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WoSJ Exclusive; Nanna Nieminen – on challenges, being scared, Gotha – & ‘the perfect boss'

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

According to Nanna, Henrik von Eckermann is the perfect boss. Photo by Jenny Abrahamsson. Nanna Nieminen is the head groom for one of the hottest names in the sport at the moment; Henrik von Eckermann. But the dream job and the perfect boss was not an easy find for the Finnish girl, who at one point gave up the horses to do something completely else. Her restlessness wanted it different though, and now Nanna enjoys travelling the world with the Beerbaum-team and their fabulous horses.

"I started to work for Henrik about a year ago. We didn't have the best start though as he got injured the same day as we were to leave for our first show together in Bordeaux," Nanna smiles, and as we all know it got a lot better from there for Henrik! "I saw an ad on WoSJ that he was looking for a groom, and I actually thought it looked quite scary to work for him – but I also really wanted to try. I was sure that it was going to be hard, and I wasn't sure that I would make it – but I like it when it's challenging. I called Henrik, who I had been talking to a little bit before and he told me that I could try out for a month."

"At that point I was working at Dirk Demeersman's place, and he told me that if they gave me a chance I should go. So I went, and I was so scared! I can't remember ever being so scared as I was for the first two weeks I was there," Nanna laughs. "I felt like I'd never seen a horse before, and could almost not tell the head from the tail. The whole system is build up so that you teach everything from the bottom. It was really hard, and after the first month was finished I was waiting for someone to say something to whether I made it or not. But no one ever said anything – so I was like ok, I get to stay. And now it's been a year! "

Nanna and Coupe de Coeur after the Swedish Nations Cup win in Falsterbo. Photo by Jenny Abrahamsson.Nanna explains that the biggest change when she came to Henrik and Stall Beerbaum, was to work as a part of a big team. "It was a really big change to not work alone anymore. I was used to always being on my own; having my own truck, and travelling on my own. Now I had three people to share everything with! In many ways it was a good change, but also a big challenge in the beginning!"

Being a part of a team that's made out by Ludger Beerbaum, Marco Kutscher, Philipp Weishaupt and Henrik himself – who each have one groom, must cause both laughter and headaches – and this is confirmed by Nanna. "The best thing about being four grooms – Katta [works for Ludger], Terri [works for Marco], Stephi [works for Philipp] and I – is that we always help each other, and we all know the horses well. Like now, with Gotha – Katta has helped me so much. For example Katta still rides Gotha; she knows her so well, so it's the best for Gotha. So it's good that the riders can change the horses, but that the horses still is with somebody who knows them very well." On the other hand, being together almost 24/7 wears on anybody's nerves and like Nanna says "Sometimes we get tired of each other. Then we'll have a fight, but we're all friends in the end – it's never personal."

Nanna is sure Gotha is from a different planet and explains that she "has such a strong mind, and if she doesn't want to do something – she doesn't want to, end of story." Photo by Jenny Abrahamsson.Ludger's former top horse Gotha, who now performs superbly under Henrik, is described by Nanna as "really special". "When I started working for Henrik I though Coupe [de Coeur] was special, but Gotha – I never ever met a horse like that," Nanna smiles. "She's from another planet. Gotha has such a strong mind, and if she doesn't want to do something – she doesn't want to, end of story. So it can be a bit of struggle just to walk her, if she doesn't want to she just stops and stands there, on the other hand the days she wants to be handwalked I can't stop her. You can't convince her! Even not with some candy! I'm happy I have Katta who knows her so well!"

Henrik's former ride and Olympic partner Allerdings was Nanna's favorite in the stable. In January he was sold though, and left for Denmark and a new home. "I remember when I started for Henrik, and it was this whole plan towards London. Anton [Allerdings] was our reserve if anything should happen to Coupe, and I couldn't quite believe it as Anton was standing shy in the corner of his box. I was like 'Really?'" Nanna laughs. "Anton was quite annoying in the beginning as he was so shy and worried. But he was a great match for Henrik, and just got better and better the more we believed in him. It might sound weird, but if Anton was a person I think he would be a lot like Henrik! Very polite! I really, really liked Anton and I almost had him with me everywhere," Nanna says with a longing voice.

Nanna describes Henrik's potential star Toulouse as cool, nice and "just so easy with everything". Photo by Jenny Abrahamsson.But in the top of the sport, horses come and horses go – and there is a new star waiting to shine. "Toulouse! She is really, really cool and so nice. She will be the next Anton for me," Nanna says. "The plan is for her to stay, which is nice as we have lot of horses coming and going. She's done mostly the youngster classes so far; but she's acting very grown up, and always has done so. Toulouse is so focused when she goes into the ring – she is just so easy with everything! When she grows up she's going to be the easiest horse ever. And Henrik loves her! Actually Henrik loves all his horses and he often goes through the stable just to have a chat with them and see if they are alright."

As to Henrik as a boss, Nanna has only praise. "I don't have enough good words to describe Henrik. He is the perfect boss!"

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