We are pleased to share this great article in TDN Weekend’s August issue. Please click here to read in full online.
The Last WORD: Anna Sundström
By: Amie Karlsson
Anna Sundström is not one to turn down a challenge. Thirteen years ago, she and her parents moved their breeding operation from Sweden to France without being able to speak a word of the language. Thanks to hard work and high-profile horses such as the Prix du Jockey Club winner Le Havre, it didn’t take long until they had established themselves in the French thoroughbred industry. Earlier this year, Anna Sundström took on the position as manager of Diane Wildenstein’s Haras de Bois Roussel. We caught up with the Swede to ask about her new role, France…and fishing.
Tell us more about your new position. What is it like?
It’s a life change, and a new and much bigger challenge. It’s a privilege to work on this beautiful farm with such wonderful and well-bred mares, and I have a fantastic team working with me. For example, Anthony Stroud is managing all of Diane Wildenstein’s bloodstock, and to be able to work alongside people like him is a great opportunity.
You have previously had a lot of success at the sales with Coulonces Consignment. Is this the end of that era?
No, we will continue in the same way, with the same amount of horses, but we are rebranding to Coulonces Sales. The only differences are that we will be based at Haras de Bois Roussel and that we will be targeting more sales, such as the sales in Newmarket and Doncaster as well as those in France.
You and your parents, Maja and Jan Sundström behind Team Högdala, moved to France from Sweden in 2004. How come you decided to leave Sweden and set up in France?
There are more opportunities in France. We had set up a small breeding operating in Sweden, but we wanted to expand and become part of the bigger racing and breeding industry. France is a completely different world. You have the right climate, you have the land and the grass, veterinarians and farriers specialised in thoroughbreds, feed that is made for thoroughbreds… You have everything you need to become professional here. You have a chance to reach the top, which we did very quickly when we bred Le Havre who won the Prix du Jockey Club, and you can sell yearlings for the prices they are worth. To sell a yearling for 1.5 million euros is something that would never happen in Sweden.
What has become your favourite thing about France?
The horses. And the champagne! Is there anything you miss about Sweden? I miss a lot of things about Sweden. The nature, the Swedish archipelago. When I go back to Sweden now I appreciate the nature a lot more than I did when I lived there, and I love going back on holiday. And I miss the Swedish candy!
If not Sweden or France, where would you like to live?
Probably Australia or New Zealand. One of them!
How difficult was is to learn French?
When my parents, my daughter Moa and I arrived in France, none of us spoke a word of French, so of course it was difficult. It took quite a while to learn and I probably didn’t say much at all during the first year. People were very helpful and friendly and tried their best to help me learn, and when I started consigning I had to start using French much more. I had to speak to the clients on the phone in French which made me realise how little of the language I actually knew, but how important it was, and that’s when I really got motivated to learn. I never had time to go take any classes, but our staff helped me a lot. But yes, it was difficult!
What other languages do you speak?
English and Swedish. I studied German in school and although I can’t speak much of it anymore, I understand quite a lot. I suppose I have focused so much on French that I have forgotten most of the German that I used to know.
Outside of racing and breeding, what is the accomplishment you are proudest of in life?
My two children! Moa is 16 and Lillie is six. I’m so proud to be a mother of these two and to have raised such beautiful and intelligent children.
You are known for doing a lot of hands-on work with the horses yourself. Why is this important for you?
For me it’s the only way to really know what is going on with the horses and to see if they have any problems. They will let you know if something is wrong, but only if you are there to listen to them and interact with them. Why did a horse not finish their feed? Why are they stressed? Why doesn’t a horse like a certain box or a certain paddock? If you spot it, you can catch a potential problem before it gets serious. And I love it! I really do love horses and to work with them.
How much have your parents meant for your career?
Probably everything. They have been my biggest supporters. Without them and their support, I would never have been where I am today. Together, we are such a strong team, and they have always, always believed in what I’ve done which has given me a lot of confidence. There is always someone there saying “go on, you can do it.” We talk a couple of times every day and to have two people to share happy moments and tough moments with, makes everything so much easier.
And your eldest daughter, Moa Sundström, is already starting to make a name for herself as a breeder, especially after the success with the G1 Prix Saint-Alary runner-up Camprock. Will we see more of her in the industry?
Moa is only 16 but she has already had a lot of success as a breeder. She has been very interested in horses since an early age and she has always been a good hand to me, helping me with the yearlings and showing horses for clients and at the sales. She is an important part of the team and she can handle responsibility and I trust her to make decisions. We are setting up a business together now, a company that is going to be called Highvalley Bloodstock. Our private mares will go in to it, but we will buy and sell horses as well. I do this for her, so help her for the future, like my parents have done for me. Moa is 110% in to it and even though she currently is away at school in Sweden, she is involved in everything that goes on with the horses and she will spend the whole summer preparing her own yearlings that are going to the August sale.
What do you do for fun?
I spend a lot of time with my children when I don’t work and we do fun things together, such as hiking or shopping – or fishing in the lakes on the farm. I love fishing and so do they even if they haven’t got much of a choice! I even cook fish that we have caught ourselves for clients and visitors.
How would you like people to remember you?
I hope people remember me as very loving and hard-working person. The people whom I love, I love to the moon and back. And that I’m honest, although maybe a bit too much sometimes!