Peder Fredricson on horsemanship: “The horse is your responsibility, so you need to get involved and be engaged”
What is good horsemanship? WoSJ speaks with Sweden’s Olympic hero Peder Fredricson who shares his opinions.
Peder has grown up in a family with a strong equestrian heritage. His grandfather was involved with horses, his father Ingvar Fredricson is a Vet Med Dr, PhD, and his brother Jens Fredricson is also an international showjumper. “I have been lucky to have very capable horse people around me that have taught me a lot. I also think it is a big advantage to have been active in different disciplines and to have had so many horses on different levels – everything from youngsters to championship horses,” Peder, who has competed at championship level in both eventing and jumping, says. “However, you never get fully educated and I still have a lot to learn.”
"For me, horsemanship is to take care of the horses in the best possible way. That includes everything that you can do to make the horses feel good and perform at their best – how you handle them, feed them, shoe them and how you match them for shows. Actually, horsemanship is all about knowledge, and to practice it well you have to know as much as possible about all the different aspects of the life of your horse.”
"For me, horsemanship is to take care of the horses in the best possible way."
“We want the horses to feel good because we love them, but they also perform better when they feel well,” Peder points out. “To be able to make the horses feel their best, we need to understand how they function mentally and physically as well as what needs they have. It is important to not mix the horses’ feelings with human feelings. This might seem obvious, but we still sometimes transfer our own feelings to the horses.”
Peder believes that we all need detailed knowledge about our horses. "You really need to get to know your horse and you need to be able to feel your horse, both mentally and physically. Only then you will be able to pick up on something bothering the horse and try to figure out what it is and what changes need to be done to move forward and become better," Peder points out. "Of course, you need a cooperation with a hoof specialist, a veterinarian and other professionals, but you can’t leave everything on them – you need to be involved to estimate on your own. I think it is difficult for the vet to know better than the rider how the horse feels; the vet might only see the horse every second month while as a rider you are there nearly every day. I don’t believe in just going to the vet and leave everything in their hands.”
"You really need to get to know your horse and you need to be able to feel your horse, both mentally and physically."
“The same goes for the farrier, I don’t think it is enough to leave your horse to get their hooves done every 6-8 week. Try to learn everything you can about your horse’s hooves, learn what kind of shoeing it seems most comfortable with,” Peder continues. “As a rider you also need to take care of other aspects such as what your horse eats, the equipment you use on the horse, and so on.”
“In my stable I take responsibility for all of these aspects of the management and then I decide which professionals I like to work with. Don’t leave all the decisions to ‘someone else’ – make sure you have the control and find the professional people you trust to work together with. You need to get involved and be engaged in your horse,” Peder says.
Peder is of the opinion that without good horsemanship, you can’t be successful. “In general, there is very good horsemanship at the top of the sport and the horses are well cared for. If the riders don’t do it well enough themselves, the grooms normally do. A good team is very important, and the horses wouldn’t perform as well as they do if they were not well taken care of.”
"Don’t leave all the decisions to ‘someone else’ – make sure you have the control and find the professional people you trust to work together with."
Peder is always open to try new things to make himself and his horses improve. “I like development and when things move forward. Some people prefer to keep it the same way all the time, but I’m excited to try new things and to learn more,” Peder says. “One thing that really interests me is the equipment and I think we will see a lot of development in this area in the future. Right now, we compete and train with the same equipment and no one cares about the weight. The only things that change for us between training and showing is that we put on a jacket and wear a different colour on our breeches. I think this is something that really will change in the future, since the sport is in a constant development – the margins are getting smaller and the details more important.”
A new approach for Peder in the management of his horses has been to have some of them barefoot. "Right now, most of my horses have shoes on, as they will compete on grass over the coming weeks. However, many of my horses have been competing barefoot – and will be in the future too. It is not like I’m saying that all horses are better barefoot, you need to understand which horses that feel better without shoes and during which periods. This is very individual. Get to know your horse, how it feels the best and also how the hooves look and grow when they are without shoes. It is not either or, this is good knowledge about different ways to take care of the hooves to make the horses perform at their best.”
"I don’t think it is black or white, I think it is more about what the individual horse is most comfortable with."
“I know it is nothing new having horses barefoot, but earlier it was very extreme in one way or the other – like it was only one thing that was right, barefoot or with shoes – and that made the whole discussion almost negative,” Peder says. “I don’t think it is black or white, I think it is more about what the individual horse is most comfortable with. Now, when the top riders have started to catch interest in riding some horses barefoot and they have seen the effects of it, I think the development moves faster. The blacksmiths are sovereign on shoeing, however, there are very few of them competing at 1.60m level so they don’t have the ability to feel the difference.”
“As it is now, we shoe our horses every 6-8 weeks and these shoes are supposed to cope with all that might come during this period of time,” Peder says. "It is like a skier would have to use the same ski wax for eight weeks, or a Formula 1-car would use the same tires for eight weeks."
"It is of course simple for us to just change the shoes every second month, but the question is if it is the most optimal? Maybe we need to change between barefoot, shoes and different hoof protection more often and be a bit more open in order to reach the best performance?”
As Peder has several of his horses’ barefoot in periods throughout the year, he now also lets his top horses go out in the field together. “I’m now turning out the horses together, two and two, which I haven’t done earlier. They move more natural, and much more as well, as they are able to scratch each other and interact more," Peder explains. "This is good both for their brains and bodies. It also means that they can be turned out even longer than before, since we use less fields. During the winter, the horses were out the whole day in a big grass field. Now during the summer, they are out a couple of hours in a big field with lots of grass and spend the rest of the day in a smaller field with less grass.”
"Having the horses out together might be more for myself – it gives me satisfaction: I love seeing them like that."
Peder is not worried about injuries that might appear when turning out the horses together. “When they are barefoot, the risk of injuries is very small. Shoes are more slippery and makes it more likely that the horses will hit themselves,” he points out. “I actually do like when the horses take a race or a run now and then – I think they need the freedom to do that and it is natural for them. On the other hand, I don’t think horses being turned out is crucial, but I think it is a piece of a bigger puzzle."
"And to be honest, having the horses out together might be more for myself – it gives me satisfaction: I love seeing them like that."
Original text © World of Showjumping