International dressage rider Per Sandgard has a new grand prix horse — and a new nationality.

Sandgard, who was born in Denmark, has been living in Sweden for the last four years and has now applied for Swedish citizenship. His decision is linked with a new sponsorship deal that will see him ride a new grand prix horse, as first reported by Eurodressage.com.

“My new Swedish sponsor, Leni Soderberg, has bought grand prix horse Memphis for me,” he explained to HHO. “A part of the agreement is that I become a Swedish national.”

Sandgard lost his previous grand prix mount in January when owner Monica Lindstens sold Zancor to German rider Nadine Capellmann. Sandgard was very upset at the time, but he is delighted with 11-year-old Memphis, who was first spotted by his partner Peter Markne in the Netherlands.

Memphis was previously ridden by Dutch B-national Kebie van der Heijden and together they averaged 68 to 69% in national competitions. The pair was part of the Dutch B-team, and expected to move up to the A-squad soon.

When Sandgaard tried Memphis in February, he was immediately taken with the horse. “[He] is quite a different horse from Zancor. He is cooler and has a really good stride, piaffe and passage, but needs to do a better job cantering. However, when I first got Zancor, he cantered like a pig, so there’s hope about that,” he says. “You are never better than the horse you are riding and now I have a good chance to be at the level I prefer.”

Faced with a trade-off between a grand prix mount and national allegiance, Sandgaard chose the ride. He is sad but pragmatic about his nationality change, which he discussed with fellow team members Andreas Helgstrand and Jon D Pedersen.

“They both said I should do it,” he says, and adds: “I feel very sad at leaving the national team because I always had lots of support from Denmark. But apart from that, it doesn’t matter whether I am Danish or Swedish because I see myself as Scandinavian.”

By the same token, the Danish Equestrian Federation (www.rideforbund.dk) regrets the loss of one of Denmark’s best riders, but understands his reasons.

“It doesn’t change much for us. We lost Per the moment Zancor was sold. We are happy that he’ll keep riding at top level but of course it is a loss for Danish dressage,” says spokeswoman Hella Qvistgaard. However, she adds, “we’ll still feel he is half-Danish, for sure. He can change [nationality], but we’ll see him as Danish.”

It will take Sandgaard about seven months to become a Swedish citizen, so he may well ride at the Danish national championships in Broholm in July. And, he says, “I will do it gladly.”