Lifestyle & Culture

Equestrian Expats: Valkenswaard and the Eindhoven region are horse-and-rider heaven

You just got offered an incredible opportunity to live in the Netherlands and I know what you’re thinking: “Should I take my horse?”

Okay, maybe that’s just a Kentucky thing. But if you’re here from Horse Country – no matter whether that’s Virginia or  Japalouppe – and you’re itching to get into the saddle, you have a LOT of options. 

New arrivals often aren’t aware this part of Europe offers all sorts of equestrian opportunities from recreational riding to world-class equestrian sports.

We’ll have a more in-depth post on the region including Belgium, Germany, and Luxembourg. But let’s start with our own backyard. Literally.

Valkenswaard is the equestrian center of the Netherlands

Jessica Springsteen

When we moved to Leenderstrijp a few miles south of Eindhoven 9 months ago, we had no idea this is where the horsey circle of life begins and ends. We can walk out our door and there are stud farms, barns, stables, training facilities and horse retirement farms within a few minute’s walk in every direction.

This southern region of the Netherlands – Brabant – where we live is the center of the horse industry and home to quite a few international stars. For example, you’ve heard of Bruce Springsteen, right?

Well, Bruce pops into Valkenswaard – a medium-sized city just a few kilometers south of Eindhoven – regularly to see his 25-year-old daughter Jessica, who’s an Olympic competitor. Jessica Springsteen has a farm here, and one of The Boss’s favorite pizza restaurants is in Eindhoven.

But there are other bigger industry players who make this region a destination.

Show-jumping champion Edwina Tops-Alexander is based here, and her husband Jan Tops (an Olympic champion) built Stal Tops Valkenswaard – also known as Tops International Arena – in Valkenswaard.

The multi-million-euro arena and complex are among the most amazing in Europe, an arena where the Longines Global Champions Tour was born.

The LGCT is the premier equestrian tour that takes eventers around the world to 16 cities – from Mexico City to Doha, Qatar – with a stop, of course, in Valkenswaard. Which is sort of the point of this post.

By the way, Jessica Springsteen is far from the only high-profile American expat in Valkenswaard. American billionaire Frank McCourt, who once owned the LA Dodges, invested in the Global Champions Tour and for awhile lived in the middle of town, according to our sources.

A TRAIL RIDE IN THE LEENDERBOS WILDERNESS ON THE DUTCH/BELGIAN BORDER

If you’re in the region, you can attend the biggest event of the year, the 12th round of the Tour and the Global Champions League from 11 August to 13 August here in Brabant.

Tickets are almost sold out, but you can take a shot here.

If you can’t make that, there are the new  Global Future Champions events debuting this year.

There will be two shows in July for the riders and horses where the next generation of world-class show jumping competitors can develop.

From the Tops Arena website:

Created specifically for both young horses, and young riders, the events will allow up-and-coming talent to perform on a world-class stage, helping to progress and protect the future of the sport and creating a launchpad for the show jumping stars of the next generation. 

There are events all summer there, so check out their website. And say “hey” to The Boss if you run into him.

If you prefer to ride and not spectate, there are countless barns where you can stable your horse, or borrow one for rides and lessons.

Here’s a quick sampling:

Burgmeijer Quarter Horses in Vorstenbosch north of Eindhoven has courses for riders of all ages and skills. Billed as one of the largest stables in Western Europe, owners Dave Young and Rieky Young have events spaces for parties as well. And of course, you can buy a Quarter Horse from top breeders.

Platinum Stables in Riel (outside Tilburg) is a stable and equestrian company that is a dressage and trading stable, a stud station and education center for Asian riders. “We bridge the gap between the dressage sport in The Netherlands and the dressage sport in Singapore, Indonesia and China,” according to the website.

Manege de Molenberg in Leende is literally down the street from where we live. They have an excellent facility including a nice cafe near the rings where you can watch competitions and the rates are reasonable. Casual riding starts at 20 euros per hour and lessons start at 30 euros per hour.

Where the heck is Eindhoven? If you live in the Randstad metropolis – Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Utrecht and Den Haag – Eindhoven is about an hour’s drive south toward the Belgian border. Eindhoven is about an hour’s drive north of Brussels. So, it’s close to several expat centers including Düsseldorf via Venlo.

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