My latest victim for the Dressage for Life series happens to be another Swede, Tinne Wilhelmsson-Silfven, 43, of Stockholm, Sweden. Tinne is a mother, manager, professional rider and a mainstay for the Swedish Dressage Team.
Now Rita, you might ask yourself why so many Swedish people turn up in my stories and my interviews. This is due to two factors: 1) Swedes stick together and since Christoffer Nilsson (Sweden) has worked for me for so many years and travelled to so many horse shows with me, his fellow countrymen have always treated me like family, and 2) Swedish people have a lovely sense of humor, which makes breaking bread and sharing an evening meal with them very, very fun.
I first meet Tinne in 2006 at the Wiesbaden CDI4*. Later in that year, Christoffer drove Maximus up to Stockholm (two day trip), and I rode him in the World Cup qualifier there. Tinne rounded me up for the short video interview that every competitor is required to do before the Grand Prix. The tape is then shown on the big screen as each rider goes around the outside of the arena before entering their test.
In my interview, prompted by Tinne who said I could be funny if I wanted to be, I said “Hi, I’m Catherine Haddad. I come from the United States of America and my horse, Maximus, was born in Denmark. But his sire, May Sherif, is Swedish, so I feel like we have a home advantage. Rudolf Zeilinger is my trainer, and I live and train in Germany. In fact, I have lived in Germany for so long that I don’t even have a sense of humor anymore.”
When this little clip was played before my Grand Prix, the stadium erupted with laughter and applause. Even the German judge had to crack a smile under all that pressure from the 6,000 spectators. (This kind of humor can be delicate in post-WWII Europe, but somehow I manage to pull it off.)
Here is the difference between a Swede and a German: If I tell my German friends that I have lived in their country so long that I don’t even have a sense of humor anymore, they will nod sympathetically and respond with a compassionate, “Ah. Ja.”
So back to Tinne. Tinne has ridden in five Olympic Games for the Swedish Team. Dressage is what she DOES. She is professionally employed as a rider and stable manager at Lövsta Stuteri near Stockholm. This is a beautiful, harmonious complex of private residences, indoor and outdoor arenas, stables, pastures and gardens situated between a forest and a lake. It is a pleasure to behold, and I hope the attached video can give you some sense of the peace and well being created in this space by Tinne and her sponsors.
In the years that I have known Tinne, she was almost always competing with Solos Carex, who not only sired my Cadillac and Patrik Kittel’s Scandic, but also competed at the highest levels of our sport. At the Hong Kong Olympics, the Swedish team—anchored by Solos Carex—placed fourth and Tinne finished 12th as an individual.
Tinne has given me much generous and sound advice on how to communicate with Solos Carex offspring. We have shared stories about illogical shying and incredible piaffe, frantic flight and unlimited passage. We both are able to laugh at the difficulties and agree that the best moments on these two horses have been some of the best in our lives.
What Tinne doesn’t know, is that she has also shared some tips on proper sitting and seat-to-hand connection with me. I have always liked to watch her on a horse and have often tried to copy the softness of her arm and the relaxed balance of her seat. I stole with my eyes.
I’m also proud to say that Solos Carex actually spent the night in my stable on more than one occasion. Many of my Swedish friends stop over in Vechta on their way to horse shows in the south. We always gave this special horse a box next to his son.
Solos Carex is now retired from competition. Tinne is well underway on her newest star, Favourit. She finished 12th with him at the recent World Cup Finals in Den Bosch and won the Grand Prix Special at Hagen last month with a score of over 75 percent. I wish to congratulate her again on her well deserved success!
Listen to Tinne’s interview to hear more about her horses and what dressage has brought to her life.
And thanks for the tour of Lövsta Stuteri!!!
I’m Catherine Haddad, and I’m sayin it like it is from Vechta, Germany.
Training Tip of the Day: A good horse has no bloodline. But check out his parents before you buy—many character traits are genetic!!!