This week I’m chatting with former Danish, now American Grand Prix dressage rider and trainer, Mikala Munter. Based at her own Bell Tower Farm in Wellington, Florida and where she rides her own horses and teaches clients, Mikala has been competing in the international Grand Prix dressage arena for many years. Riding for her native Denmark, Mikala enjoyed many success including competing with My Lady at the 2015 FEI European Dressage Championships in Germany, two FEI World Cup Finals in 2014 and 2015 and also at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in France. Since moving to the USA, Mikala has continued to enjoy great success and dreams of representing her new country, USA, in the future. Read on to learn more about Mikala, her ambitions, and top tips for success
Tell us a little about you and your horses
At the moment I own one and a half horses. Skyfall is my 14-year-old Grand Prix horse. I bought him off a video when he was 9 as a sales horse but when he arrived, I fell in love with him immediately and decided to keep him. He’s such a beautiful and gentle soul and I love him dearly. I own half of a 6-year-old mare Miss Finique. She’s also bred in Denmark and I own her with my partner Paul Bint. We were looking for a sales prospect but when I came across the video of this mare I said to Paul: “I want to buy this horse, but it might be a keeper too” I am crazy about her – she has so much potential.
How did horses come into your life?
When I was little, maybe three or four years old my dad took me to “Holte Ridekub” (Big Danish riding facility north of Copenhagen). It was in the evening, and he would carry me from stall to stall so I could see the horses. I clearly remember the smell and sounds of horses eating their hay. Since that day I was hooked. I couldn’t wait to get my first riding lesson, but I had to wait till I turned six and it was the longest wait in my life.
When and where do you ride?
I own a beautiful farm in Wellington, Florida and I keep my own horses as well as some client horses there. A few of my clients have their own farms, where I’ll go to either ride or teach. Off season, I travel to give clinics around the US and Europe.
How did you start riding?
I started riding in a so-called riding school in Denmark. They had around 12-15 ponies and the same number of horses. We would ride in a single-file line with up to 10 ponies at the same time. When you had reached a certain level, you could get signed up for jumping on Saturdays. It was a lot of fun.
What you and your horses currently working on?
With Skyfall, who is showing international Grand Prix, I am working on improving his scores overall. I need more energy in the piaffe and more lift in his shoulders in all movements. There is always so much work to do, so many little things you can try to improve to reach a higher score in the show ring. For example, I’ll use transitions within the gates and between gates to improve overall collection.
Our young horse, Miss Finique, is currently working on balance and self-carriage. I spend a lot of time on working the basics with my horses before I start the actual movements for the tests. Once the horses have the proper suppleness and self-carriage the actual movements are much easier to develop.
What do you love about riding?
I love everything about riding. I love getting on the first horse every single day and learn from that horse as well as training it. Every day each horse teaches me something, whether it’s a new “feel” or a way to develop that horse. When I’m on a horse I just love to drift into a world where it’s just me and this horse figuring things out together. It’s not always about riding or a certain movement, it can be personal problems as well. Everything seems to be easier to solve when I’m riding. Horses are very therapeutic.
What you would you like to be doing in the future and do you have any goals?
I hope I will be doing what I’m doing right now for many more years. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to not ride every day. I love teaching too and hope I can do that for the rest of my life. I have goals all the time and I work hard to reach them. My dream is to represent the US in a Nations Cup or Championship someday. This country has been so welcoming and supportive of me since I landed here in 2004 and it’s my dream to ride with the US flag on my coat.
Have you ever had to deal with nerves in riding?
I think every rider has had to or is dealing with nerves. In the past it wasn’t something we talked about but today it’s very common for riders to work with a mental coach and most people are open about it too.
How do you deal with them?
For more than 10 years I have worked with a mental coach who does hypnosis therapy. I think it’s very helpful and I use her recorded sessions before and during horse shows. I also feel that it helps to be open and honest about it when I’m nervous before an important class. It takes the edge off to talk to someone about it.
Your Top Tip
Remember why you started riding in the first place! It was because you loved horses. Sometimes the sport seems more important than the real welfare of the horses. It is important to enjoy the process and have fun developing a horse, then the horse show should be the icing on the cake. Many riders have the pressure of owners that expect better results faster, but we must stay true to ourselves and stand up for the horses. They can’t speak up for themselves, so it’s our responsibility to listen to their “language”!
Down the Centre Line
Who would be your dream horse to ride?
I would give anything to ride one more freestyle on My Lady. But when that’s said, I think most riders in the world would like to try Glamourdale for a minute, or two…
Who is your equestrian hero?
Lis Hartel and Stinna Tange. Lis Hartel won Olympic Silver twice while suffering from Polio and Stinna Tange has numerous Olympic medals riding without having legs at all! Those ladies are real heroes.
If you could have 5 people to dinner, who would they be?
My two children and 40 of my closest friends. I’ve never been good at hosting small dinner parties.
Favourite colour horse?
A beautiful horse is beautiful in every colour.
Favourite horse event?
My most favourite show ever was to ride the World Cup Finals in Las Vegas. The intimacy of the huge crowd sitting very close to the arena was breath-taking.
I’m a bit of a health freak and my favourite food is the food I cook myself or my mom’s food.
It is very important for me to eat and live a healthy lifestyle so I can stay in the sport for many years.
Favourite way to relax?
On my bed watching Netflix – but not too long as I don’t sit still for very long at a time.
Top Gun (both of them)
If you enjoyed meeting Mikala you might like to view more dressage rider “chatting with” interviews here You can keep up with Mikala’s progress and check out her instagram page here