To mark the end of the show season, I invited two of my favourite riders, show rider, Chanele Hunter Cooke and show jumper, Frida Lindgren to spend the a beautiful winter's afternoon with me at Prancing Horse Estate on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula.
It’s so great to have both of you girls here this afternoon. I really want to hear about the competition season that has just passed, I know you both run teams of horses. So, if we started with the very best things that happened during the competition season, Chanele what was your favourite win this season, I know you had a few, but what was your best?
"Definitely Adelaide Royal. The show horse season probably starts in September and Adelaide is our first big Royal show. It was my first show back on the horse on which I was seriously injured. It was a lot of work, a lot of rehab, a lot of training, but it paid off."
Which horse was that?
"That was Daisy Patch Soul Star, my Galloway. He won the Open Galloway class and he was Reserve Champion Galloway. So, to ride on that arena on Champion day, it’s pretty special. Only six people can go and do it. So you’re making history there and it’s great to be a part of it. Any win there is wonderful, but to get a broad sash at your very first show back is pretty special."
So, this is after the accident you had last year at Canberra Royal?
"Yes, I had a really nasty fall and sustained a brain injury. I had quite a large brain trauma and I’m still recovering from that, but it’s little steps and every day is a new type of normal. It’s been hard work, really hard work, but it’s paid off."
So, for you, what was the biggest challenge last show season?
"I guess having a two year old child is a challenge daily anyway and then having a team of horses to then work as well as train and educate and then trying to do my job, my normal job as well. That was challenging. Really hard. When they’re sick, you have to put things on hold."
When your kids are sick? I get that.
"It just became time management and trying to set little goals to amount to a really big end goal. I know that if I have an end game, I can always try to get things done and that was what I did. It’s always a challenge with kids and horses too! Keeping them fit and happy and keeping them sound and keeping their mind set good. It’s really hard, but luckily last season the work paid off which was great."
I think it’s really wonderful to hear you say that because so many people look up to you in the sport and they only see you on that main arena. They don’t see you every day and they don’t get to hear you talk about those challenges and how the challenges are daily challenges. It’s not like you wake up in the morning and everything is easy. You’ve got a child, you’ve got a job, you’ve got a team of horses and you have to somehow make it happen.
"Absolutely, I mean everyone works hard, we all work hard with our horses but it makes it really difficult when you also have the other things that life throws at you. Like family, I’ve had other personal things happen in my family this year and that’s been really challenging too. So, you just have to choose what you can and can’t do and roll with it. Then when you get in the ring, it’s game time and all your training comes into play. I think training at home when you do it properly, and do it well, when you’re in the ring and you’re competing, then it all falls into place. That’s what I love. It’s a big challenge, but I love it."
So, it’s a little different for your Frida because you’re a showjumper, not a show rider and you’re new to Australia as well. From Sweden?
"From Sweden but I have lived in Belgium for the last four years."
So, what made you decide to move to Australia?
"It was me and my partner, Philip Lever that made the decision together. We met in Beligum and we’ve been together for about three and a half years. Phil had been in Europe for over 15 years, so for him, he felt like it was time to go home and he asked me to come with him."
Welcome! Welcome to Australia!
"The other major reason was that we wanted to build a business together because we had been employees in Europe and we didn’t have our own business. For us, the best opportunity was here. Phil’s dad, Laurie has a really nice facility at Treehaven and everything is set up. So, we also had the opportunity to land there and have that as our base."
How many horses did you campaign last season?
"I have 5 horses at the shows. I have a few for clients at home as well."
So, what was your favourite win last season?
"I have to say it was Jumping with the Stars."
I love that show! It was how I met you!
"The six year old I had there, Lomachenko, when we first came here in the beginning of November, he was six years old but just broken in. So, he was broken in, but out in the paddock, a bit forgotten about. Anyway, we saw this horse that was ridden by one of Laurie’s students and we saw him jump and we knew that horse has something special, but he was bucking. Naughty little thing."
"So, we said already from the beginning of this year that Jumping with the Stars was the goal for this horse. Actually for all the young horses, that we were going to have them ready and produced for that show. That we managed to do that and to go there and win, that was amazing. It’s just a nice reward to feel that your system works. What we do every day and how we plan and the work we are putting in actually works."
So if you looked back, both of you, on the season that’s just gone, what would have been your biggest lesson? Chanel?
"Oh gosh, well a big one was when enough is enough. You have to know where you limits are, but still work towards achieving your goals. I have had to allow things to realign. Horses are always part of my life, but family is also there too, and sometimes family has to take priority. When you can combine the two of them it’s amazing but it can be really tricky. My biggest lesson is probably understanding that fine line between what you want to do and what you can achieve and achieve really well."
I think that everyone battles for balance and it’s the same for us really, having my business and Mike’s vet practice and we’ve got a child too and you’re always trying to find that balance. The way that I describe it, is I say to people okay, our family is a pie and everyone gets a slice. So Oliver gets a slice, Mike gets a slice and I get a slice. Sometimes that means compromise but we try to approach it from a whole family perspective so that everybody gets an opportunity to achieve their goals. It’s different once you’ve got kids. It’s not just about you and your goals anymore, it’s not just about what you want to achieve. You have to try and find a way to incorporate all of that.
"I think probably trusting and having more confidence in my ability and my decisions. I try to trust my own gut and what I can do and what I can achieve with my horses."
I think that’s actually a huge thing for you to say because most people would look at you out in the ring and think there’s nothing you can’t do. It’s great to hear that you are so real about it and when people read that they are going to take a step back and understand that it’s not all just being dressed up in the arena.
Frida, your challenges are probably different because you aren’t at the same stage in life that we’re at. So for you, what would you have said was your biggest lesson from the last season?
"Since I have come back here and went to the shows here which is much more relaxing, it’s not the same pressure here as there is in Europe."
So you think there is more pressure in Europe?
"Much, much more."
Where do you think that comes from?
"Well, it’s just a much bigger industry. I was living in the middle of the whole circuit and the amount of riders and the amount of horses that exist there. So, in a radius of one hour, there could be four shows on the same weekend. One international say two star, one four star, two national shows, and they are all full and they run from eight o’clock in the morning until eight o’clock at night on all three days, all four shows. It’s different, but since I got back here, I remember that I do the sport because it’s fun. I do it as my job and you do all the work but you actually do the sport because it’s fun."
Ok, like you’ve rediscovered an enjoyment in riding that maybe you had forgotten about in the day to day, living, working, competing in Europe.
"Yeah, especially the shows, you know I went to shows every weekend, the whole year almost and you’re just doing it because it’s your job. I’m a hired rider, to ride these horses at the show and I fill my truck up and it can be two new ones and I never sat on them and they’re just on the truck and you take them into the ring, you know, because it’s my job. So, here, these horses are not thrown at me because I have to do it, you know, I’m actually choosing to do it. I’m doing it because it’s fun. That’s easy to forget sometimes."
You know what, I totally hear you on that point. All of us have worked in the industry for a long time, in different capacities and it is, it’s really super easy to forget.
So, Frida is it your off season now? Does it settle down for you? What are your plans for the off season?
"So, we just came back from AQUIS in Queensland two weeks ago and now I’m putting my horses a little bit on a break. A few young ones coming in to work. I want to focus on my clients now and my students. Now I can take some focus away from me and put it on to them and help them get ready for the next season. We are also going to keep having clinics and Treehaven and run pay and jumps. We want to keep people going through the Winter."
How about you Chanele?
"There’s not that much of an off season for me, maybe a few weeks. Our shows run quite early, we have pre-royal shows and then our first royal show is in September. So, we normally like to have them in by winter solstice, fully in, under lights. I’ve started bringing in the ones who have had a little more time off because they didn’t compete at the bigger shows at the end of the season. So, not much of a break but it’s definitely not as hard. A break for me is only having a couple in, not having five or six to do. I did actually do some western shows at the end of the season."
Oh you did didn’t you! You got your buckle! Ok, so you have to tell us exactly how that happened and where that happened.
"Ok, back to setting goals for yourself. I was chatting to my gorgeous friend Janet Mansley who has quarter horses and she told me about winning belt buckles and I was like sign me up, what do I have to do? She said I could do traditional or non-traditional classes and I was like, well show queen here, I’ll do the non-traditional."
"For them, it’s a bit like show horse and you get to dress up in all your gear and you ride a show horse class on a quarter horse. It’s pretty fun. Especially when you watch them line their horses up. They all reverse park to line their horses up. It’s pretty cool."
"I had to do a bit of training with the horse, I rode HL Theodore. I competed him at Werribee for the State Titles and I won my first championship there and grand champion show horse. I didn’t get a buckle though, the buckles are only at the Nationals, so it was a bit of a test run."
"Anyway, I made the trip up to Tamworth with my husband and my son and our puppy and it was a big drive, but a fabulous event to go to. I got to compete up there with the best in the country and I was lucky enough to win the class and I won the championship and then the grand champion show horse and I got my buckle!"
"I’ve also got some off the track racehorses coming through in the off season for me to rehome and retrain, a couple arriving this week to go and do that so I will be keeping busy with them. All my young horses come in now as well. I’ll do a bit of unofficial dressage with them."
So, have you got any new horses coming through that you’re really excited about?
"Actually I do, I have a couple coming. I’m super excited about some new client horses. I also have a small hack who has sat on the backburner whilst I was pregnant and he’s really exciting."
What about you Frida? Have you got anything new coming through this season?
"Nothing new for the moment but I have one horse who I am really excited about and I think she is going to step up next season. I’m very excited about her, City Lights. We call her Carla and she is just one of those horses. It’s taken me forever to get to know this horse and to be accepted by this horse. She’s very special, she’s now stepping up and doing the futurity classes. She’s seven so she did the seven year olds at Jumping with the Stars as well. I just have a feeling that this season coming she’s actually going to take that next step and be my new Grand Prix horse. She’s the one that’s been a little bit in the shade of the other ones but I think she’s the one that going to take a big step after this break. I hope so, I’m very excited about that."
A very special thank you goes to fellow dressage rider, Jane Gordon for the time she spent showing us the beautiful Prancing Horse Estate. This organic and biodynamic vineyard is located in Red Hill South on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula.
All of the efforts at this vineyard are directed towards enriching the environment and keeping the vineyard and ground really healthy. We thought is was terribly fitting that their delicious and easy drinking chardonnay was called The Pony!
Learn more about the Prancing Horse Estate here.