Once we started our Swedish road trek to the horse farm in Älvängen, one thing was immediately noticable; There are horses literally everywhere in Sweden, this is a horse lover’s heaven! In my home of Ontario we have areas rich in horses, but in Sweden it would appear to be the norm across the countryside. I checked the facts today from the Swedish Riding Horse Association Statistics page and my inkling is true – Equestrian Sport in Sweden is second only to Football (what we know as Soccer here). Sweden has a rich history in horses, boasting one of the highest horse populations in Europe. It is also said they have some of the strictest of Animal Welfare regulations to ensure their well-being beyond the value they have for humans, and that they are allowed to live and act naturally as a horse.
Arriving at Ale Ridsport was a moment of excitement. Months of correspondence over the internet with my host Maria had taken place, and now actually being there was very surreal. I know she would agree, finally meeting face to face was effortless, natural and comfortable – ‘like we had known each other for a long time already’. One stand out is the sheer kindness and generosity of her and her family to invite us to her home, into her life and accept us with open arms. She put us up in a charming Swedish cottage on her farm – and it was everything you imagine in your head to be. Peaked roof, loft bedroom and Ikea furniture.
Dutch rider and trainer, Albert Voorn arrived for his clinic on Friday morning. He remembered me immediately from our meeting in Canada almost 8 years ago..Small horse world we both say. Albert hasn’t changed one bit 😉 Over the course of the weekend, riders progressed under his tutelage and I met local horse people and artists.
I had planned to take many photos, however it poured rained for a good portion of my farm visit. One morning I ventured out to photo Maria’s foals, despite the conditions. As many of you already know, I have a keen interest in learning sporthorse bloodlines and I was very eager to learn more behind the breeding of each of the foals. This filly (below), is “Anytime” by. Aerline H (Cortez – Nimmerdor) dam is Candyline H, a great mare-line that has produced a lot of GP-horses, by Elmshorn (intl GP-stallion). She is also full sister to After Eight who was sold to international GP rider, Royne Zetterman. She had a super temperament and very curious with my camera in the field. I would love to see her again after she has finished shedding out her fuzzy foal coat.
Eventually on my last day there, the clouds briefly parted . I darted around the farm and two other nearby farms to photo commission work. My first was Maria’s own stallion Pallie – “Polsbury Palermo RNF 178”, a black New Forest Pony. His kind eye, expressive head and super temperament made our session a breeze. I look forward to painting this little guy..(actually itching to get to some studies as i’m thinking about it right now!)
Probably one of the funnier, yet embarrassing moments of my trip happened during my photo session with Pallie. Mid shoot I felt a burning sensation on my backside (okay, yes my buttocks). I tried to ignore it, but it wouldn’t go away, and in fact got worse as the seconds went by. I had to let everyone helping with the shoot know something was stinging me – badly. There I was squealing across Sweden’s countryside and jumping up and down – ‘it burns!!, it burns!!!’ Feverishly digging my hands down my pants I eventually pulled out an ANT..a red ant.. a ‘Swedish-red-stinging-ant’ which left my buttocks burning and red for a few hours..so yes, that is the first time I can ever say I actually had ants in my pants..
That’s it for part I. Part II will feature a few new friends I met on my trip; Ida Finn-Melander, who shared a bit of her life as a horse person in Sweden and her life experiences working for Paul Schockemöhle; jumper rider Sofie Andersson from Malmö and her beachfront horse farm, and lastly a photo session with a lovely 3-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding by Tornesch.
I will leave you with this song that I heard for the first time in Maria’s shop – turns out Sweden’s top jumper rider Malin Baryard made a song with Sweden’s most famous house music producers Spånka NKPG…what do you think?? kinda catchy..? 🙂