Netherlands the most stables in America cost a lot of money, so it’s admirable that Van der Burgh can earn a living just from his horse business. “It’s trial and error, but I survived it all. From hurricanes and flooding to the economic crisis. ”
Van der Burgh also shows his own horses and horses of students. Now that is up to the Small Tour. “I have not shown Grand Prix yet. It is my goal, but I am very realistic. You never know how it goes in equestrian world. One day you think you have a champion, the next day he is crippled in his stable. Usually the horses are therefore sold before I reach Grand Prix-level. It is difficult to keep such horses, especially if they are my own.”
Asked whether it would be financially interesting for Van der Burgh if Dutch horse owners would provide a good horse, he responds with a resounding yes. “Good and nice to ride horses you can sell expensive here. And it’s worth it to invest time and money here. ”
Translation by Rick Helmink