We cannot believe how fast this season is flying by! Since we are already well into the month of August, it is about time we announce our EFO Rider of the Month!
For the month of August we have chosen...
We were able to sit down with Kristjan in Ottawa and ask him a few questions.
Check out what he had to say!
1. How did you enter the Equestrian Industry?
My mother Wendy was working on a farm and because of that I was always hanging out around the barn with her. I must have been around twelve or so when I asked her if I could go on a ride with her. My mom said, “if you can tack up a pony all by yourself, you can ride”. So off I went to go and tack up this pony named “Jello”. Unfortunately, I had never tacked up a pony before and ended up putting the saddle on backwards. She died of laughter, fixed the saddle and off we went for a ride. Ever since that day horses have always been in my life.
2. How did you make it to the position you are in today?
Everyone in the horse world knows that you can’t get anywhere in this industry without a lot of hard work. I was lucky enough to have an amazing team behind me who has supported me since the very beginning. With them, hard work and a bit of luck, I have managed to get to where I am today.
3. What does it take, in your opinion, to be successful in this field?
This industry is very trying, to be successful in this field it takes a lot of hard work, discipline and dedication. You must be willing to sacrifice all your time to get ahead - because there is always something to improve, learn and work on. I know it’s a cheesy saying but “if you can’t go a day without thinking about it, don’t give up on your dream”.
4. What does an average day look like for you?
An average day for me is, that I am out of the house by seven and riding my first horse of the day by eight. From there I go barn to barn, riding around eight to twelve horses per day. After all the horses are done, I normally go to the gym and from there head home. Some down time to recharge for the next day with some food and Netflix.
5. What are the most common challenges you face?
The most common challenge I face day to day is that I have a very hard time saying no to people. I was always told to ride as many horses as possible to get as much as experience as I could – but that has become a challenge today, as I often find myself taking on too much and stretching myself a little too thin. I just want everyone to be happy!
Riding wise, I have always enjoyed the challenging horses, they're always more fun to figure out and work with. However, the thing I struggle most with is my position. When I get too comfortable my position suffers, so that has been my focus over the past couple months when I am in the ring.
6. Do you have any suggestions for young riders looking to enter this field?
Hard work really does pay off, people recognize when you are willing to put in the extra effort and when you are not. For young riders, I suggest being a working student. I was lucky enough to work as a working student both in North America and Europe. Europe was an eye-opening experience. The whole process is much different over there than it is here in Canada. Going a bit off topic but, in Germany, the day starts with everyone doing all the work in the barn and only after everything is done can we start riding. It was a worthwhile experience and really expanded my depth of knowledge with horses. If you can, I would recommend going to Europe as a working student as the experience is one in lifetime.
Back to suggestions though, don’t be afraid to get dirty and do the work yourself. You must start somewhere, so don’t be afraid to take some calculated risks.
7. If you could spend a day doing a different sport, what would it be?
Hands down baseball. I was playing baseball at a pretty high level and ended up having to choose which sport I wanted to pursue – baseball or riding. I don’t exactly know why I chose riding besides the obvious reasons: the horses, community, falling in love with the sport, the competitiveness etc. My mother may have been a huge contributing reason, as she assumed that riding was just a phase for me, so to prove her wrong I chose riding.
8. If you weren’t in the Equestrian Industry, what do you think you would be doing instead and why?
Definitely some kind of trade job, something very hands on. Possibly a steel worker, wood smith or I might even be in Alaska living off the land like a local mountain man.
9. What accomplishment are you most proud of within the Equestrian Industry? (Does not have to be based on show results)
That’s a tough one, so many milestones it’s hard to pinpoint what I’m most proud of. At the end of the day though, I think I am most proud of where I am at with my career. I’ve had ups and downs, memorable and not so memorable moments. Years ago, I felt like I had a good run and unfortunately took a tumble on my climb, but right now at this very moment I feel like I am going in the right direction.
10. The most memorable horse which you have owned or ridden is _________ and why?
Grandy. Grandy, was the first horse I showed in the Junior Hunters. He was a beautiful dark bay and always nickered when he went into the ring, as if to announce to everyone that he was here and ready to compete.
What Grandy taught me was irreplaceable, he taught me how to be ready to compete when it came to showing, ring composure and how to really strive for success in the ring. He was such a solid citizen, I knew if anything were to happen it was my fault because he was such a star.
11. What is the one thing you can never go to a horse show without? (e.g. Lucky socks)
Wendy is standing, listening in on the interview and pipes in at this moment - “Wendy has to be there”.
Besides my mother having to be there, I can’t show without shiny boots. They must be insanely clean and sparkling for me to go into the ring. I want to always look professional.
12. Do you have any horse show rituals? (other than getting Tim’s at 4am)
I will not eat until I am done showing – kind of bad but, that is my thing with horse shows. I absolutely cannot eat before I am done. I find that if I eat and relax for a minute I get tired, resulting in me not being able to ride as well as I would like to.
13. What is your favourite post-horse show thing to do? (i.e. relax with a glass of wine, unpack the trailer etc.)
Since I haven’t eaten all day my favourite post-horse show thing to do is EAT. However, it all depends on when I finish. If I finish early I’ll hang around for a bit and then head out to a dinner with friends. If I finish late I go home and eat whatever I can find, sleep and get ready for the next day of horse showing.
14. What do you like to do with your horse in the off-season or off days?
I like to have light flatting days and then take them on a long walk after. Just to remind them that not every time we go into the ring is it going to be hard work, sometimes we can mess around and have fun. If I don’t feel like riding, I make sure they get out for as long as possible to just be a horse.
15. Does your horse have a favourite treat? If so, what is it?
For all the horses I ride, Stud Muffins or Horsey Bits are my go to. Since I don’t own a horse right now I give the same treats to them all.
16. What do you like to do when you manage to get some time off and away from the barn?
When I finally do manage to get away from the barn I go to the gym, hang out with my dog Beau, and spend time with family. My nephew Kolten is a huge part of my life, so whenever I can, I make sure to spend time with him.
17. Describe your dream vacation (does not have to be horse related).
Ultimate dream vacation would be to go on a cruise and stop at multiple islands. Exploring as many of them as possible. Also, to be able to get a non-horse show tan would be crucial.
18. What are you most grateful for at your barn?
Good clients and good help. The clients and everyone that helps me day-to-day make my days so much more fun and I am so grateful to have the people I do.
19. What do you do to keep in shape other than riding?
On an off week, I try and get to the gym around five times or so. During a horse show week, normally I only manage to go to the gym on Mondays.
20. Describe the funniest wardrobe malfunction that you have had when riding?
Oh man, for a showing wardrobe malfunction, my tie coming out and flapping me in the face when I have been on course was not so much fun. But at home, not tightening my girth only a couple years ago and my saddle flipping right off.
21. What is your go-to late night snack?
Ice cream, ice cream, ice cream, ice cream. Honestly, if I had to choose a flavour – vanilla, chocolate, caramel, wow honestly any ice cream and I am beyond happy.
Would you rather…
Be forced to show in paddock boots and polos or Hunter rain boots?
Show in a sleeveless shirt or a bright neon green show coat?
Fall in the warm-up ring or go into the ring with a very mud covered horse?
Split your breeches in the ring or have your reins break mid-course?
Have your horse refuse a jump or not even make it down the shoot?
Swim in the ocean with your horse or travel the mountains via horseback?