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Wilma Hellström: "I'm forever grateful to Cicci"

Tuesday, 08 November 2022
Interview

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for WoSJ. Sweden's Wilma Hellström has been going from strength to strength this season, and did an impressive World Cup debut with Cicci BJN in Lyon. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

During the 2022-season, Wilma Hellström has become a regular on the Swedish Nations Cup teams and in October she made a strong World Cup debut in Lyon riding her one-eyed Cicci BJN. WoSJ met the 29-year-old Swedish rider, who tells about how learning from the best in the business – such as Thomas Fuchs, Otto Becker, Peter Markne, as well as Angelica Augustsson-Zanotelli and Marlon Zanotelli – has played a big part in her success, and how she without her parents, her gut feeling, her will, and her love for a special grey, would never have gotten to where she is today. 

Learning from the best

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for WoSJ. "It was very educational to see the whole German system; the structure, and to be able to ride everything from 4-year-olds to older horses," Hellström tells about her time at Otto Becker's stable. Here in 2014, when Hellström was based in Germany. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

As a young girl, Hellström started to ride at a riding school in Billdal, outside of Gothenburg, Sweden. “My mum and sister rode there as well," she tells.  

I literally lived in the stable and the best thing I knew was to muck out the boxes.

"I envied the staff there, since they were allowed to muck out all the boxes every day,” Hellström laughs. “From there on it just continued, and none of it would have been possible without my mum and dad. My mum got a driver’s license for the truck, and travelled through Europe with me and the ponies.”

When Hellström finished school, she started to train with Thomas Fuchs in Switzerland. “I was there for a few weeks every now and then. It was difficult to stay in Switzerland for longer, so it was always a bit back and forth,” she tells. 

In 2014, when Hellström was 21, she got in contact with Otto Becker after being accepted for selection for the Young Riders Academy. “I worked for Otto for almost a year; I had two horses with me and was Otto’s main rider. It was very educational to see the whole German system; the structure, and to be able to ride everything from 4-year-olds to older horses. At the time I also rode Christian Kukuk’s Checker 47 and took him to his first show when he was four. For me, the time at Otto’s yard was a step into the big sport.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for WoSJ. “I went to the Netherlands to compete for six weeks and ended up staying there,” Hellström tells. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

After working for Becker, Hellström moved back to Sweden to join the Markne Academy under the watchful eye of Peter Markne. “I was there at the beginning of the Academy, for 1,5 years. I had four horses on my own and then I rode some horses owned by Peter’s investors. Hedda Wallin, who today is my best friend, also joined the Academy and we lived on the yard and had a complete concept with management and trainings. This was really another great step on the way to start up my own business. We had a lot of freedom, and it was an advantage that I had been at Otto’s before so I had a structure in what I did.”

“Then I went to the Netherlands to compete for six weeks and ended up staying there,” Hellström tells. “Ciaran Dreeling, my boyfriend at the time, lived in Switzerland but moved to me in the Netherlands and we worked together for almost six years. A bit more than a year ago I moved my horses to Angelica Augustsson-Zanotelli and her husband Marlon. Angelica is like a big sister to me. When I was very young, I trained with Angelica in Sweden and we have just gotten closer and closer over the years. Angelica and Marlon have been fantastic and even though I now have moved to Oliver Lazarus’ stables in Valkenswaard, I still train with Angelica and Marlon.”

The one-eyed Queen Cicci

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for WoSJ. “I can’t say that she changed after she lost her eye. I don’t feel any difference when riding on the right or the left hand. She always had character and is very clear with what she likes and dislikes,” Hellström tells about Cici BJN. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Wilma’s top horse Cicci BJN, also nicknamed Queen Cicci, was about to be sold when fate wanted things differently. “I bought Cicci six years ago from Marcus Westergren,” Hellström tells. “She was very special, and there was always a lot of interest in her. In the beginning, I decided to wait with selling her, but when she was seven, I realized that I might have to as we at the time were building a stable. But then, at the time I was considering to sell, an accident occurred."

At a show, Cicci rolled in the box, hit a screw and injured her eye in a way that we could not save it.

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for WoSJ. “To be honest, she decides and I totally let her. She does as she wants to do and I’m fine with that," Hellström tells about Cici BJN. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

"It was like a sign that she wanted to stay with me,” Hellström continues. 

“I can’t say that she changed after she lost her eye. I don’t feel any difference when riding on the right or the left hand. She always had character and is very clear with what she likes and dislikes,” Hellström smiles. “To be honest, she decides and I totally let her. She does as she wants to do and I’m fine with that. I’m not sure my grooms are as happy about it though,” Hellström laughs. “Cicci has a lot of integrity and doesn’t like when you enter her space. Most of the times she doesn’t like to be touched. However, when she does want attention, she gets annoyed when we are not there to give it to her and she likes to tell us exactly where to scratch her. She is extremely special to me, and when she is not ok, I’m not ok."

Cicci gives everything for me and I can’t express my gratefulness to this special mare.

The feeling is the most important

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for WoSJ. "Quinti has his own way of jumping and while we are not doing the most stylish rounds, the feeling he gives me is fantastic!" Hellström tells of Quinti von Hof. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Hellström currently has seven horses; Quinti von Hof (Quicklij B Z x HRH Colombardo), Valentino (Diamantino x Careful 28) and Cornest (Balou du Reventon x Stakkatol) are the three helping Cicci at the bigger shows. The other three are promising youngsters. “I have a lot of hopes for Quinti – and for Valentino and Cornest. Quinti has his own way of jumping and while we are not doing the most stylish rounds, the feeling he gives me is fantastic! He is such a positive horse, and his mentality is just fantastic,” Hellström says.

“He is not a horse that would have caught my eye though. I was in Vilamoura in 2021 when Thomas Fuchs said he thought that Quinti, that then was ridden by Edwin Smits, would be a horse for me. My first reaction was ‘no’. Quinti is quite a big horse, and was kind of wild. However, Thomas convinced me to at least try him, so I did. I jumped about six jumps, and he just gave me that feeling – the feeling that he really wanted to jump, that he wanted to do everything right. His whole personality is like that, he has this positive, willingly way of doing anything you ask him to.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for WoSJ. "I jumped about six jumps, and he just gave me that feeling – the feeling that he really wanted to jump, that he wanted to do everything right," Hellström says about Quinti von Hof. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Hellström, who has developed several horses that have been sold to top riders, says that she trusts her feeling when trying a new horse. “I want to feel that the horse is ambitious,” Hellström says. “Then it is also a lot about the connection. I can try a horse that is very good, but that I still feel is not my kind of horse. As a person I make up my mind quickly and I’m not thinking back and forth before making a decision."

I trust my gut feeling and ask myself if I can be without this horse – if I can, the horse is not for me.

It turns out that four out of Hellström’s seven competition horses are Swedish bred. “I think that is a coincidence, but I do look a lot at Swedish horses. When there are youngster classes I usually look at the starting lists and if there is one horse I think is interesting, I watch the live stream and normally end up watching the whole class. And I must say that there are many really nice horses in Sweden. The other day I ended up watching two-year-olds free jumping," she says. 

"I think it is fun with young horses and to be able to follow them on their way to become competition horses. Next to the horses I ride myself, I have five young horses from the age of one to six being taken care of by others.” 

The importance of Nations Cups

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for WoSJ. "It has meant extremely much to be able to do these kinds of shows. Both Cicci and I gained a lot of experience, and it would have been very difficult to get into shows at that level without the opportunity to be selected,” Hellström tells about competing on the five-star Nations Cup circuit. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

During the summer of 2022, Hellström was a regular on the Swedish Nations Cup teams – something she believes has made a huge difference for her. “It has meant extremely much to be able to do these kinds of shows. Both Cicci and I gained a lot of experience, and it would have been very difficult to get into shows at that level without the opportunity to be selected,” Hellström says.  “I did Nations Cups as a young rider and at the beginning of my senior years, but after that I had no horses for it. Our Chef d’Equipe Henrik Ankarcrona has been fantastic, giving me the opportunity."

Now I really had to push out of my comfort zone and that is the only way to get better.

The Nations Cup season paid off, and in October Hellström and Cicci made their World Cup debut in Lyon. The two ended 6th after a fantastic first round. “Cicci had never even seen such an arena before, and it was the first time for both of us that we jumped a class at that height. I believe this summer’s experience – seeing many different venues, jumping on grass and on sand, as well as pushing ourselves – made us ready,” Hellström says.

Looking forward

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for WoSJ. "It is a surrealistic feeling to actually be at the level I am now, and I hope to be able to continue like this," Hellström tells. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“The plan is to do some more World Cup shows this year and then we will see. The big goal is of course to do a championship and one can only dream about doing the Olympics. It is a big dream, but you never know. It is a surrealistic feeling to actually be at the level I am now, and I hope to be able to continue like this. I feel like we are on the right track,” Hellström closes off. 

 

No reproduction without written permission, copyright © World of Showjumping.com



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