This week I’m thrilled to be chatting with Norwegian international Grand Prix dressage rider, Mathilde Merethe Klaesson. Based at the family farm near Oslo, Mathilde, trained by her mum Merethe Blikstad is an incredibly talented rider and trainer. She won the Norwegian seniors championship earlier this year and represented her country at the World Championships in August. Read on to discover more about the very talented Mathilde, her ambitions, and top tips for success.
Tell us about you and your horses
I am a twenty two year-old dressage rider from Norway. I work at our family farm Bråthen Gård located near Oslo, Norway together with my mother, Merethe Blikstad, who is a licensed trainer and rider educated in Flyinge, Sweden. Here we have dressage horses and riders in training. We currently have three own horses; Sandbæks Rio-EL, a 12 year old gelding by Skovens Rafael x De Noir, Solbakken’s Filur, a 6 year old gelding by Franziskus x De Noir co-owned with Jan Remy Taaje, and Sandbæks Rio-Ella, a 2 year old mare by Skovens Rafael x De Noir.
I am competing Rio at international Grand Prix level. We did the World Championships in Herning in August, and became Norwegian Champions for seniors a few weeks later. At the World Championship we scored a personal best of 69,3% in the Grand Prix, and I was actually the youngest rider there. Filur did his second competition ever a few weeks ago, and scored 72% in MB (medium).
When I finished high school in 2019, I went to Kyra Kyrklund and Richard White to work and train with Rio. I was there for 9 months, before going back to Norway to work. Last summer I worked at Pether Markne’s place in Denmark, and returned home to Norway after the European Championship for U25. Before the World Championship, I was training at Kyra and Richard’s place again for six months to get the best preparation before the Championship. When I am at home, I still train weekly for Kyra and Richard through Skype.
How did your horses come into your life?
My family bought Rio in 2013 when he was 3 years old. When we saw him move, it was love at first sight. We tried many other horses as well, but no one was like Rio. My older sister, Elise, rode him when he was 4 and 5, and I took over the ride when he was turning 6. I rode him in the young horse classes for 6 year olds, and together we have taken the steps up through the all levels from juniors to seniors.
We bought Filur last summer when he was 5. He is a great mover and gave me a really good feeling when I tried him. From day one, he has been the most positive horse, and he always tries his best. He has grown a lot over the summer, but is now starting to find his own body again. He is improving a lot, and I am looking forward to start competing him more.
I think Rio is my “once in a lifetime” horse, so of course we had to try to make a copy of him. Three years ago, we ordered a full brother/sister, and one year later, we got the most beautiful filly, who was named Rio-Ella. She is now living her best youngster life in Denmark with lots of friends.
How long have you been riding?
I have been riding since I can remember. I grew up at a farm with 13 horses and a dressage trainer and rider as a mother, so I was kind of born into the dressage world.
When and where do you ride?
I work with riding and teaching, so I ride every day at our own farm, and sometimes I ride my student’s horses a bit when having lessons.
What you and your horses currently working on?
With all my horses, I am always working on a lot of basics to keep them through, supple and over the back. I work on making them react to as small aids as possible, and mostly my seat. With Rio, I am currently working on improving the collected trot. Filur is preparing for next year’s challenges, with tempi changes and half pirouettes.
What do you love about riding?
The horses! They are amazing animals. I also love how you can make such a big animal do the coolest moves with just a tiny, almost invisible, aid. It is so hard, but when you succeed, it feels so good.
What you would you like to be doing in the future and do you have any goals?
Ride horses! I hope I can educate more horses up to Grand Prix. My big goal is the Olympic Games in 2024 with Rio.
Have you ever had to deal with nerves in riding?
I have been competing since I was very young, so it has always been a natural part of my life. I don’t get nervous very often, but when I do, I don’t feel like the nerves have a negative effect on me. Naturally, I got a bit nervous when I was going to ride the World Championship, but I think it actually made me more focused.
When I was doing junior/young rider level with Rio, he had a lot of energy and it sometimes got out of control. At that time, I became a bit passive in the arena, because I was worried that the judges would think I was correcting him too much if I did something. Therefore, I was just sitting there and hoping for the best, which usually didn’t turn out that well.
How do you deal with them?
Remind myself that I do this because I love it! I don’t try to fight the nerves, but rather accept them and turn them into something positive. I have done many small training-competitions with Rio. It helps me a lot, as I get to practice myself to ride better in the arena, and make Rio understand that he still has to work at competitions.
Your Top Tip
Surround yourself with people that are better than you are, and that have a lot of knowledge. It’s important to train a lot, but also to train right. Love your horse.
Down the Centre Line
Who would be your dream horse to ride?
I would love a ride on Glamourdale
Who is your equestrian hero?
If you could have 5 people to dinner who would they be?
Friends that I have not seen in a while.
Favourite colour horse?
I like many colours. Rio’s colour is very nice, it is called light bay, but during the summer, his coat is chestnut and his mane/tail black.
Favourite horse event?
The competitions in Hagen are always very nice. The World Championship in Herning was also a very well arranged event.
Favourite way to relax?
A hack in the woods with my horses or a good film with friends.
Hmm, tough question… I love watching the Harry Potter movies during Christmas.
If you enjoyed meeting Mathilde you might like to view more dressage rider “chatting with” interviews here You can keep up with Mathilde’s progress and check out her instagram page here