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WoSJ Exclusive; Emilie Martinsen – “The more I did it the more I wanted to learn and compete”

Monday, 16 January 2012

Emilie Martinsen & VDL Al Cantino. Photo by Ken Braddick/ KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Pursuing a goal after her tooth was knocked out on a horse while not having a great time riding in the fields and forests of Denmark as a kid says a lot about Emilie Martinsen's determination to be a top international rider.

And she volunteers she was not born with a lot of talent and did not work hard when younger.

But the 27-year-old is making up for it now, focused on trying to emulate her idol, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, about whom Emilie jokes she shares a characteristic – she, too, is pint-sized at 160cm-5ft. 3 ins.

"I have to work hard for it, and that was not something I did when I was younger," she said. "Therefore, I was a little behind."

Not now.

She ranks 8th in the World Cup Western European League standings, and if she has a horse performing well by the end of 12 weeks of Florida's Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington plans to compete in her first Final which are scheduled for at 's-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, in April.

She has signed on for the 2012 Global Champions Tour, the premier jumping series with events in Europe, the Middle East and South America and plans to help her country by participating in Nations Cups with the aim of making it back into the Top League. She competed in six of the 2011 Top League events in Denmark's first and only season at the pinnacle of team competition.

Emilie Martinsen & Bogegardens Apollo. Photo by Ken Braddick/ barn full of horses includes Toscane which she competed on her U.S. West Coast swing last fall, Bogegardens Apollo that was her European Championships mount, Caballero and several others.

Emilie is the only child of parents who represent global entrepreneurial success, building a fashion empire over 40 years that is now IC Companies, a group of 11 brands of fashion clothing sold in more than 40 countries. Her family turned over to her 90 per cent of the stock of the company that has annual revenues of €468 million (US$600 million).

Although she attends board meetings and is kept abreast of corporate developments, which four years of business school have given her a good grounding, she has "always been a horse girl" and intends to remain so.

Emilie has made herself at home in Wellington which she admits beats winters in Denmark and she has fallen in love with South Florida – for the weather, the lifestyle, the people and the chance to live a normal life at home for the four months she hopes to spend here each year. She has bought a small house that she plans to use her love of fashion and decorating to renovate. While in Europe, she bases herself out of Brussels which is more convenient for top shows.

Her trainer for the past two years is Danish Grand Prix rider Henrik Gundersen who moved to the U.S. with his family several years ago. She plans to stick with his program.

A sense of humor and not taking herself too seriously make Emilie fun to be around.

Emilie & her trainer Henrik Gundersen. Photo by Ken Braddick/ she started riding at age 12, she explained, "I was kind of scared. The first horse my parents got was a field hunter because that's what they did and thought I should, too.”

"On our first time out, I had just got my braces off after four years. I was so happy. I didn't feel like an idiot . Another girl rode into my horse and it knocked my front tooth out. So I had to have braces on again. After that, they never asked me to go with them again. I'm not such a big fan of going out in the woods anymore."

After ponies, juniors and young riders on which she was on the Danish team for a couple of years, she went to business school and then devoted herself 100 per cent to horses.

"I liked it and I wanted to get better and better," she said. "Then it just hit me that's what I wanted to do. The more I did it the more I wanted to learn and compete."

It was her own decision.

"My parents at first thought I should do something else, but they've always been supporting me but not pushing me in any way," she said. "Sometimes they were pushing too little. I told them, 'if I get disqualified or I'm riding badly, please tell me I'm riding bad, or get angry or something,' They're always like 'Oh, it's so good.' Whatever I did they thought it was good, whatever I did was good enough."

"It was not good enough for me, and that's when I decided to do something about it."

Emilie came to Florida the first time seven years ago to work with her two horses with U.S. team rider Candice King for a month. She liked it so much she came back three years ago and now plans to stay.

She came back to the U.S. after the European Championships to do World Cup classes on the West Coast that went really well and elevated her to the top echelon in the standings.

It was also after the World Cup event in Las Vegas that she had an American equivalent of losing her tooth.

Henrik suggested trying indoor sky diving.

"OK," she said, "I have done so much shopping I can't do any more now, so let's do something else." Wrong! She dislocated her shoulder and the three hours waiting to have it re-set were "the worst three hours of my life, much worse than getting my tooth kicked out."

To help the healing process, she upped her gym time to two hours a day even though she does not like working out.

"I obviously like fashion so I do a lot of shopping, it's in my blood,"

"I like singing but I'm not good at that, either. I'm in the karaoke bar singing but it's really bad."

"That's why I focus on my horses. I''m bad at the other things I like to do."

"I want to practice and practice and be really good. I know it takes a long time to get where I want to go but I'm willing to do what it takes. I want to work really hard and be really good."

"It is 100 per cent of my focus. But I'm also aware it will take some time for me to get there. I think it’s possible and I'm really lucky that I have the opportunity to make the most of the possibilities. So if I work really hard I will get there. And I will work really hard."

Why do it?

"I love horses, it's so amazing what you can do with them," she said. "The feeling you get when they have been good and you have been good, when it matches it is indescribable and you can never get it anywhere else."

"We sports people are all junkies for the rush."

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