This week I’m chatting with the hugely talented young Swedish international Grand Prix dressage rider Nathalie Wahlund. Nathalie’s ability took her from novice rider to Grand Prix dressage rider in impressively quick-time and her continuing progress through the highest levels is inspiring and well worth following. Read on to find out more about Nathalie’s journey to date.
Tell us a little about you and your horse
I’m 23 years old from Sweden. I just moved to Germany from England where I worked for Vicky Thompson-Winfield. My time in England was amazing, I came over thinking I was going to stay for 6 months while figuring out what to do in life and ended up staying for 4 years. I was a novice rider at the time and could barely do a shoulder in properly. Vicky put all her time and effort in to helping me and I learned so much over the years. I got to know so many fantastic horses and people who have become friends for life.
I was very lucky to get the ride on Cerano Gold back in November 2017. Cerano and I were a really good match from the start and I still remember the first time I rode him like it was yesterday because he put such a big smile on my face. Together we are part of the Swedish U25 team and in 2019 we competed at the Nordic-Baltic Championships in Denmark where we took silver with the team.
After that we went on to the European Championships in Italy where the team ended up 4th and Cerano and I managed to get all the way to the final at our first Europeans and first year as a U25 combination. It was such a cool experience, and I loved every second of it. 2020 didn’t really end up as we planned but we did a few shows and trained a lot and we improved so much! It was time for me to spread my wings and try something new, so I moved over to Europe to find a new job.
Cerano and I stayed with my lovely friends Carolina and Warwick McLean at McLean Reitsport in Düsseldorf for a couple months of training while I was looking for the perfect job.
I’m now working at Mandy Zimmers lovely Dressuurstall Windhof facility in Luxembourg.
How did horses come into your life?
My mom took me to the riding school when I was 5 and I got the bug straight away. I was never able to have my own horse but at the riding school I was allowed to take the ponies and horses out to local shows in both dressage and show jumping and I loved competing already back then.
How long have you been riding?
My mom put me on a horse for the first time when I was 3 for a pony lead rein walk and I fell asleep on the horse after 2min! Let’s just say I’ve always felt very comfortable and safe around horses.
But it wasn’t until I was 5 that I started taking lessons at the local riding school.
When and where do you ride?
I ride at Mandy Zimmers’ wonderful Dressuurstall Windhof yard in Luxembourg where I’m lucky to ride fantastic horses.
What are you and your horses currently working on?
I have a big range of different horses in work, from 3yo up to Grand Prix. Which I absolutely love, it’s so much fun!
At the moment Cerano and I are preparing for the coming competition season. We’re hoping to do our first start of the year in March (COVID permitting). When I was younger, I thought all the Grand Prix riders must be practicing the difficult movements every day. And I was very WRONG! As I got better as a rider and got to Grand Prix myself, I’ve realised it’s all about the basics. If you’re basics are not working, then everything else will become a lot more difficult. So Cerano and I are always working on the basics and the small details. He is an established Grand Prix horse now and he knows the tricks, so we don’t have to focus so much on training them every day. It’s more about working on the basics so you have foundation to stand on when you compete. And it’s the same with the young horses, it’s all about building a foundation of good basics to build on for the future!
What do you love about riding?
What I love about riding is the connection and bond you build with the horses. There is no better feeling then when a horse trusts you. I also love the fact that you’re never fully learned, you can always always always learn something new and you can always improve and get better.
What would you like to be doing in the future and do you have any goals?
My biggest goals for this year are going to the Europeans and the U25 Nations cup in Aachen. I have so many goals and dreams for the future. I want to represent Sweden at all the big senior championships in the future, but my biggest goal is to go to the Olympics.
Have you ever had to deal with nerves in riding?
When I was younger, I used to get quite nervous before competing. It had a lot to do with that I have a very competitive personality and at the time all I wanted was to win and I would put a lot of pressure on myself because of that. I soon figured out winning is not everything and the important thing is to enjoy and have fun. Then my results started to get better and better!
How do you deal with them?
Now a days I don’t really get nervous. But I work closely with my mindset and performance psychology coach Jenni Winter-Leach at Flying Changes Coaching and it’s the best decision I’ve done for a long time. To start working with her has really been a game changer for me!
Your Top Tip
Enjoy the journey and always be grateful for what you have.
The Final Furlong
Who would be your dream horse to ride?
I love Isabell Werth’s Bella Rose!
Who is your equestrian hero?
This one is really tricky to answer… there’s so many riders I look up to like Isabell Werth, Patrick Kittel, Therese Nilshagen, Jessica Von Bredow-Werndl, Carl Hester. But I have to say Vicky Thompson-Winfield is my biggest inspiration. She works so hard and she’s a fantastic rider and trainer. She trained me from novice to Grand Prix in less than 3 years and I’m forever grateful for everything she’s given me as a trainer and mentor.
If you could have 5 people to dinner who would they be?
Oprah Winfrey, Patrik Kittel, Princess Diana, Carl Hester, and Jeff Bezos.
Favourite colour horse?
I love them all!!
Favourite horse event
This is a though one, but Olympia Horse Show is really something special.
Nothing beats Italian food!
Favourite way to relax
Spending time with my friends and family.
If you enjoyed meeting Nathalie you might like to see more chatting with interviews here You can keep up with Nathalie’s Grand Prix progress on her instagram page @nathalie_wahlund