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Lisen Bratt Fredricson: Equestrian entrepreneur and wonder woman

Friday, 25 October 2019
Interview

Photo © Haide Westring “It took a long time to get to where we are now – twenty years – but our visions have been realised," Lisen tells about the success she is now experiencing together with her husband Peder – both inside and outside the ring. Photo © Haide Westring.

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

A creative entrepreneur. A successful business woman. A former Olympian. A dedicated mother and wife. Lisen Bratt Fredricson has a lot to juggle, and she’s doing it admiringly well. So well actually, that she was crowned Sweden’s most powerful woman in equestrian sports earlier this year. 

Her many projects span from the Swedish Riders Awards, to the Swedish Select Horse Sales, to Jönköping Horse Show, to her increasingly popular web-shop Get the Gallop and then there is of course her own Grevlunda Showjumping Stables that she runs with her husband Peder – which she has three sons with, Carsten (15), Hjalmar (12) and Bill (5). It’s enough to leave you breathless, and if you are among the 98K following Lisen on her Instagram account you will perhaps recognise a pattern of organised chaos as she jet-sets between the hectic life at her family-farm in the south of Sweden to follow her husband Peder to some of the many magnificent locations where he is competing, or meeting up with colleagues to work on one of her different projects, that is if she’s not at some social event looking absolutely drop-dead gorgeous – not at all like someone who hardly can have time to sleep. 

It’s hard to believe, but according to Lisen she is “quite unorganised”. However, her increasingly busy schedule has forced her into getting better with her calendar. “Equestrian sport is a lifestyle, you live it 24/7. Both Peder and I have had a tendency to say yes to too much,” she says. “But by now, we’ve learned to say no and to prioritise so that some dates are kept free only to be spend on family.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping There is no obstacle too big for Lisen Bratt Fredricson, who went from jumping at the highest level of the sport to become one of the most influential equestrian entrepreneurs on the scene. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

For many years, Lisen was a regular on the Swedish showjumping team. She rode at the Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000 and in London in 2012. Simultaneously with her own sports career, she had started the Swedish Riders Awards and the Swedish Select Horse Sales – to have something to keep busy with during her first pregnancy. “I did not want to ride too long into my pregnancy, and needed something else to keep me occupied,” she smiles. 

According to Lisen, there has always been an entrepreneur inside of her and it showed at an early age. “If we rewind a bit, I think it all started already when I was a little girl,” she smiles. “I always had a lot of projects going on, I would be selling apples at our gate, play riding school, write lists, selling stones – when I was playing it always involved doing some kind of business. I always drew a lot too, lay-out on farms was one of my favourite subjects for my drawings,” she laughs. “Where to put the stables, the parking – I loved to map out a good plan.”

A side to her many projects that she enjoys is matching up the right group of people for the job. “That is what I really like, bring people together – different people, who complement each other with their various qualities,” she says. “I like to have control myself, but if I can delegate to someone else that is better on that specific task than me – then I can let it go a 100%!” 

After her first pregnancy, Lisen returned to the saddle – and to the Olympic Games in London. However, she felt that she was not fully focused on her riding. “While I was riding I was mostly on my phone. I also reached a stage where I felt it was as fun to sell a horse as to win a class. I figured out it would be better to get a rider so that I could focus on my projects. That’s how Stephanie started working with us, she took over Fibonacci and then it all rolled from there,” Lisen tells. 

Photo © Haide Westring “What I think is really great about our sport, is that it fosters hard-working, independent and strong women," Lisen says. Photo © Haide Westring.

Lisen also acknowledges that her choice has made family-life slightly easier. “When the children were little, we could take them with us everywhere but as they were getting older they had school to consider. The last year when both Peder and I were in the Swedish national squad and did internationals shows, it was a lot like ‘you or me?’ – we kind of met at Kastrup Airport and gave each other a high-five as one left home and one arrived,” she laughs. “Luckily, we have fantastic help at home – Peder’s mother and father live next door and help a lot. Peder himself is also a very present and fantastic father!”

While Lisen put her sports career to the side, she has never felt as if she made sacrifices. “Many have said to me ‘Oh, you gave up so much’ – but I did not. I felt that I wanted to do what I am doing now. I wanted to develop Grevlunda and our own business, I wanted to start Get the Gallop, Jönköping Horse Show and spend time on the already existing projects that I had created.”

Today, Lisen and Peder’s Grevlunda Showjumping Stables is one of the most successful in the industry. Peder, currently ranked fourth in the world, became European Champion in 2017 and Vice Olympic Champion in 2016. Lisen can often be seen by Peder’s side on important occasions, and no doubt plays a huge part in his sport success. “Our philosophy was always to work long-term with people we like and owners that share our ideology and goals,” Lisen tells about how the pair arrived at where they are today. “It took a long time to get to where we are now – twenty years – but our visions have been realised. I think that due to our believes in how we wanted to do it, it went a bit slow at times but now it’s paying off,” she says. 

“Since Peder and I met 25 years ago, we have always done what we felt right here and here,” pointing to her heart and gut. “Should you always follow your gut feeling?” she asks. “Sometimes it’s not right, but that still adds to your gut feeling’s experience and over time it then develops to give you the right feeling. We work quite emotional,” Lisen smiles. 

 Photo © Haide Westring Get the Gallop is one of Lisen's many successful projects, and a real love-child for the Swedish entrepreneur. "I want to build up the brand and focus on that,” Lisen says. Photo © Haide Westring.

While Grevlunda’s horses are enjoying huge success under both Peder and Stephanie, they also have quite some references jumping globally – among them Albführen’s Maddox, that is seen under Steve Guerdat as well as Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum’s former top horse Fibonacci. “I don’t see us as a sales stable,” Lisen tells. “We take horses forward, some we keep and some we sell – and I enjoy the latter in between. No horses are for sale, but all our horses have a price so if the question comes we take a decision then.”

Known for her eye for a good horse, we ask Lisen what she is looking for when selecting a youngster. “We look to the exterior, that feet and hooves are correct – obviously this is important for their health. A modern jumping horse needs a really good brain – the will to do it – and that extra power. I often look to the breeding, especially towards the mother’s mother and what they have left in different generations,” Lisen tells. 

“This year, I looked at all the 5, 6- and 7-year olds in Falsterbo and I can tell you that you learn just as much looking at the ones that are not good as you do from looking at the ones that are good. Attitude, confirmation, techniques, and so on – hinge that on to the different breeding lines – that helps a lot when you select your young horses later on,” she says. “Today you have to look for the horses when they are four or five, because when they are older everyone is out there looking for the same good ones and they get very expensive. Then it is important to know what you should be looking for.”

Lisen estimates that Grevlunda takes up about 50 % of her time, and the rest she spends on her other projects. Get the Gallop – a project Lisen started with her friends Caroline Kanekrans and Louise Hamilton – is a real love-child. “We started Get the Gallop in 2014, and today it has customers from all over the world. It’s still small, but as soon as we have something new it sells out. I would like to keep it that way, I don’t want any mass-production. I want to build up the brand and focus on that,” Lisen tells. “Caroline and Louise work with it full time – then we meet up once a week. I mostly take part in the product development. We’re on our way to design more of our own products, also in collaboration with other brands – the Skultuna bracelets as an example. I really like it!” 

There is not really time for Lisen to ride anymore, but she does not feel as if she is missing it. “I can miss having a good young horse to develop – to reach a goal – but I don’t miss just the riding in itself,” she tells. “Now I would like to land in all the projects I have kicked off and prioritise that.”

Photo © Haide Westring. Lisen with her husband Peder at the Swedish Sports Awards. Photo © Haide Westring.

A successful woman in a male-dominated industry, Lisen has never given the gender-issue much thought – until it became a question often asked. “A returning question is how it is to be a woman among so many men, but I think our sport fades out the genders – it makes us more equal. That being said, I am very aware of #MeToo and that the fact that it exists in the equestrian industry – as it does in many other work places too.”

“One of the things that has struck me though – being a woman – is that if I am direct, people would have handled it differently had I been a man. I think a lot about it – if you are direct being a man you are simply straight forward, but if you are a woman it’s different. I also think some women have strange need to judge other women. For example, if I have a meeting and I have nanny taking care of my children in the meantime I can get the feeling that I’m being policed. However, if a man did the same there would be no reactions. I fight a bit with that sometimes, with those attitudes that exist.”

“What I think is really great about our sport, is that it fosters hard-working, independent and strong women – that’s at least how I feel about it. That’s also why I wish that more kids and teens could take part of it, on a personal level it’s such a developing sport. The FEI has a big responsibility here, to make sure the sport stays open and that money does not take over,” Lisen says. 

While her to-do-list is long enough as it is, there is one more project Lisen would like to add to it. “I would like to involve myself further with the integration of immigrant kids and youth, and use horses and riding as a tool in that work – that is next on my agenda,” says the wonder woman of showjumping that never runs dry on ideas. 

 

No reproduction without permission, copyright © World of Showjumping 

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