Victoria Gulliksen must have nerves made of steel; the 19 year old Norwegian rider made her World Cup debut in Zürich around one of the most imposing tracks this season – and in style. WoSJ decided to find out more about this cool headed girl who rides on whatever horses she gets, and that has not been getting anything for free through her father and showjumper Geir ‘Jimmy’ Gulliksen.
With only days to go before she turns 20 we ask Victoria how on earth she has managed to get as far as she has in such a short time – she is still only a young rider, but ride with the big guys in the biggest classes. “It’s true – I’m still a young rider for another two years,” Victoria smiles when one of the WoSJ reporters believes that she has a few more years under her belt – definitely not because she looks it, but because she rides like it.
“I went on to ride the junior classes when I was 14, in addition to riding some sales ponies in the pony classes. I rode my first national senior classes when I was 15 on Lord Z who literally dragged me around the courses,” she laughs. “I’m sure it helped my riding career a lot to make the transition to horses early on, as it takes time adjusting going from ponies to horses. Two years as a junior rider before you move on to young rider classes is not much, but I got three years as a junior which helped me prepare for young rider and senior level,” Victoria explains while also pointing out that she moved on to young rider classes in her last year as a junior rider. “In my opinion you learn to ride more correctly on a horse than a pony; that’s why I think the children’s classes on horses is a great thing!”
Victoria is a hard worker. She finished school in the spring of 2011, and went on to work at her father’s stable which is a 30 minutes drive outside the capital Oslo. But Norway is cold in the winter – and far, far away of the big arenas in Europe; has she considered moving abroad instead? “Yes, sure I have. But my dad needs me at his stables, so I’ll stay at home now to ride and train the less experienced horses. I’ve been lucky enough to have a longer stay with Jan Tops and Edwina Tops-Alexander though; I went there last autumn to train –which was great.”
“Edwina has been of great help to me! When I went there in September 2011 I didn’t expect to get as much help as I did. Edwina had lessons with me almost every day, and when she wasn’t there Daniel Deusser helped me out. Edwina focused on my position all the time, and was quite strict – but at the same time really good at telling me when I did things right. Daniel was a great guy as well; he has a simple philosophy and takes one thing at the time,” Victoria says enthusiastic about her stay in Holland which has definitely made a positive impact on Victoria’s good riding. “Also, Edwina has an eye on me at the shows – she helps me despite that I’m not based with them a 100 %.”
At home the Gulliksen family has between 18-20 horses, and it’s all a family affair. Geir, Victoria and her younger brother Johan all ride – while her mother Elisabeth, a former showjumper herself, manages all the practicalities. “I have about ten horses that I ride myself, but I share my ride Storm with dad. I do a lot of the work with the horses myself; I have no groom so here in Zürich my mother has come along to help me out. When I’m away at a show my brother rides my horses,” Victoria explains of her daily life. “At home I train with my father and Toril Hemmingby. We have a great environment at our stables, with many good younger riders. So it’s natural that you strive to become better.”
“To have my father as my trainer is a good thing. We’re very much alike. Earlier, when I was younger we had our discussions when I sometimes found it a bit annoying with his opinions. Now it’s a different story; we cooperate more now, it’s not just him giving me messages on what to do. It’s feels safe with my father, it goes without saying that I trust him a 100 %. He’s fun to work with too, although we have some disagreements on whom of us that gets to ride the different horses that we have,” she laughs.
“I’m a lot like my father so I always want to win. Even when I compete against my brother I have that mindset, I want to beat him. But if I have a bad day and Johan does well I’m always happy for him! If I’m not at my best it’s god that he is!”
Victoria’s three best horses are Storm 16, Billy Buttercup – or Betty as she’s called, as well as the newly arrived Urval. “Storm is a 13 year old gelding by Grandeur. We’ve had him since he was four! He takes me around the courses, and is the safest thing in the world. Storm always wants to do his best, even if the tasks that are served him might be a little too much for him. That’s also why I need to be very accurate when I ride him; I need rhythm from start to finish. Storm’s a potato though; he can be uses for everything! He’s a bit strange as well; he doesn’t like kids – looks like he’ll eat them if they walk by him,” Victoria lets us know.
“Betty hasn’t done much yet, as she broke her jaw last year. She’s ten and came to us from William Funnel. My goal is to get her up in the big classes, but she needs to learn how to jump the big classes, and get used to the wide oxers. Betty is really fast; her legs move like drum sticks when she gets going. She is super nice though; you can just leave her wherever and she will stay until you get back!”
“Urval I’ve only had for a short time, and the plan is to share him a little with my dad – although I’d like to keep him to myself,” Victoria laughs of the beautiful chestnut. “Urval is 11 years old by Hattrick, and very laid back – but can suddenly get minor explosions as he is a very sensitive horse. In the stable he is so relaxed that we joke about having him sleep in our beds. Jumping wise he’s very careful, and he just needs the experience. Urval came to us from England, and we have high hopes for him.”
Victoria does not only ride though. When she finishes her work at the stables she goes – believe it or not – to the gym! “I work out four times a week; I do strength training, body balance, bodystep and yogalates so I become a bit more flexible but at the same time stronger – I’m a bit stiff,” she laughs. We wonder how on earth she finds the motivation to do a work out after several hours on the horse back and work in the stables, and Victoria replies quickly “I just decide to do it” – which probably goes for a lot that this tough Norwegian does.
As she has already made her debut in the World Cup, is there anything else Victoria is aiming for this season? “This season is all about me having to learn to go straight out in the big classes, so this will be a year where the shows that I ride are learning and training for me. My results go up and down now as I ride bigger classes; but I need to learn this game and in learning periods things don’t necessarily go your way all the time,” she smiles. “I hope to get to ride some Nations Cup classes in the Promotional League though, and then I aim for the European Championships for young riders in August,” Victoria closes off.
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