Natalie Jansson started as a show groom for Sweden's Malin Baryard-Johnsson at the end of last year. That was also when she started to groom at international level. Fast-forward six months, and Natalie is heading for her first championship ever: The Olympic Games. Jansson's career has been moving upwards like a rocket, and WoSJ caught up with the Swedish groom as she is getting ready for Rio.
"After school I worked for a Swedish rider named Stina Lillje for three years. Then I went to Lisen and Peder Fredricson, where I worked for their stable jockey Stephanie Holmén. I was there for half-a-year before I got the job at Malin's place," Natalie explains about her working experience.
It is quite a rocket-like career to go from national shows to do the biggest championship there is in only six months, and Natalie is both exited and terrified at the same time: "Most of the grooms work for years to get to the Olympics, so I'm very grateful that I will get the opportunity this quick - and terrified," she laughs. "It will be my first championship, and then to go to the Olympics might be a bit over the top."
Natalie tells that all the travels have been the biggest difference between the national and the international circuit: "That, as well as the responsibility. Then everything is on a totally different level, and every show is a big part of an end goal. Now, with the Olympics I have gotten quite obsessed with the fact that the horses have to be in the shape of their life."
As she is based in Sweden, Natalie has to spend quite a lot of time in the lorry. "We live far up in Sweden so we have eleven hours just to get to Germany. Most of the time I have one more day of driving than everyone else. But, Malin usually makes a good plan and since I don't have that many horses with me I don't go back and forth between the shows. Sometimes the horses have two weeks of showing, one week break and another two weeks of showing. I don't mind driving though, and the horses travel really well."
"I'm living my dream," Natalie says with a smile and continues. "This is what I wanted to do all the time, but I had to work my way up as everyone else, even though I know I jumped over a few steps on the way. I was so lucky to get the job at Malin's, I always wanted to work for her as she is an exceptional rider and as I like living in Sweden. She is very good to work for, and I see this as my last grooming job considering I see a life after being a groom as well. I would like to live a normal life, to study, get a family and to be able to see my friends spontaneously. I don't want to do this when I'm 35, and by then I hope to be able to look back at this as a fantastic time of my life. However, I'm certainly not planning on quitting now - I will still do this for a few years."
Despite the long drives, Natalie enjoys living in Sweden and explains that every time she drives over the bridge that connects her home country to Denmark it feels magical even though she still has six hours left to drive.
A lot of planning for the Olympics are already done, and was so a long time before Malin actually got the spot on the team. "Already during winter everyone on the long list had to send in a document in regards to what kind of food the horses eat, and how much. If your food is not accepted you have to chose something similar from a list of accepted food. Then we had to make a detailed list about the equipment. I can pack the show stuff in my sleep, but it is not that easy when you have to write everything down - and it is really everything: Down to every little brush. Even the mascot needs to be on the list if you want to bring it. Now that my list is handed over it will be very easy to finally pack, as I'm not allowed to take anything else than the things on my list," Natalie says with a smile.
"It is a lot of thoughts about the Olympics now, so you kind of forget that it is a life also after Rio. I'm looking forward to do the World Cup season and to see these shows. I have only done one World Cup; last year in London, when Tornesch did his last show. It was actually my first show alone. I did Stockholm together with Malin's previous groom Anna, and then it was off to London all alone to drive on the left side of the road" Natalie says with a laugh. "I think it was quite brave of Malin to send me off to London for my first long trip. But I got a lot of help with the planning from Sara, who used to work for Malin, and then it was just to put the horses on the lorry and go. I'm quite relaxed, and most of the time the planning is more scary than to actually do it. To plan the trip to Paris was also horrifying, but when I was there it is just to solve it," Natalie says with another laugh.
H&M Cue Channa:
"She is the nicest horse ever. She is a dream to take care of, she is always happy and she solves all her tasks in a perfect way. Cue Channa wants to do everything right, she is very social and likes everyone. She has become a really good friend - she is the best!"
H&M Cassius Clay:
"Cassius is like a gold nugget - he is just adorable. He is always good, and the one that always get ribbons. He is a very happy horse, with a spark in his eyes."
H&M Second Chance:
"She is a real b..., but she is mostly playing and she can be very sweet when she wants to."
"We call her 'Mamma Mu' as she looks a bit like a cow. But she is the funniest horse I ever had, she has so much humour and no one can resist her."
About her boss Malin:
"Malin is very determined and works hard to reach her goals, but she is easy to work for. She trusts that I do all I can to make the horses get around safe and sound, and that they will feel as good as possible at the shows."
The best moment so far:
"It was when H&M Cue Channa was double clear in the Nations Cup in Rome. It was my first Nations Cup, and the first for Malin and Cue Channa together. There were not that many double clears, which made it even more magical. But, actually ever since Cue Channa came to our stable she has lightened up my life."
The best show:
"I really liked it at the Hermès event in Paris. And Gothenburg is magical. But I actually think it is fun most of the time. It was only when we spend two weeks in Lanaken in mud that it wasn't that enjoyable, but on the other hand it went well so that can brighten up even the muddiest show."
Text © World of Showjumping // Pictures © Jenny Abrahamsson
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