How did it all start?
Nina, let’s start from the very beginning. How come you started riding?
“My mom has always been a horse girl and she has had her own horse when she was younger. When I was a little, she rode at a riding school and it was fun to tag along with her and watch. I’ve always been completely obsessed and fascinated by horses. I took every chance I could to be with horses and always wanted to do pony riding if there was the opportunity. I was into it from an early age and when I was about five years old, I got to go to day riding camps in the summers, which then turned into riding camps with overnight stays. At the age of 6 or 7, I started riding at a riding school, and after that I’ve just kept going!”
How long did it take from the time you started riding at riding school until you got your very own first horse?
“When I was ten, my mother had arranged for me and her to rent horses one summer, a pony for me and a horse for her. It got pretty crazy, though, because the pony we rented wasn’t ridden yet – but we didn’t know that. The woman we rented the horses from thought that the pony was just going to keep the big horse company and that we weren’t going to ride it. But she had also sent the saddle and the bridle, so it was all a bit strange. Enya, as the pony was called, was thankfully very kind and we quickly became attached to her, even though she was untrained at the time. She was a Welsh cob with a light, long mane, four white socks and a big blaze – she really did look like a ‘my little pony’. We continued to rent her and when the summer was over we sent the horse back – but extended the rental period for Enya. The idea was to rent her for one year, but when Christmas came my mum surprised me and I got Enya as a present. I wasn’t actually supposed to get a pony from the beginning. But then we rented her, and we just clicked!”
Today you are a dressage rider, but has it always been like this? When did you start to focus on dressage?
“Enya, as I had mentioned, was not ridden when I started with her, so she was a bit of a blank slate. With her I did a bit of everything: Dressage, jumping and cross-country riding. But I soon realised that it was dressage that we were both best at and enjoyed the most. Then after only four years, we competed at the Swedish Pony Championships together! Initially we were not planning on competing, my mum has always been incredibly supportive but not pushy in wanting me to compete. It was something that grew on my own will. We thought it would be fun to compete, so we gave it a go and it went well!”
Your competitive career took off at a young age. Now that you look back, is there any special memory that you are particularly proud of?
“Oh, yes I have a lot of great memories from my pony years. Both from big competitions and just everyday moments. For example, with my pony José I rode in the Globen arena in Stockholm, which I enjoyed a lot. And we also took second place at Falsterbo Horse Show. But I also remember the first riding lesson when I managed to get Enya on the bit in canter. It was kind of a mind-blowing feeling and huge goals at the time, haha!”
In autumn 2019 you bought 6 year old gelding Impress Me from Holland. Would you like to tell us a bit more about him? You have previously described Melvin, as he is called, as a “real Nina horse”. What does that mean?
“Melvin is a kind horse. He is so incredibly positive and friendly to everyone and everything. He also has a lot of energy, and that’s been the challenge with him. To use that energy the right way and get his focus on me – no matter what is going on around us.
He always wants to work and do his best, and when I ride him I clearly see that he’s always looking for the “right answer”. I think that’s the quality I like best, he wants to do the right thing all the time and his work ethic is truly amazing! Melvin is also a very cuddly horse, a bit like a puppy. He’s not a cocky type and if he was human, he would definitely be that kind and somewhat naive person who thinks well of everything and everyone.”
The 3 most important qualities in a horse according to Nina
- Energy – the horse wants to work and enjoys it.
- Work ethic – the horse is positive about working and looks for the right answers in the tasks you give it. A horse has to be curious.
- Honest may be an odd word, but the horse should be attached to you and trust you. It’s a bit hard to explain, but I like soft horses that you feel a bond with. Horses that trust people.
When you bought Melvin, he had only been to a few young horse competitions in Holland and was pretty green in his training. What would you say is important to consider when you set out to train a horse?
“First of all, I think it’s very important to personalise all training to suit the horse. But also to keep in mind that a horse’s training is about so much more than just the dressage training scale or that it has to learn to leg-yield, to do lead changes and pirouettes. There’s a lot of other things that the horse has to learn as well. For example loading, shoeing, being in different environments – and riding with smoke machines on a photo shoot with Maya Delorez, haha! Jokes aside, but it’s important to see such things as part of the training as well.
All horses pose different challenges, so I think it’s important to look at each horse and what they need to train for. Make a plan, and give it some time. Both for your and the horse’s confidence, but also for your safety.”
“For me, it’s important to take it at an easy pace, and I’ve certainly done that with Melvin. I want to take it at a pace where I feel like we’re building good experiences, and not getting in over our heads too quickly.”
With your previous horse Dorano you rode and competed up to international Grand Prix level. How does it feel to “take a step back” competitively and go for a younger, more inexperienced horse?
“I think it’s great! The challenge of riding an easier dressage class with Melvin feels just as big as riding an International Grand Prix with Dorano. For me, the challenge is always linked to where you stand as a team. I think it’s really nice to go the whole journey together. But of course, I’m really excited and motivated to get back to the bigger competitions! Of all the horses I had, I think Melvin has the best qualities and the most potential. So my hope is to be able to go even further with him in the end.”
“I have big goals with Melvin and hope to be able to ride advanced classes and competitions in the future. But it also feels great to be able to shape him from the start.”
It may be hard to answer right now with the pandemic and EHV1 outbreak, but when can we expect to see you and Melvin compete?
“Next weekend we’re having our first competition together! We will compete two days in a row in a program that is quite simple and straightforward for Melvin from a technical point of view. I don’t want the technical aspects to be the hard part of the first competition, but rather everything around it to be the focus. Just going from the warm-up area to the actual competition area will be something new for him.”
What motivates you in this sport?
“When you have trained something for a long time, and then feel that the horse understands. I find that development and the bond you build with your horse very motivating. And then to look back and see how far you’ve come. That’s also why I started my blog in the first place. It’s a good way to be able to look back and see how much you’ve developed. Apart from that, I also think it’s super fun and motivating to compete!”