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Freelance rider Christoffer Adriansson: “Riding horses for yourself is different from riding horses for someone else to compete”

Wednesday, 08 December 2021
Interview

Photo © Vanessa Anne French Photography “I have always been riding a lot of different horses and those I have worked for are genuine horse people. They are all extremely competitive, but more importantly they have a real respect for the horses," Christoffer Adriansson says. Photo © Vanessa Anne French Photography.

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

He started up with ponies in his grandfather’s garage, then went on to work for some of the world’s best and today he is a sought-after freelance rider who during winter is based in Florida and during summer in Europe. WoSJ had a chat with Christoffer Adriansson. 

“Riding horses for yourself and your own sport is different from riding horses for someone else to compete,” Adriansson explains about the essence of the being a professional freelance rider. 

The basics are always the same, but when you ride for someone else you have to be flexible and make sure to do it so that the horse will suit its rider in the very best way – and this will of course differ from rider to rider.

"How you ride the horse depends on whether it is for an amateur, a professional and at what level the horse is competing at,” Adriansson says.

Adriansson has learned from the best. In 2007, he started in his first job – for Lisen and Peder Fredricson in the south of Sweden. “Peder is the one who taught me to ride,” Adriansson says. “I had a lot of young horses to compete and it was really educational. After three years there, I went on for a year to Markus Beerbaum and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum where I competed the young horses as well as being Meredith’s home rider.”

A change of plans

After working for Markus and Meredith, Adriansson planned to take a break from horses – he wanted to travel and do what other young people do. A visit to a friend, who at the time worked for Laura Kraut in Wellington, made Adriansson change those plans. “I ended up working for Maarten Huygens, who is a Belgian dealer that is based in Wellington over the season. It was a great job; we had a lot of fun and sold many horses. I had never ridden commercially before, so I learned a lot and got to know many people. When my 90 days in America came to an end and the season was over, I went back to Sweden and didn’t really have a plan,” Adriansson tells.

Photo © private Christoffer Adriansson with H&M All In, when back working for Peder Fredricson during the summer of 2019. Photo © private collection.

A call from his previous boss Markus Beerbaum got Adriansson off to his next adventure. “Markus asked me to go to California to be a home rider for his students Audrey and Saer Coulter. There I rode the horses during the weekdays and the girls came to ride during the weekends. Markus then travelled back and forth for the shows. I did this job from March until January, when I went back to Maarten Huygens,” Adriansson says. 

After another winter season in Wellington with a lot of horses sold and even more knowledge about the commercial aspect of the industry, Adriansson started to work for Shane Sweetnam. “Shane has a big operation in the States. He competes at a high level himself, has several students and he does a lot of trading. My job was to ride Shane’s horses at home, compete the horses that were for sale and then make the students’ horses ready for the shows. My days consisted of riding 8-9 horses,” Adriansson tells. “It was a great time, as Shane and Ali Sweetnam are really good and honest people to work for.”

Photo © private Photo © private collection.

One particularly good memory Adriansson has from his time with the Sweetnams is when they got a special Irish mare in to ride. “She had already done some big classes but could suddenly just stop in the middle of a course. It was not related to a fence or to the in-gate, it could happen wherever."

I remember the first time I competed her; I got eliminated at fence number six as the double maximum time had run out. Then it felt a bit difficult… 

"Anyhow, eventually, we got it to work quite well through a combination of being very determined but still very kind. And I made sure to never get into a discussion that couldn’t be solved easily. For example, walking her after work, you could walk five minutes, twenty minutes or not at all – she decided and when she didn’t want to walk, you couldn’t convince her. So, it was better to just leave that discussion and let her decide. After a while Shane took her over and he ended up having great success with her,” Adriansson tells. 

Backpacking before returning to the US

“After three years with the Sweetnams, it was time to go backpacking – which I had wanted to do for so long,” Adriansson says. “I was away for three months and then I spent the summer in Sweden before Markus called me up and asked me to ride for his student Chloe Reid. At the time, Chloe was a junior and back then she was based with Joe Fargis in Washington. It was the same set-up as with the Coulters – I rode during the weekdays, Chloe at the weekend and Markus went to the shows with her. I only stayed there for the autumn though, as I decided to start up my own business as a freelance rider. It was actually Chloe’s mum Juliette that got me my first customer.”

Photo © Vanessa Anne French Photography "We had two horses in the garage and then three in outdoor boxes – in total I had five horses to ride after school,” Christoffer Adriansson says about how it all started. Photo © Vanessa Anne French Photography.

After a few seasons as a freelance rider, Adriansson got the question if he wanted to work for the Gates-family. “I didn’t want to be employed full-time, so I had a list of horses I did for them and then I continued to take care of my freelance clients. It was a good job, and I had some really fun years,” Adriansson tells.

The biggest challenge of them all

While Adriansson has faced many challenges in his job as a freelance rider, he met the biggest of them all in a very different setting. After an idea from US Olympian Lucy Davis – who trained with Markus and Meredith at the time – Adriansson decided to participate in the world’s longest horse race, the Mongol Derby. “A friend of Lucy had done the race, and Lucy and I planned on doing it together. But then Lucy got on the long-list for the Olympics in London, so I ended up doing it on my own."

I rode 1240 km in one week and it was incredibly cool and at the same time the toughest thing I ever done

A total of 35 riders participated in the race and only 18 reached the finish line. Adriansson finished fourth – only 55 minutes away from victory. “There were several injuries among the riders along the way. We rode from seven in the morning to nine o’clock in the evening and on 25 different horses. The race was based on checkpoints and we could sleep there, but I preferred to sleep with the nomads. Mongolia is a really big country, but it’s only 2.7 million people living there so it felt very desolate. We rode through the desert, up in the mountains and through the swamps – it was pure nature."

It was just my horse and me, and several times I had to put all my trust in the horse I rode and right then it felt like ‘either you solve this, or we die’

“At one point two other riders and myself rode up and down next to a torrential river and it was really difficult to know where we could cross,” Adriansson tells. “To go back and around would take us a whole day. Then as we were riding there, a herd with about 50-80 wild horses came galloping towards us so we turned and cantered with them as we guessed they would know where we could cross the river. We rode with them across the river, then they continued up in the mountains while we went around. It was such a huge moment.”

The importance of great mentors

Having worked with some of the world’s very best has given Adriansson invaluable insight and knowledge. “I have always been riding a lot of different horses and those I have worked for are genuine horse people. They are all extremely competitive, but more importantly they have a real respect for the horses. I personally think that this is the biggest difference between the riders that are on the top for a short while and the ones that stay on top for years and years. I think it is impossible to stay on the top for a longer time if you don’t have a genuine respect and admiration for the horses,” Adriansson says. 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ During the European Championships in Rotterdam in 2019, Peder Fredricson had H&M Christian K with him as a reserve horse. However, to be able to concentrate fully on his first horse H&M All In, Christoffer Adriansson was with the team to take care of H&M Christian K. Here waiting for the prize giving where H&M Christian K got to step in. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Adriansson is obviously good at adapting to different horses, which is something he learned at an early age. “My parents didn’t have the money to buy me a lot of horses, but they bought me a pony. To be able to ride more, I started to work for a horse dealer in Sweden,” Adriansson tells. “At the age of 14, I asked my grandfather to move his car out of the garage so we could build a stable there instead. The horses that the dealer couldn’t sell straight away, the ones that were a bit quirky, came to me. We had two horses in the garage and then three in outdoor boxes – in total I had five horses to ride after school.”

Adriansson is reluctant to analyse why there is such a high demand for his services, but after some convincing he comes up with an answer. 

My strength is that after I have ridden them, the horses jump well. This is in large thanks to the great people I have worked for. 

"Peder taught me to ride and I have a lot of my basics from him. And the Swedish flatwork and training philosophy seems to be very successful at the moment,” Adriansson says laughing. “Thanks to what I learned from Peder, I get the horses soft and through their bodies. To get the horses in front of the leg, or to find the right bit, I really learned from Markus and Meredith. Depending on what horse I’m riding I can feel that I use the knowledge I got from either Peder, Markus or Shane – it is all really thanks to what they thought me.” 

Photo © private "Peder taught me to ride and I have a lot of my basics from him. And the Swedish flatwork and training philosophy seems to be very successful at the moment,” Christoffer Adriansson says laughing. Photo © private collection.

As a freelance rider, Adriansson has different set-ups for each client. “Most book me way in advance, so now I’m full for the winter season. Some book me for three horses a day six days a week, some book me for special dates and some book me to ride their horses during quarantine. As I can only ride a certain number of horses per day, when the list is full, it is full.”

Quirky and sensitive – not sharp

“I do like special horses; I think they are interesting and challenging. Quirky and sensitive absolutely, but I don’t like horses that are special in a way that they are sharp, since I don’t like to ride with strength. I also don’t like to get on a horse to just try to stay on, to be a cowboy,” Adriansson says.

When asked for his favourite horses, Adriansson mentions some legendary names. “Allan – H&M All In – is one of my favourites,” Adriansson says. 

Not because he is the nicest to ride, but because he has done so incredibly much for Swedish equestrian sports.

"It is some kind of magic around Allan, and I really like him.” 

“There are more horses that are magic though, like Shutterfly for example – he was very special. He was 17-18 when I was working for Markus and Meredith, but in his mentality he was like a 5-year-old. Shutterfly was a bit like Allan and had a strong flight instinct, but on top he was also afraid of horses coming up behind him – then he took off!” Adriansson laughs.

“Then there is Levis de Muze, Codarco and Chaqui Z, that all had and has this kind of magic to them.”

 

No reproduction without written permission, copyright © World of Showjumping



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