Farm Talk

March 2, 2010

Danish horses at home in Yale, Okla.

by Charlotte Anne Smith

The tiny town of Yale, Oklahoma just east of Stillwater, may seem a strange place for a breeder of Danish horses and an import/export business dealing in live horses, semen, both fresh and frozen and embryos to have set up business, but to Hans and Rebecca Christensen if seemed to be perfect.

A big part of this perfection rests with the fact the farm is located not far from two large airports, several U.S. and Interstate highways and near a veterinary school and hospital where a lot of research on the treatment of horses has been conducted. On top of that, the land is rolling allowing for good drainage and with enough timber to provide shade and windbreaks.

The route to Oklahoma had a lot of twists and turns for both parties, but Hans traveled the most distance. He served in the Danish Army as a mechanic for three years and then came to the U.S. on a work exchange because of his knowledge of luxury cars. He was working in California when he met Rebecca. He arrived in 1976 and became a U.S. citizen in 1988.

“When I left Denmark the income tax was 55 percent, the value added twelve-and-a-half percent and now it is 25 percent,” he said. “You have to have private insurance to get into a hospital quick. America is the greatest country. You’re only limited by your imagination. Western Europe is so socialized.”

A trip to Colorado to see friends resulted in a decision to come back and trail ride. Both Hans and Rebecca decided before they undertook that they should learn to ride so they went back to California and bought a horse. One thing led to another, dissatisfaction with the place the horses were being stabled, problems with drainage at the first stable they owned and a continually increasing interest in horses, especially those from Hans’ home country, the Frederiksborg.

The Frederiksborg is the oldest breed of horses in Denmark and were developed at the Royal Frederiksborg Stud, founded under King Frederik II in 1562. The foundation horses were Neapolitan horses and the Iberian forerunners of the Andalusian. As the Norfolk Roadster and Arabbred became more popular they were selected to stand at the royal stud.

As a courtly mount, the Frederiksborg had to be agile and trainable for the courtier’s pursuits in Haute Ecole and warfare, stylish and high-stepping when in parades and court ceremonies and strong and of uniform appearance to trot before the royal carriages.

By the 18th century, the horses enjoyed such particular fame the Danes began to export them in large numbers. Horses from this line not only contributed to the foundation of the heavy warmbloods, but also to the Lipizzaner, the white horses that gained fame as the dancing white stallions from Venia, Austria. Pluto, a gray stallion born in 1765, became a foundation stallion in that breed.

By 1839 the breed became so popular that the royal stud was closed and the country ceased to export the horses. Some private breeders continued to develop the horses and they became a luxury item used primarily for stagecoach and agriculture work. In the mid 20th century the demand for riding horses skyrocketed, a situation that affected all of the warmblood breeds.

The horses are almost uniformly chestnut with a wide blaze, muscular with a short back, well set head and a well muscled legs. The feet are small and tough.

There are only 13 purebred Frederiksborg horses in the United States, eight mares, four geldings and one stud and the stud, Kejser Af Igslo, is standing at Frederiksborg Horse Farms in Yale, Okla.

In addition to the warmbloods, the farm also has Geneo J, an Appaloosa, Desperado Moon, a Quarter Horse, and Hot Dam Chex to Cash, a Palomino at stud.

While offering stud service and raising colts is an important part of the operation it is just part of the services offered. The Christensens offer reproductive services including standing studs and the collection, storage and distribution of frozen or cool shipped semen through national and international contacts in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Denmark, Germany, Brazil and Belize.

They also have mare management including AI or hand breeding, embryo transfers and freezing.

The farm facilities include a USDA Quarantine Station that is authorized to import or export horses and stallion semen as well as transportation service within the U.S.

Needless to say Kejser or Emperor, the English translation of his name is dressage trained and has spent many years performing. He still does for special events and is ridden by Robin Hessel, a dressage instructor and trainer in Stillwater.

All of this is quite a bit to be the result of deciding to really learn how to ride before going on a trail ride.