Last year, Harrie Smolders – the Dutch Olympian and former world number one embarked on a new adventure when joining forces with his good friends Walter Lelie and Niels Fabrie in launching an online platform, SLF Horse Auctions. “I think our power is the horsemanship we have together,” Smolders says. “We have a connection from the breeders to the very top of the sport: We are extremely wide in our range, both in our suppliers and our customers.” “When we created our partnership, my main request was that we have to have a seriously high standard,” Smolders begins.
“Naturally, that is also the biggest challenge for us. Our vision is to keep our standard above the average; we only want to sell good horses, and help our customers find the right match. When you want to do three auctions per year like we are currently doing, the hardest part is to find the right horses. Luckily for me, Walter and Niels are on the road nearly every day. We have also purchased horses together with the auction in mind, and have a group of reliable sources who inform us when they see something exceptional. Everyone is looking for good horses. However, we cover a huge area with our wide network. Niels is the dealer from the three of us, while Walter is well-known for his horsemanship; he rode so many top horses in his life. Walter is great in producing the young horses as well as discovering them.”
“I want to know the horses in our selection in and out,” Smolders continues. “I believe we have to know exactly what we are selling. I think that is important; if customers call me, I can give them advice on what suits them. I have seen all the horses multiple times, we have all their results, videos and X-rays. Our goal is to have as much information as possible from each horse, so that our customers know what they buy. Transparency is very important for us.” “This time, I think the average level of the horses is so high that I cannot point out a favorite,” Smolders says about the selection of 52 horses in the 2022 Spring edition of SLF Horse Auctions. “Finding the right match depends on what type of rider the horse is going to; what they want to achieve and where their goals are. We have a great variety in our selection, it is something I personally believe in as a rider: You need a diverse string of horses. For example, I have a few different type of horses in my current string. As a rider, you for sure need a few competitive horses, but also a horse that can do all the biggest stuff in the world at any given moment.”
“We are focusing not only on the professionals but also on the amateurs,” Smolders says about the customer base of SLF Horse Auctions. “Last year, we had a few embryos in our auctions as well; we don’t want to forget about the breeders, either. We aim to have a wide range in our selection of horses – there has to be something to suit the very basic level as well as the very top professional – and everything in between. We want to supply honest horses that are better than average. Additionally, it is important that there is room for development in the horses we sell: They must be seen as an investment for our customers. We are putting this project in the world to make people happy; it is a nice gift if we can help people in finding good horses.”
“I think online auctions have been trending in the past few years,” Smolders concludes. “I feel like it is a platform you need if you want to stay on top of things. However, it is a platform that none us uses as their main business. It is a lot of work up front – every day has 24 hours, but sometimes it feels like we have eight days in our weeks. But once verything is up and running, I think the SLF Horse Auctions is a very nice project to have on the side of my riding at the moment – and we have big plans, this will not be a one-time thing.” “I hope that SLF Horse Auctions will be known for our vision of selling horses that are better than average,” Niels Fabrie fills in. “Our customers can trust that they buy what they see. We keep the good horses for the auction, not the other way around. We want to sell the better horses, that is our vision. Walter – who had the idea of the auction originally – is looking for horses, riding them and trying them. He is an old-fashioned horseman with a lot of knowledge, he knows the breeding and the background of each horse, he is specialized in that. Harrie is very busy with the top sport, but he is very committed and follows all the horses closely. From the first selection day until everything is online, it is a lot of work – and not from nine to five. It is a big challenge, but I enjoy finding good horses and having a lot going on. In the end, when all the customers are happy – that is the best reward.”
“What we do differently is that we first find the good horses and then organize the rest – like pick the dates for the auction,” Fabrie explains. “I feel like people like to buy online and enjoy the fact that in the end, it is up to the client how much they spend.”
“The unpredictability of an online auction is very exciting,” Walter Lelie agrees. “I got the idea when I was thinking about a modern way of showing my horses to the world. It is not all we do, but I believe an online platform is a natural part of the business today.”
“SLF Horse Auctions should stand for three horsemen who select good horses and use each other’s knowledge for making the auction better,” Lelie continues. “Each of us has a strong point that we focus on, I believe we make each other better. We have a natural connection and form a good team. Since the auction actually is a lot of work, it is important to enjoy it as well. By helping each other, we can learn a lot.”
“We are not aiming for short-term success but rather on long-term growth – both personal and businesswise,” Lelie concludes. “We are buying and keeping horses together for the future editions of SLF Horse Auctions and produce them ourselves. We are only on our second year; the idea is to grow further.”
About SLF Horse Auctions:
With SLF Horse Auctions, the Dutch Olympian Harrie Smolders – former world number one and silver medalist at the 2017 European Championships with Don VHP Z – has combined his expertise with that of Walter Lelie and Niels Fabrie. As the breeder and rider behind the success stories of horses such as Killer Queen VDM, Irenice Horta, Gancia du Muze, Eldorado vd Zeshoek, Just the Music and Go Easy de Muze, Lelie’s horsemanship and proficiency are second to none, while Niels Fabrie has an exceptional eye for talent and an unbeaten skill to find the perfect match for each rider. With Smolders, Lelie and Fabrie, SLF Horse Auctions offers the perfect combination of experience and expertise – a solid base of future success for every level.
Visit slf.auction to view the current selection for Spring 2022
Source: Press Release from SLF Horse Auctions
Photos: © SLF Horse Auctions