By breeding the finest Danish sports horses, Princess Benedikte is continuing a royal tradition that has endured for over 300 years. Her best horses are ridden by the international dressage star Princess Nathalie – who happens to be her daughter.
The Horse Rider’s Journal No. 8
Having been brought up in a royal family of excellent riders and horsemen, it was only to be expected that Benedikte Astrid Ingeborg Ingrid, Princess of Denmark would take to horses with such enthusiasm. Today, she can truly be called Denmark’s equestrian princess. She runs a highly successful stud farm from Castle Berleburg in the south-eastern German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where she lives with her husband, His Highness Prince Richard zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg. Together they have produced the fantastic Danish Warmblood horses, which their youngest daughter, Princess Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg, has ridden at big events such as the Olympics, European championships and World championships.
Princess Benedikte was born on 29 April 1944 in Copenhagen, the daughter of King Frederik IX and Queen Ingrid. During her childhood, horses were a major interest of hers. She was a frequent visitor at the royal stables and rode ponies as a hobby with her elder sister Princess Margaret, now Queen of Denmark, and younger sister Princess Anne Marie, who later married King Constantine II of Greece and now lives in London. One of Princess Benedikte’s big equestrian influences was her grandfather King Christian X, who reigned over Denmark throughout both World Wars. King Christian X is remembered as the country’s equestrian King because of his ride across the old border into the province of North Schleswig after its reunification with Denmark in 1920, and he became very popular during the German occupation of Denmark between 1940 and 1945 when he rode through the streets of Copenhagen on several occasions. Princess Benedikte is the only one of the three sisters who has continued to observe this close bond with horses, maintaining a Danish royal passion which dates back to 1670, when the newly crowned King Christian V set about making Denmark one of the world’s leading horse nations. The King was an excellent rider and was so fascinated by horses that he inspired a nationwide interest for breeding good stout Danish horse breeds. Today, his legacy continuesin three true Danish breeds: the elegant Frederiksborg horse, the spotted pony-like Knapstrupper and the draught horse Jyden.
Princess Benedikte brings her own historic contribution to Danish equestrian traditions by breeding sports horses – in particular, the Danish Warmblood. Before becoming a horse breeder, Princess Benedikte was primarily an excellent dressage rider, but then a riding instructor change her life. He had successfully worked at a stud farm, and told the princess that her mare Øxenholm Pamina could, with the right stallion, produce fantastic foals that would grow up to be champion sports horses. After discussing the matter with her husband Prince Richard, the family ventured into breeding in 1990 and are now considered to be among Denmark’s most influential breeders.
The Princess has also involved herself with studbook duties in Denmark, as well as becoming patron of the Danish Warmblood Association and the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses. In 2006, she showed political ambitions when she stood against, among others, her royal colleague Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein of Jordan in a quest to become the new president of the International Horse Federation (FEI). Two days before turning 62 years old she lost the election. But she remains a patron or honorary member of a great many equestrian organisations, institutions and foundations, such as the Danish Carriage Drivers Association, the Danish Equestrian Federation and the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses. Today, she is known for producing some of the best international dressage horses, and is also the proud mother of international dressage star Princess Nathalie, whose career she follows very closely: She is always on the stands whenever her daughter rides out at big events such as this summer’s horse festival in Aachen. And Princess Nathalie makes her mother extra proud riding horses that have been bred by the family – a spectacle very rarely seen in the modern equestrian world. •