Property Market Insights

Equestrian Market Updates: Top Globe-Trotting Picks for Living in Horse Heaven

In honor of this weekend’s Kentucky Derby, these locations, one on each continent, are ideal for channeling a passion for equines

The Kentucky Derby is coming right up. On May 7 at Louisville’s Churchill Downs, a field of 20 or so Thoroughbreds will thunder towards the finish line with one claiming victory. As anticipation for the Run for the Roses builds with mint juleps, stunning equine athletes, and the exquisite parade of hats, Luxury Defined looked at other global destinations—one on each continent—to thrill the horseman or horsewoman.

Every Thoroughbred racehorse can trace its lineage across hundreds of years to three Arabian stallions—the Byerly Turk, the Darley Arabian, and the Godolphin Barb.

Dubai, UAE—Birthplace of the Thoroughbred

This were it all began. Arabian horses, with archeological evidence dating back 4,500 years, are the foundation for virtually every fine breed around the world, most notably Thoroughbreds, which race in the Kentucky Derby. Known for their elegance, speed, stamina, and courage, Arabians, small but mighty steeds were so prized by the nomadic Bedouins that they were brought into the family tent at night for shelter and protection from theft. That spawned another valued trait in these horses: a deep connection to humans.

Every Thoroughbred, through a studbook carefully maintained through the centuries, can trace its lineage to three Arabian stallions: the Byerly Turk, the Darley Arabian, and the Godolphin Barb. Fittingly, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, passionate about horses and racing his entire life, chose the name Godolphin for his global network of Thoroughbred breeding and training stables.

State of the Market

Confidence in Dubai’s luxury real estate market this past year has been historic. Property sales surged in Q4 of 2021, surpassing the previous quarter. With 15,926 deals worth recorded 15,926 deals worth Dh42.35 billion (US$11.532 billion) and marked the best-ever third quarter vis-à-vis transaction value in the history of the Dubai property market. Factors fueling the demand are three recent major governmental factors: favorable tax laws (no charge on capital gains, inheritance or rental income) and easing of visa restrictions allowing expats to buy real estate.

Expert Commentary

Says Jacqueline Johns, principal of Christie’s International Dubai: “The country is strongly tied to equestrian sports and has hosted the Dubai World Cup every year since its inauguration in 1996. This is horseracing’s richest event. A myriad of riding opportunities from advanced to beginner can be enjoyed minutes from some high-end communities, such as Arabian ranches, at state-of-the-art equestrian facilities that offer boarding or lessons in jumping or dressage.

Wellington, Florida—An Equine Wonderland  

The horse market in Wellington is red hot with some ranches being sold sight unseen. This is due in large part to the town’s proximity to the World Equestrian Center, which attracts top competitors from around the globe. 

Wellington offers the best of both worlds to the horse set. The bucolic community is defined by 10-acre properties with lush, fenced pastures; swaying palms; premier private equine facilities; and stately homes. Yet a short gallop away, in action-packed Ocala, is the recently opened US$10.5 million World Equestrian Center (WEC). In winter, when the climate is at its best, horses from around the globe are flown to Florida to compete with the best in class and board at WEC’s impossibly chic facilities (training options include treadmills and lap pools). In one day, it is possible to catch championships in disciplines such as jumping, dressage, reining, or driving, to name a few. The high season’s social scene is Kentucky Derby-esque, minus the hats and mint juleps.

Speaking of the Derby, the area has a connection six former champions, two of whom went onto win the Triple Crown: Affirmed (1978) and American Pharoah (2015). Even if your aspiration is not to breed a Derby winner, the rich soil, infused with limestone and calcium, is ideal for all horses. The county supports amateur horse owners with a maintained and extensive trail system for all disciplines plus local events utilizing the world-class facilities. Here is a prime example of a Wellington estate, offering luxury living for both horse and rider. The 12-star barn includes staff quarters, with a Grand Prix field and a dressage arena. The owner enjoys a pool and pool deck, game room, and gracious areas for casual and gala entertaining.

Wellington Florida Equestrian Estate FieldsWellington Florida Equestrian Estate Horse StablesWellington Florida Equestrian EstateWellington Florida Equestrian Estate Pool Deck
State of the Market

The Wellington market continues to remain strong as ever due to low inventory and land size. Year over year we are seeing a roughly 20 percent increase in median listing price of equestrian-centric properties. Inventory continues to remain historically low, which leads to bidding wars and over-ask purchase prices. The housing market will only get tighter with the recent acquisition of the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center by a global equestrian conglomerate. They have plans to expand the recently renamed “Wellington International,” further cementing the area as the world’s premier destination for equine enthusiasts.

Horses trained in dressage are the ballerinas of the equine world, combining power, beauty, and grace to perform their dances for the judges.
Expert Commentary

Says top Wellington agent, Marley Goodman, of Illustrated Properties: “We used to see a normal amount of sales, and a higher than average seasonal rental market for those who wanted to “try” Wellington before committing. The tides have since turned and we have very little seasonal rental availability (if it is available, the prices are startling), and many buyers are purchasing homes and farms sight-unseen.”

Australia—Seafaring Foundation Horses

During the pandemic, buyers placed a premium on space rather than location. With this comes all the hobbies one might associate with acreage. Horses play a big part in fueling the Australian market. 

In the early 1800s, not long after the British had opened establishments on this new frontier, the English gentry, missing their fine-blooded horses, sent for them. These horses sailed like royalty. Only five or so made the five-month journey at a time, each attended by a small staff of grooms with a head groom overseeing them all. Their compartments were outfitted with enormous box stalls including walls that retracted to stabilize the horses through rough seas. There was a generous exercise yard so the animals could stretch their legs at least daily. A mare and stallion typically made the trip together in order to begin a breeding program once back on land. The continuous trickle of exceptional bloodlines from Britain continued to improve the Australian stock.

Australia has since hosted some of the world’s premier equine events: Thoroughbred racing’s prestigious Melbourne Cup has been run since 1861, not long after horses began sailing here from England. The World Polo Championships were held here five years ago and the Summer Olympic Games in 2000. In one of those Olympic disciplines, the Three Day Event, Australian riders have been a mainstay on global medal podiums. The competition opens with a dressage test, requiring obedience and suppleness to master the elegant dance routine; next is cross-country with its premium on speed, stamina, and courage to gallop three miles and negotiate enormous natural obstacles such as walls, logs, banks, and water combinations; the final phase is stadium jumping where the horses are asked for focus and precision to keep from knocking a five-foot-high rail from its precarious perch. Ideal for any equine discipline is this riverside oasis on 35 acres. Amenities include stabling, six paddocks, Olympic dressage arena, pool, tennis courts, and 11-bedroom manor.

New South Wales, Australia Equestrian Property - Outdoor dining table set for dinnerNew South Wales, Australia Equestrian Property - Llama or alpaca grazing in fieldNew South Wales, Australia Equestrian Property - luxury pool illuminated at night
State of the Market

This year has seen the return of the expat and the mainland Chinese buying groups. With travel restrictions now eased, Australia is witnessing this type of buyer returning and looking to make significant purchases. Says Darren Curtis of Ken Jacobs: “Over the last 24 months we have seen a dramatic increase in prices across Sydney and its many markets and we expect that to continue over the course of 2022. There is a shortage of good quality stock which will also keep prices rising; we see no signs of the demand decreasing even with the anticipated interest rate rises that will surely come through the year.”

Expert Commentary

During the pandemic, we saw many people taking up the option of space rather than location,” adds Mr. Curtis. “With this demand for space comes all the hobbies one might associate with acreage and horses play a big part in this. Weekend retreats or full-time residences on acres will often see great horse facilities, whether for a hobby or a more serious endeavor. Round yards, stables, and arenas are all found across suburbs like Dural, Terrey Hills, or Duffys Forest and we are fortunate to represent many such estates through the year. Horses and all they bring with them have been and continue to be an important part of life here in Australia.”

Argentina—Polo Perfection and Pioneers in Cloning 

Argentines are the global powerhouse in the game of polo, claiming eight of the world’s top rankings, including number one. 

Polo is often likened to ice hockey: fast paced with sprints, screeching stops, reeling turns, and body-on-body contact to control the ball. Moving more like a centaur, half-horse, half-human, the Argentines gallop up and down the field in perfect harmony. Argentine polo ponies, exported around the world, are prized for their game savvy, speed, and rack-and-pinion steering. Throughout the competition, riders rotate through a string of ponies, allowing each to rest before taking the field again. And while polo around the world has a reputation as a stuffy elitist sport, in Argentina it is one for the masses; major matches are televised and Palermo’s polo stadium seats 60,000.

Argentines are the Wayne Gretzkys of the sport. In the current world rankings, Argentinian riders hold 8 of the top 10 spots and 15 of the top 20. Argentine polo made equine history in 2013 when its greatest rider ever, Adolfo Cambiaso, led his team to victory astride a clone of his beloved stallion, Aiken Cura, that died nearly a decade earlier. Two years later, in the Argentina Open, Cambiaso won again with a string that included six clones from his deceased mare, Cuartetera, further legitimizing cloning with the polo elite. While cloning has become a big business in Argentina, Thoroughbred racing bans cloning, as do most disciplines. Clone or no clone, the country grassy Pampas expanses are ideal for raising horses, such as this estate in the exclusive Santa María de Lobos Polo Club, with a lovely outdoor patio overlooking a polo field, tennis court, and pool.

In exclusive Santa María de Lobos Polo Club, 100 km (62 mi) from Buenos Aires and a 40-minute drive from Ezeiza Airport.In exclusive Santa María de Lobos Polo Club, 100 km (62 mi) from Buenos Aires and a 40-minute drive from Ezeiza Airport.In exclusive Santa María de Lobos Polo Club, 100 km (62 mi) from Buenos Aires and a 40-minute drive from Ezeiza Airport.
State of the Market

Argentina’s post-pandemic economic woes make it one of the few global value propositions with supply currently outpacing demand for luxury real estate. Last spring, when the Polo High Season began, there was an increase on the number of serious inquiries but few closed transactions. Says Maria Fernanda Canals of Remind Group: “A foreign investor can benefit immensely from depressed prices on farmland, vineyard properties, even urban condos. These investments are theirs to enjoy long-term as the property appreciates, which history has shown, it eventually will.” Foreign ownership is turnkey though purchase of large land tracts does require an extra step in registering a specific tax ID number.*

Expert Commentary

“The country is identified with a deep love for the horse,” adds Ms. Fernanda Canals. “Since the beginning of the nation, they have engrossed the whole territory and in some places are still used for work and transportation. Nowadays, the horse is mainly used for recreation and sports, having a wide type of breeds for each activity. Argentine polo players and polo horses are a respected luxury brand throughout the world for their widely recognized qualities and achievements, appealing to the world’s finest connoisseurs looking to acquire the best polo horses in the world.”

Spain—Home of the Balletic Andalusian

Horses have left their hoofprints on almost every place on the planet, including the tiny jet-set island of Mallorca, better known for its glittering yachts, vibrant nightlife, and five-star dining and shopping. 

Running neck and neck, so to speak, with Arabians as the world’s oldest horse breed is Spain’s Andalusian. Iberian cave paintings depicting the horse date back to 20,000 to 3,000 B.C. Prized by nobility for their fine action, flowing manes and tails and regal bearing, these Baroque works of equine beauty are said to have inspired depictions of Pegasus and have been cast in such films as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and Gladiator.

The breed helped inspire a centuries-old love of all horses in Spain, even on the relatively small jet-set island of Mallorca. Here Andalusians are still used in popular fiestas, parades, and shows while horses more suitable to other riding disciplines, most notably show jumping where European Warmbloods excel, are popular. Mallorca’s natural splendor is also a draw for equestrians wanting to venture out of the arenas to hit the trails. The Serra de Tramuntana mountain range is an excellent riding venue as are the rugged coastlines. This estate, outside the cosmopolitan capital of Palma, offers immaculate stabling for 50 horses; dressage, jumping and indoor arenas plus hotel license and facilities to take advantage of the island’s growing horse-tours industry.

State of the Market

Says Andrea Berchtold of Luxury Estates Mallorca: “There is still considerable interest in our properties and the main problem keeps being low inventory after the record sales of last year.”

Expert Commentary

Adds Ms. Berchtold: “The island’s horse community if very lively. Almost every weekend, there is a show jumping competition at one of the big riding clubs, which are all in the vicinity of the capital of Palma. Interestingly, in summer the competitions are held in the evenings, given that it is too hot during the day. They start around 6 p.m., with the top classes beginning closer to midnight or even 1 a.m. To a lesser degree, there are dressage and Western competitions. A racetrack on Mallorca is entirely dedicated to trotting races, where jockeys are not in the saddle but are pulled in a two-wheeled cart called a sulky.”

In sulky races, horses pull light carts and don’t gallop, but keep to a trot or another gait known as the pace. 
In sulky races, horses pull light carts and don’t gallop, but keep to a trot or another gait known as the pace. 

South Africa—Ultimate in Exotic Riding

South Africa is being discovered by international horse enthusiasts, drawn to the area’s world-renowned wineries, restaurants, and a riding terrain that includes lofty crags, sandy beaches, and sightings of exotic wildlife. 

At the turn of the 17th century, the Dutch East India Company was that era’s version of today’s Amazon delivery service (and when adjusted, equally profitable.) The company’s formidable fleet of ships sailed from Europe around the Cape of Good Hope to the Indian Ocean. The ships returned with treasures, such as silks, spices, and other exotic luxuries to sell. The logical stop to restock provisions during the seven-month journey was South Africa.

There were no native horses, so ponies were imported from Java to do the grueling work of creating structures and farms on the inhospitable land. Truth be told, though cute, ponies have a bit of a Napoleon complex and sturdy strength, making them ideal for the heavy labor. Generations later, the pony breed was refined by introducing fine-boned Spanish Andalusians and Arabians in the breeding stock. Descendants of these horses, most notably South Africa’s Nooitgedachts and the Boerperds, are sure-footed and strong, expert at handling the local terrain: rocky crags to scale, beaches to splash down, and miles of veldts to canter across to view giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, and eland. This equestrian estate in the Franschhoek Valley wine country, commands 60 private acres just 40 minutes from Cape Town, with facilities to include a stable complex, mare and foaling barn, yearling barn, and staff accommodations.

State of the Market

The past 12 months have been historic in the Western Cape, with Greeff Properties, closing more than 1,000 transactions totaling in excess of US$3 billion. A very recent significant sale was an equestrian farm of 19 hectares at a sale price of R63.25 million (US$4.03 million.) The farm offered a three-bedroom homestead, cottages, exquisite, landscaped gardens, stabling for 16 horses, dressage arena, lunging ring, and excellent outriding in a nature reserve adjacent to the property.

Expert Commentary

Says Aimee Campbell of Greeff: “Coming out of lockdowns and disrupted travels, we have seen a surge in foreign buying interest with many nationalities inquiring about property in Franschhoek. The area is extremely popular with foreign buyers due to the government’s stability, ease of purchasing real estate, world renowned wineries, restaurants and hotels. Interest in luxury lifestyle farms which offer either equestrian facilities or hobby vineyards or boutique wineries is high. All offer incredible homes and exceptional views of the surrounding mountains, farmlands, and indigenous wildlife.”

*Christie’s International Real Estate does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This article is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.