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The Next Generation: Johan-Sebastian Gulliksen

Thursday, 22 March 2018
The Next Generation

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson Johan-Sebastian Gulliksen is one of showjumping's rising stars, here with Charleville. Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

Johan-Sebastian Gulliksen comes from one of Scandinavia’s most well-known showjumping families. His father Geir – or Jimmy as he is called among friends – has been one of Norway’s leading riders for decades, and his sister Victoria is also a familiar face on the Norwegian team and competed at the Europeans in Aachen in 2015. Horses were a part of Johan’s life from the very beginning, so it is perhaps no surprise that he ended up as a professional showjumper.

At the age of 21, Johan has established himself as one of the rising stars in the sport and in 2016 he won the Championat of Munich aboard Charleville – a horse that was later sold to the States – as well as jumping clear in the World Cup of Leipzig at the start of the following year.

Johan’s equestrian career began when he was six, but according to himself he “was not very interested back then, so when I was seven or eight I quit”. It was only later on, that the horses would take centre stage in Johan’s life. “Instead I liked to ski, I did a lot of slalom and I also played football – and really enjoyed that. But then my best friend Pål Flam started riding, and that got me going again and since then I have continued,” Johan tells.

“When I was thirteen, I had to make a choice to continue with the slalom or to prioritize riding. I chose the riding, and I don’t regret that,” he says.

Although he comes from a showjumping family, there was never any pressure to ride. “My parents always said that I could do what I wanted the most, if that was the skiing or the horses they did not really care about. But of course, it was a lot easier that I chose the horses,” Johan laughs. “A bit more practical you can say!”

Many things Johan learned while doing slalom, he still uses today when he competes. “When I walk the course, I visualize it as I would with the slalom slope with the gates – you think from gate to gate, and about the rhythm and this is very similar to jumping,” he says.

When Johan was doing his last years of upper secondary school, he decided he wanted to do the riding professionally and be a part of the family business – joining his father Geir, mother Elisabeth and sister Victoria. “We are very different, but one thing we have in common is that we are all very independent,” Johan tells about the family dynamics. “In the end, we all want the same: To be the best, and there is always a competitiveness between us but in a good way. I think that this is only positive, in the end the money we win go on the same account. We push each other forwards like this.”

“Compared to my father and my sister, I am probably the more quiet one. I like to stay in the background, I like to work in peace and quiet. They have a bit higher tempo than me,” Johan laughs.

Who gets to ride which horse is never a problem among the Gulliksens. “Our riding is different and we also have a bit different owners in between the three of us. Also, our communication is good so if we think a horse would fit better to one of the others we would always tell and make a switch.”

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson Together with his sister Victoria: “I would never have made it to where I am today without my family,” Johan says. Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

If there is one horse Johan established a special bond with, it has to be Charleville. “He was a very special horse for us, and especially for me,” Johan says. “We got him when he was five, and had him until he was sold when he was ten. The first two years, it was my dad and Victoria riding him then when he was seven I took him over. He brought me up in the classes, and I won the Championat of Munich on him as well as going clear in our first World Cup start in Leipzig. It was hard to sell him, but doing the business you quickly learn that this is a part of it. Although it was hard then, it gives me great joy to see him doing so well with Eve now.”

“I really like to develop the young horses. It gives me a lot to see them make the steps up, and follow their development. I like starting with them when they are five-six, and produce them myself. After selling Charleville, we have invested in new young horses and I have lot of fun with that,” Johan smiles.

And what does he look for when finding new and younger talents, we ask? “For me the most important is the mentality of the horse. They have to be willing and have the right attitude. And of course, they have to be careful. For the rest, that is not so important I think.”

The last few months, Johan has been spending at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington where he has soaked in new knowledge. “I’ve learned a lot from being in the States. It is very different than in Europe. Also every single class is extremely competitive and the time-allowed always seems to be tight so the riding is very forward,” he tells.

In ten years, where does Johan see himself? “I hope we still have our place at home in Norway, and run the business together. And that we maybe have had the chance to compete at the Olympic Games together – all three as a part of the Norwegian team. That is a dream for all of us. I am also interested in the training, and I like helping others and passing on what I have learned – and at one point I guess my dad will step back and then we will perhaps take over this part of the business,” he says.

If Johan has one advice for young riders that want to make the step up to the top sport it is to work hard. “And be creative to create opportunities for yourself,” he says. “Try to pick up all the knowledge you can, but stay loyal to your trainer or trainers. That has at least been important to me.”

“I would never have made it to where I am today without my family,” he is quick to add. “My dad has been fantastic, giving me horses and investing a lot of time in me. My mum is the organiser of the family, and takes care of all the practical things. My sister has also been a great support to me, and I feel lucky to work alongside all of them.”


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