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Looking back at 2021 – with Peder Fredricson, part one: “Without the media hype, I would not have become world no. one”

Wednesday, 29 December 2021

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ "I can’t even believe all that has happened this year," Peder Fredricson says. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.


Text © World of Showjumping



2021 has definitely been Peder Fredricson’s year. The Swedish rider was crowned Olympic team champion, Olympic individual vice-champion, took an individual bronze medal at the European Championships, and, finally, became world no. one. In November, he also received the FEI Best Athlete Award. WoSJ had a talk with Fredricson about his remarkable 2021, and in the first part of our conversation, the Swedish rider tells about how the last years have been filled with blessings, hard work, goals – and how he really benefited from the Covid pandemic.  

“What can I say? I can’t even believe all that has happened this year. In 2018, I was on a Swedish talk show called ‘Skavlan’ – one of the most well-known in Scandinavia – and at the time I was somewhere around ninth on the world ranking. Before starting to record the show, I was told that the question about my next goal for the world ranking would come up. I hadn’t thought about that earlier. I couldn’t really reply that I wanted to be number ten or that I wanted to become number two, so I felt that I had to say that I wanted to become world number one. The day after the television show aired, the media had picked up on it and the headlines read that ‘Peder Fredricson wants to be the best in the world’. For me, this was quite difficult to handle, as I felt a bit trapped. 

After my appearance on ‘Skavlan’, I was contacted by SVT – the Swedish national public television broadcaster– that wanted me to travel around the world to experience different horse cultures, which sounded really interesting, but I told them that I would not have the time for it. Instead, they started on a documentary, following me around and they titled the program ‘Number One’, which was quite a shock and put even more pressure on me. That was when I decided that I would actually go for the number one position on the world ranking. So, the last years, I have really done my best to reach the top of the ranking. To become number one this year was fantastic, since it has been so much about it in Swedish media." 

If it wouldn’t have been for the hype in the Swedish media, I would not have worked as hard to reach the top of the ranking. Actually, I don’t think I would have reached the top without it, as the hype really pushed me to make it my goal. 

"The times when I was close to the number one spot, but fell back on the ranking again, were quite hard though, so when I finally made it, it tasted even sweeter. 

In comparison, an Olympic gold medal is more of a blessing. It’s of course something you work for during your whole career, but it’s about delivering on one occasion every fourth year – and there are several fantastic horse and rider combinations worthy of an Olympic gold medal, but who never get one because they were not at their best on that particular day. To become number one in the world, on the other hand, is not a coincidence and has nothing to do with luck on a particular day; it is hard work from the whole team, it takes supportive owners, it is about horsemanship, it is about everything you do, every single day for years. An Olympic gold is of course well deserved, but for me it feels more like a gift to have gotten it with the Swedish team. All of us were in form at the same time and we managed to do what no one would have expected. It was fantastic. 

For now, I want to celebrate and enjoy everything that has happened in 2021 ahead of the New Year. I have no plans whatsoever for the year to come. I have reached my goals, which I worked very hard for – for a long time – so now I will breathe a little." 

Now that I have the number one position, I have promised my family, my team and myself that I will not chase points to stay up there. 

"It is done and I can start to relax. New goals and projects will come up, but right now I’m not quite sure what they will be. I have mixed emotions about this; it is a relief, but it is also a bit empty since it is a nice feeling to be chasing a goal like this. If you have my personality, you need a goal to work for every day.

The Covid pandemic has ironically enough been positive for me. I had worked very hard, and it was good with a break – which was for everyone. It also gave me time to experiment. For example, I started to train at home in a new way – before I had never practiced to do jump-offs. We are in a sport where time is decisive, yet we never train on that – at least I had never practiced that in my day-to-day training. The time aspect has never been anything I have worked specifically on. Because of the pandemic I changed that – and together with the Swedish Olympic Committee and Peter Eriksson, I made a program to start practising to become faster. We built the program, documented all of it and started up. This has given an enormous result."

Without that program, I think I would have had difficulties to deliver the jump-offs I did in Tokyo.

"To detail, Peter Eriksson has been coming to our place once a week. At nine o’clock, he has built a course and has had a plan for what we are practicing that day. I have then ridden three horses and we have been breaking the jump-offs down in to small parts – everything from turning inside a fence, to jump a fence out of an angle. We have been practicing on moments and not a whole jump-off course. A part of the training is flatwork, to be able to control the horse in balance in different tempos and another part is the jumping. It is not about jumping fences at a high speed; it is more about turns before and after the fences as well as other elements that are out of my comfort zone. 

We start by practising on the turns during the flatwork, and then over fences. If it doesn’t work over the fences, we know that we have to go back to the flatwork. What you practice on, you get good at. If you never practice, how will you be good at it when you end up in a jump-off? That is why I think that the top riders at the highest-level stay on that level, as they can practice those fast jump-offs every weekend – it is a big advantage. I think it is a good thing to also train the younger horses without any pressure; to make them feel comfortable and enjoy turning a bit shorter ahead and after the fence. Just as you should be able to ride in whatever tempo you like on the flat, you should also be able to turn as you like to the fences, in control with a relaxed and positive horse. 

Peter knows what it is all about, and when I’m at the shows he also rides my horses at home every Friday so he has a good feeling for what we need to practice on. Since I have him on the ground I can totally focus on the horse and not think about exercises. Now I just do what Peter tells me and think with the horse. It is totally new for me, since I never really trained for someone else before, and this has been really good for me." 

Next to the technical part, the practice is very good mentally since it makes both me and my horses think much faster. 

"In the beginning I was a bit sceptical and was not sure it would work, how the horses would react – but I very quickly noticed that the horses love it. This is of course very much thanks to Peter, since he always creates a positive feeling, which gives a lot of positive energy.  

During the pandemic, we also had the time to experiment more with taking the shoes off the horses, which is something that you might not do in the middle of a show season. Then you might not dare to. Already before the pandemic, I had some horses without shoes, but during the pandemic and with the economic situation being as it was, we took the shoes off on several horses. This was an easy thing to do to save costs. It gave us a lot more experience in that area and also meant I could start to let the horses out together in the field." 

Sometimes you don’t know if the things you change will turn out for the better, but I had a fantastic year so some of what I decided to do differently must have been right.



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