Crowned with a castle dating back to 1642, the romantic splendour of Broholm Manor has served as the backdrop for the annual Danish Dressage and Para-Dressage Championships for over a decade.
Text maria graae Photography dorte tuladhar / The Horse Rider’s Journal No. 12
Covering 600 hectares and made up mostly of forest, marshland, meadows and fenced fields, Broholm Manor is located on the Danish island of Funen, and Anne Lütken represents the 12th generation of the Sehested family to live here. Even though ownership has now been passed on to her son, Squire Anders Sehested Hjerl-Hansen, Anne is still fully dedicated to the preservation of this historic estate. Anne Lütken is the granddaughter of Jørgen Sehested, who served four years in prison after World War II for his pro-Nazi activities during the German occupation. The social stigma haunted Anne for years and has profoundly influenced her vision for Broholm. She describes her grandfather as “a brutal and obnoxious man”. “After his release from prison, he isolated himself and dedicated the rest of his life to clearing his name. He sold off lots of the land from the estate and spent a fortune on lawyers, while the house was left to fall apart, rotting around him.”
Anne’s grandfather died in 1978, after which her parents moved in to the gloomy house. “By the time they took over, the house had fallen into a serious state of disrepair. It had been named ‘the Stalactite Cave’ by the locals, because of the rain and damp entering through the leaking roof.” Portraits of Anne’s parents, Birgitte Sehested Grice and John Grice, hang in the Chinese-style dining room. A large black dining table that seats 18 dominates the centre of the room, where the exquisite Chinoiserie furniture and golden tapestry create an atmosphere of elegance. “My mother and her sister both served in the Resistance Movement during the occupation. My mother met my father when he came to Denmark as part of the British liberation army in 1945.” As the daughter of a British soldier, Anne Lütken spent her childhood in the Midlands of England. When she was 11, Anne’s grandfather requested that the family move back to Denmark. So they settled in Bjergeskovgård, 13km from Broholm. “My grandfather would invite us over to fish and reward us with pennies, depending on the size of fish we caught. And afterwards we would have tea. But as a child I was never very eager to come here. It felt cut off from the outside world – quite literally, as the large trees had grown into a wilderness. My fondest memory is of the library, where we used to have our tea.”
Today, the Broholm estate remains privately owned. But the rooms in the manor house and its wonderful museum of Stone Age artefacts – not to mention the gourmet restaurant – are open to the public. Visitors can even stay in one of its 16 guest rooms, which each boast authentic period features and a coordinated colour scheme distinguishing it from the others. Anne Lütken’s efforts to restore the historic buildings and drive out the shadows of the past have been relentless. She worked alongside her late husband Frederik Lütken after they took over Broholm in 2001, heralding a new era of welcoming guests seeking an exclusive environment and fine dining. But the task was not without challenges: They had to deal with wallpaper hanging of the walls and rain coming in through the roof. “Maintaining the authenticity here has been the most important thing. Everything had to be done so that it looks like it’s been this way forever.” “Opening up the house has been of great importance,” Anne continues. “I feel strongly that this place should represent our heritage, and it’s very much a part of the surrounding community. These surroundings have so much history and potential; it’s an opportunity to do something really unique and special. As someone who represents the 12th generation to live here, I would be devastated to be the one who failed and had to give up. So I was determined to leave the estate in a condition that was better than the one in which I inherited it.”
The interior, filled with family treasures of paintings and antique furniture, remains complete and intact. Every room has been carefully decorated with Anne’s steady hand and sense of style. The restoration and decoration of the rooms took almost a year. “For that year all we did was talk, think and breathe the renovation, with the help of a few good workmen.” Since the loss of her husband a few years ago, Anne Lütken has been living in a house by the sea in the nearby village of Lundeborg. By her side is her charming and huge Broholmer dog, Sarus, who has been Anne’s devoted companion since 2002. It was her great-grandfather, Chamberlain Niels Frederik Sehested, who took it upon himself in 1850 to save these dogs from extinction by setting up a breeding programme on the Broholm estate – which is how the breed came by its name. “I love animals, and always had cats and dogs as a child,” says Anne. “You can learn extraordinary things from being around horses, from being considerate and respectful to them. I’m very dedicated to para-dressage, because horses can help people in so many ways.”
An avid equestrian, Anne is an accomplished dressage rider and set up the Broholm Riding Centre 20 years ago. “I’ve been riding since I was five. I used to jump as well, but I lost my nerve overnight when I had my children. I still ride every day, and receive training four times a week. The horse I have now is the most talented I’ve ever had, in fact.” The park with its many monuments, majestic trees, and watermill provides an idyllic and unique backdrop for the associated equestrian centre, which has three outdoor and two indoor riding arenas. The main outdoor arena is placed high up in the park with a beautiful view to the north, and each year it hosts the Danish Dressage and Para-Dressage Championships. Niels Peter Schack-Eyber, Anne’s fundraiser for the event, explains how they organise it. “We work on it throughout the year, meeting up once or twice a week. Originally, I was hired to take care of the logistics, but I soon found myself caught up in all the excitement: I was hooked by the involvement of the 80 volunteers. It’s an enormous undertaking. We get between 10,000 and 12,000 spectators during the event, which runs for four days.”
As we stop and look onto the outdoor arena, Anne says: “I get so much enjoyment from the beautiful horses and the life-affirming para-dressage riders. It’s very rewarding to be able to offer them the same conditions and atmosphere as their fellow riders. But my most favourite part is to experience Broholm so full of people and full of life, to see it operating as a part of the community – just as it was always meant to be.”•