The team at Stephex Stables is best known for their two top names: current world number three Daniel Deusser and his equally successful colleague Lorenzo de Luca. But, if you look further you will find a young talented Swede with ice blue eyes who likes to work in silence and let the results do the talking. Awarded as ‘Tomorrow’s Star’ by the Swedish Equestrian Federation, we sat down with 26-year-old Jonna Ekberg – and found out that she is the epitome of girlpower.
“I started with ponies when I was really young – I did not have my own, but I went to ride on some belonging to my friends as well as a neighbour. I began at a riding school when I was 6-years-old and when I turned 13 I got my first pony,” Jonna tells us about the beginning of her career. “My mother always encouraged me to ride, and once I got started, there was no way back,” she laughs.
To learn more about the sport, Jonna decided to move to England. “I moved out of Sweden when I was 20, in 2010 – at first I went to Davenport Stables for one year. Then I moved on to Abdel Said in Belgium for two and a half years,” Jonna tells WoSJ. “When I moved to Angelique von Essen and James Davenport in England, I had three horses of my own but I later sold them. Angelique taught me a lot – especially with flat work and about producing horses. If I would need to name a person that has made a huge difference in my career, she would be one of them – she is such a talented rider and she really laid down the basics for me,” Jonna tells about her mentor.
Then came another very important person, who pushed Jonna’s career to the next level; Stephan Conter – the man behind Stephex Stables. “Moving to Steptex Stables was a huge step for me,” Jonna says. “I have now been here for about three years, and when I came I had nearly no results at all. I never thought I would be riding at a five-star show – but here I am. Somehow Stephan believed that I could do it, way before I even thought I could.”
Jonna’s days are spent in the saddle. “I just ride. We start around eight o’clock in the morning and I keep on riding all day long. Now I have twenty horses on my list, but normally I have around 16-17 horses with two grooms and one rider. We are busy, but we are a great group of people. Watching Daniel and Lorenzo ride every day gives me a lot – I feel like I can learn so much simply by watching such great riding,” she says. “To see how much they work and all the effort they put in; it is inspiring.”
The weekends are spent at shows. “If I don’t have an international show, I will go to a national show with the young horses – there is never really a weekend off.”
Working at a dealing stable brings lead to farewells, many horses get sold – recently both of Jonna’s top horses, Air Pia and Freestyler, left for new homes. “I am very happy to have had them for such a long time. It is a part of the job when you work at a dealing stable – of course I get attached to my horses and it is hard to see them go, but there are always new ones coming. I will never be stressed to not have enough horses,” Jonna says.
Producing horses is something the Swedish rider enjoys. “I am competitive enough, but I have always been producing horses and that is my job. I do put pressure on myself, because I want to win but what I enjoy most is the work towards a show. If I know I have a big show coming up, I like to try to get ready and manage everything the best way so I can to build my horses up and get them ready. The five-star shows are a dream, but seeing younger horses get better is also equally satisfying.”
“I am very happy with where I am a right now; I feel like I have a lot to learn and that I get good opportunities. It is hard to say what the future brings,” Ekberg smiles.
The European Championships in August in her home country is something the talented Swede sees as a non-realistic goal. “My horses are at the moment too green for that kind of task. Of course it would have been great, but I really don’t think it is an option right now.”
Her Swedish team mates is a source of inspiration for Jonna. “The Swedish team is very strong at the moment: Rolf, Malin, Henrik, Peder – it is hard to name only one that I look up to. I really enjoy going to the team events and having been the fifth member in the Nations Cup Final in Barcelona was one of the greatest experiences I have had so far. As a girl, I think what Malin has done with her career is really cool – she has been on the top for such a long time.”
Being a girl in a male dominated industry is not always easy. “The worst thing is that people might not take you seriously – but I think at some point you just prove them wrong,” Jonna tells about the assumptions she has had to deal with. “Coming from Sweden, we have such great role models of strong women – like Malin and Angelique – and personally for me also my grandmother and my mother. I think in the end, you have to know your own values – you know how you want to be treated and how you should be treated. I try not to care about what people think – you cannot change the opinion of others – you have to know yourself what is right and wrong,” Jonna says before she concludes: “It would be great to see more girls make it into the top of the sport and stay there.”
Text © World of Showjumping by Nanna Nieminen // Pictures © Jenny Abrahamsson
(No reproduction without permission)
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