In honor of Peder Fredricson earning the No. 1 spot in the 2021 FEI Longines show jumping rankings, we are taking you behind the scenes at his Vitaby, Sweden, home. Since this story ran in the July/August 2020 issue of Untacked, Fredricson and All In took home the individual silver and team gold in the Tokyo Olympics, and Fredricson earned individual bronze in the 2021 FEI European Championships (Germany) with Catch Me Not S.
Situated close to the southeastern coast of Sweden, and more than an hour’s drive to the nearest big city of Malmö, the town of Vitaby doesn’t boast much. A small hotel, gas station and roadside diner are just about all there is before you hit Hanö Bay and the nearby tiny oceanside town of Kivik.
But stop at the train station in the town, which boasts a population of fewer than 300 people, and you’ll find a hint to Vitaby’s most famous resident.
Planted in the middle of the parking lot, a small statue of three green horse shoes is inscribed, in Swedish, with: “Vitaby-Grevlunda congratulates Peder Fredricson, European Champion 2017.”
Vitaby may seem an unlikely place to find one of show jumping’s most successful and popular riders, with no other horse farms and no competitions nearby. But with ocean views and easy access to Denmark and the rest of Europe across the stunning Øresund Bridge, the town was a natural place for Fredricson and his wife, Lisen Bratt Fredricson, to land 19 years ago.
On a chilly and drizzly Monday in January, I followed my GPS from Malmö through the wintery Swedish countryside and over a set of train tracks up a gravel drive to Grevlunda, home base for the Fredricsons.
Remnants of the property’s past as a fruit farm dot the side of the driveway—apple, plum and pear trees are still harvested by outside help.
After pulling into the courtyard, I’m greeted by Peder, who just finished a workout with the Swedish team physio who visits about once a month.
Then it was a rare day at home for Peder, but it definitely wasn’t a day off. He’d landed at Malmö Airport late the night before and arrived home around 2 a.m. after a weekend in Spain jumping at the Sunshine Tour, but there were still horses to be worked.
A fifth-generation horseman, Peder, [now 49], started his career as an eventer, finishing 14th at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, before switching to show jumping just before the 2004 Olympics in Athens after a lucrative offer from clothing company H&M to change disciplines.
Since swapping to show jumping full time, Peder’s become a Swedish team stalwart—competing in his new discipline at three FEI World Equestrian Games, three FEI European Championships and [three] Olympic Games—with a heady list of successes to his name. At the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics he earned individual silver with H&M All In; at the 2017 Europeans (Sweden) the pair won individual gold and helped Sweden to silver. He placed third individually at the 2019 Longines FEI World Cup Show Jumping Final, hosted in his home country and in his first time riding in the championship.
Since my visit, the world has been rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic, and now Peder’s been home for a few months. Sweden’s government set less stringent policies to deal with the virus, allowing life to go on nearly as normal but with social distancing in mind. Schools are in session; restaurants and bars are open, and the rest of the world is watching with interest.
While he’s missed out on major competitions like the Las Vegas FEI World Cup Final, which was canceled in April [of 2020], and isn’t able to sell as many horses, Peder’s found the silver lining, spending more time with Lisen and his three sons, and getting back to one of his passions, art and graphic design.
Soaking Up Knowledge
Over a cup of coffee in his spacious Scandinavian kitchen, Peder tells me he grew up riding ponies bareback in the forest outside of Stockholm with his older brother Jens Fredricson. His father, Ingvar Fredricson, now in his 80s, was an equine veterinarian.
“I think it was a good start in a life with horses because we were free,” Peder says. “We lived in the countryside and just had fun with the horses. There were no goals set up or anything like that.”
When he was 10, the family moved to the national stud and training center at Flyinge when Ingvar got a job as director. Jan Jönsson, the 1972 Olympic individual eventing bronze medalist (Munich), was based there, along with show jumper Peter Eriksson and dressage rider Kyra Kyrklund. Surrounded by some of the top riders in the country, Peder soaked up knowledge about all kinds of riding and horse care.
Peder started riding on a 3-year-old Connemara pony. When he outgrew it, the family sold it and had enough money to buy a 3-year-old off-the-track Thoroughbred mare.
Hilly Trip wasn’t fast enough at the track and had come to the stud to be a broodmare, but she didn’t take, and her owner didn’t know what to do with her. Ingvar made an offer, and the mare became Peder’s first project. Sensitive and talented, Hilly Trip changed the course of his life. He started training with Jönsson and became friends with his son Fredrik Jönsson, who would later stand on the podium with Peder at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games (North Carolina), accepting a team silver medal.
“We would go to his house, and those medals were hanging there, and his father is a fantastic man, really helpful,” says Peder. “Every day after school if we wanted to ride, he was happy to help us and train us.”
Peder and Hilly Trip became Swedish junior champions in eventing, then Scandinavian champions, then junior European champions in 1989. By 1992, they were chosen to represent Sweden at the Olympics in Barcelona. Peder was just 20—the youngest Swedish Olympic equestrian at the time. He was also in a two-year university program studying his other passion, art and graphic design, in Lund, Sweden, while preparing for the Games.
“The dressage was terrible,” Peder says with a laugh as he talks about his first Olympics. “She was an old race horse, and when I came into the dressage arena it was in the middle of the race track. I think she remembered the time she was racing. She was cantering the whole program. I was second to last. I just can’t believe anybody was worse than I was!”
But the pair rapidly moved up in the standings thanks to one of the quickest cross-country rounds and a clear show jumping trip. They went from being around 80th place to 14th.
After her career, Peder sent the mare to be bred in France, but she colicked and died there, and he still regrets not being able to have some of her offspring.
Eager to continue improving after the Olympics, Peder spent 2 ½ years training with Lars Sederholm, then went to England to ride with Mark Todd. He also rounded out his education with a year in Germany at a show jumping stable, and he trained with George Morris throughout his eventing career and during his transition to show jumping when Morris came to Sweden for clinics.
While training with Todd, Peder got the chance to ride his horse Down Under at the 1994 WEG in the Netherlands, finishing 13th.
“Those were great years, great fun,” says Peder. “Mark was a fantastic horseman. I learned a lot. A very uncomplicated, good system for riding.”
By the time he’d finished his stint with Todd, Peder knew he needed to start making money. He wanted to develop his show jumping, so he stayed with his brother, who’d become a professional, near Stockholm, riding some of his horses until a job offer at the Royal Stables in Stockholm brought him right to the middle of the city.
Peder wanted to continue improving his own riding while working at the Royal Stables, so his brother offered him his best show jumper, Rebecca, to learn on, and she gave Peder valuable experience.
“I was probably not doing her justice because I was new in show jumping, and I was just learning on her,” he says. “It was a good horse. I did some Nations Cups and did the grand prixs for the first time. It was all really new and exciting for me.”
Peder was able to bring a couple of personal horses to Stockholm, but he spent a lot of his time training the staff who drive the four-in-hand carriages for the royal family, and he was the private coach of then 10-year-old Princess Madeleine, sister of Crown Princess Victoria. On the side he traveled to other barns to coach students.
“It was really exciting to come to the middle of the city, because I’d only been in the countryside before,” he says. “At that age I had a lot of fun, and I met Lisen because she’s from Stockholm. I thought I was going to do both for a while, but because my brother and Lisen were doing show jumping, I thought I should also, so I could go with them to shows.”
Lisen first learned of Peder when she was 15.
“My mother gave me this Swedish equestrian newspaper that came every second week,” she says. “I was quite a difficult teenager—didn’t want to go to school, like 15-year-old daughters can be. She gave me this newspaper and said, ‘Oh, look at this boy. He’s exactly like you! He’s drawing and riding.’ I was just so furious and angry at her giving me advice on boyfriends!”
She met Peder in her 20s, and they bonded over their love of art and horses. “He was a bit nonchalant and a little bit of a daydreamer—good looking and not so interested in talking to people!” Lisen says with a laugh.
After a year at the Royal Stables, Peder and Lisen moved to her family farm to start their business. They turned an old cow barn into a stable and took horses for training.
“At that time she was the one of the two of us who was most successful,” says Peder. “She had one horse called Casanova that she rode in Sydney [2000 Olympics] that she later sold to Alison Firestone. I was also competing but helping her a lot, driving the truck to competitions. We were doing everything together.”
“We had quite a rough period of five years working really hard,” Lisen adds. “When I sold my horse that I had at Sydney, we had the possibility to buy our own farm.”
Getting Grevlunda Going
While the view of Hanö Bay is beautiful, there’s not much equestrian activity near Vitaby. An ancient stone castle ruin, Vallabacken, serves as a landmark as you get closer to Grevlunda. Peder describes the area as full of artists and with a speed of life that’s quite slow.
The Fredricsons were closer to the city and more equestrian sport near Stockholm, but it was expensive and a full day’s drive just to leave the country to get to other European shows.
They found Grevlunda through a friend. Lisen loves the ocean, and Peder likes hills for training his horses, a remnant of his eventing days, so while the place was a fixer-upper, it felt right.
“This house stood empty for 50 years,” says Peder. “No windows, nothing. I’ve spoken to people around here who were playing here as kids, jumping in and out. Then a woman bought it, and she put windows in and fixed it, then we bought it off her.”
The Fredricsons added the horse facilities. The stone barn houses up to 35 horses, and several staff members live on site in apartments. At about 80 acres, the farm has plenty of room for hacking, and Peder’s put in a track through the woods to get horses fit.
Soon after the Fredricsons moved to Grevlunda, Charlotte Söderström, Swedish billionaire and heiress to H&M, wanted to bring Peder on as a sponsored rider—but only as a show jumper. The company was already sponsoring top show jumper Malin Baryard-Johnsson and was seeking a male rider for their team. Söderström’s since bought several horses for Peder to compete.
Peder says he was surprised he was chosen since he was still just a national rider at the time and was working part time as a graphic designer and artist, which he did until about [seven] years ago.
“In one way it was fantastic to have a group of people to work with—before I did it for myself, then I did it for somebody else also. It was giving meaning to what I was doing—every success I could share with somebody,” he says. “But on the other hand, it meant a lot of pressure. When I came in they had Malin Baryard, and she was one of the top riders in the world. I was national level and kind of average, so it was a big step I had to make. But it was good for me because it was just what I needed at that time.”
About a year after making the transition to professional show jumper, Peder went to the Olympics in Athens with H&M Magic Bengtsson, a Holsteiner gelding (Andos—Alanda, Lagretto) he considers his first big-time horse. They also went on to compete at the 2005 FEI European Championships (Italy).
Peder went to two more WEGs—in Kentucky in 2010 with H&M Arctic Aurora Borealis and in 2014 in France with Sibon. Meanwhile Lisen competed in her second Olympics in 2012 in London on GDE Matrix before slowing down her competition career as the couple grew their family.
The Fredricsons became known for sourcing top horses and bringing along young ones. They developed and sold Fibonacci 17 to Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, and GDE Matrix sold to Argentina’s José Maria Larocca, who took him to the WEG in 2014.
But Peder says they’re not a dealing stable—when the timing is right they’ll sell a horse, or they might keep it for him to ride. He estimates 95 percent of the horses they buy come from Sweden.
“We have really good breeding in Sweden; we know the breeders in Sweden, and we know young horse riders, so we know the market, and we feel safe in knowing what we’re buying,” he says. “We only buy horses we really believe could be superstars.”
The Making Of All In
One of those superstars was All In, or “Allan,” as he’s known in the barn. Now [15 in 2021], the bay Belgian Warmblood gelding (Kashmir Van Schuttershof—Fortune, Andiamo Z) was spotted by Peder at the FEI World Championships for Young Horses in Belgium when he was 7. Nicola Philippaerts had been riding him for a year for his breeder Bas Huybregts.
Peder was searching for a horse to ride in the 2016 Olympic Games, and Söderström was ready to buy him one.
“It’s so difficult to find [a good horse]. Now I know even more how difficult it is,” he says. “I was looking and couldn’t really find anything, and nothing happened. After a while she said, ‘Do you want to go or not? Do you want to do this or not?’ And I decided I had to set off time to really find this horse. I spent a lot of time looking at horses. I went to Germany and Belgium and Holland. I could see the horse had something. He was green, but I really liked what I saw. I went there the next day and took a few jumps, and I thought it was the best horse I ever tried. I called Charlotte and said, ‘This is the horse we’ve been talking about. The only problem is he’s twice the budget, but this is the horse if you want to buy a horse.’ Luckily she did.”
Peder says when he tried Allan, he hadn’t had many great horses, and he doesn’t think he’ll get another feeling like that trying a horse.
“When I tried him he was really, really explosive. But he was hot also and small,” he says. “All horses don’t have everything, but the jump I really liked. You could feel he was super careful and really quick off the ground. At that time I didn’t know if he had a lot of scope because he was only 7, so you can’t try it super big. I got him home, and as you always do, you have some ups and downs, but I never stopped believing in him because I felt he had something extra.”
Peder passed up a chance at riding on the European Championships team when the gelding was 9 because he felt it was too early.
“He was from the beginning a very talented horse, but like many of the good ones, if he saw something, he’d just run away!” says Lisen. “As a rider, you just have to be very calm, because otherwise he gets very tense. I think they have a special bond because Peder is a perfect rider of a horse like that; he really relaxes with Peder on his back. With that horse he could really use his skills to listen to the horse and be a soft rider and ride the horse in balance.
“A rider like Peder and a horse like All In is the perfect match, and that’s just what happened—you had a talented horse who was difficult in many ways, and that’s why I think the bond is really strong,” she adds.
By 2016, Allan was peaking just as Peder had hoped. He was the only horse in Rio to not touch a pole, and they just missed out on the individual gold medal to Great Britain’s Nick Skelton and Big Star by being slightly slower in the jump-off.
“Now we could be much quicker in the jump-off, but at that time I took him fairly slow, and I hadn’t really gone fast so many times. We just wanted to get him ready to do clear rounds for the Olympics,” says Peder. “It was unbelievable. The Olympic Games is once every fourth year, and everyone who works with horses knows that things are happening all the time. You can have the best horse in the world; you can be really well prepared; you go to the other side of the world, then once you get there your horse gets an abscess or a cold or whatever, so it won’t happen. Or you have a fence or two down.
“I knew I had a really good horse, and I knew I had a chance to take a medal, and everything went as planned,” he continues. “Then you feel really, really grateful, because you’re going to go many times well prepared, but it’s just not going to happen for various reasons. I was really grateful for getting that individual medal.”
Lisen described Peder as extremely prepared heading into Rio. “He knew the pressure, and he had a strong tactic going there,” she says. “He knew he was able to take that medal if everything went to plan. He knew it was seven rounds, including the training rounds, and he knew exactly every step he needed to do in the warm-up. He was very mentally prepared. In the final, he was just in a bubble—like a robot.”
At shows, Peder’s the one walking his courses with a pen and paper, writing down notes about the track, and he enjoys reading about sports psychology and how to handle mental challenges. On his reading list before Rio? “The Way Of The SEAL: Think Like an Elite Warrior to Lead and Succeed” by Allyson Edelhertz Machate and Mark Divine.
But the meticulous preparation and influx of attention surrounding his Olympic medal took a toll on Peder, and by January 2017 he was battling pneumonia. He didn’t compete for two months.
“I was overworking maybe a little bit, then I got ill and was really sick,” he says. “The silver medal opened a lot of doors, and I was working hard to make the most out of it, and maybe I was working a bit too hard. I got this cold, but I really enjoyed it because everything was going my way, so I worked even though I was sick. I should have rested when I was sick.
“But saying that, it was also good,” he continues. “One thing was, OK, I was working too hard, but on the other hand, if I wasn’t working as hard as I did, I got a lot of things done during that time.”
Allan had also undergone colic surgery in October after the Olympics after several minor episodes over a short period of time.
“He’s not the easiest horse to manage,” says Peder. “He’s got some tying up problems that we needed to take care of and colic problems and all sorts of different issues with him. He’s a great horse but probably the most difficult horse I have to keep going. I have to work hard to have him feel happy.”
Allan recovered well and began competing again the next spring, and Peder returned to competition refreshed and ready to battle it out at the 2017 FEI European Championships in his home country that summer. There they earned individual gold and team silver.
All In had a relatively light year in 2018 due to a slight back issue at the end of 2017, and Peder elected to take H&M Christian K to the WEG (North Carolina) where he helped his team win silver.
Peder’s horses normally have a break from competition between December and April, so he’d never competed in an FEI World Cup Final, but when the competition came to Gothenburg in 2019, he knew he wanted to go. He took Allan and Catch Me Not S and finished third overall.
“It was great,” he says. “The atmosphere in Gothenburg last year, I never felt anything like it. It was unbelievable atmosphere. The Swedish audience is amazing.”
The pair continued a great year with five-star grand prix wins in Stockholm, Falsterbo (Sweden) and Hamburg (Germany).
“He knows All In like he knows his own son,” says Stephanie Holmen, Peder’s assistant rider of seven years. “He can tell the first second he walks out of the stable what mood All In is feeling. I can just see they have a special connection.”
Swedish rider Henrik von Eckermann grew up riding with Peder from his junior days and has since ridden on several teams with his mentor, including the 2016 Olympics. When asked about Peder’s relationship with All In, von Eckermann says, “Peder has always been the same, always a horseman. He always had a goal and worked for it, then the horse came along and put the crown on top of it.”
Life Around Grevlunda
Peder had ambitions of competing in the Tokyo Olympics [in 2020], but instead he’s had a forced vacation from competition thanks to the coronavirus.
“When they announced [the postponement of Tokyo], it was quite hard. The Games was something I work hard for and have been preparing for a long time for. That’s when I realized how severe this thing was,” he says. “It’s the same for everybody. That’s the unique thing about this situation—it’s not just one country; it’s the whole world going through the same thing.”
With the extra weeks at home, Peder’s been spending more time with his sons, Bill, Carsten and Hjalmar. So far only Bill is interested in riding and has a pony, while Carsten enjoys hanging out with his friends, and Hjalmar “sleeps with a football in his bed.”
Peder’s been getting back into some painting and watercolor during his downtime, pursuing an interest that had fallen by the wayside once he started having success with Allan.
During the height of his artistic career, Peder sold his work and still sells prints on Lisen’s equestrian commerce website getthegallop.com. He’s designed images for several shows like the Stockholm International Horse Show, as well as some equestrian apps, stud farms and private equestrian clients, though his most recognized work is probably the set of Fédération Equestre Internationale pictograms that launched in 2012, which depict each FEI discipline. He won a contest out of 85 submissions from 17 countries.
“I think I have my own style a little bit, but I like to have it quite clean and a bit bold. I want a bit of movement in the things,” he says. “I think everybody has their own style. Once you’re into it then it’s relaxing in a way because you’re working and really focused on one thing, and then you can relax the other things. But that’s why it doesn’t really work to do it when you’re on the level I am now competing. Now it’s always things all the time—I have to book the flights and make sure the horses are on their way, and there are always things. When I paint I just go in that world, and I don’t do other things, and people get really annoyed with me because nothing works. That was a reason I stopped painting. It doesn’t really work to combine it—not on my level.”
A typical day at Grevlunda includes Holmen riding most of the young horses, and Peder schooling some and checking in with her. Holmen’s had her own success to the five-star level, including with Flip’s Little Sparrow, a horse Peder competed from the start and gave to Holmen to compete a few years ago.
“Both Peder and Lisen are really nice people,” says Holmen. “They try to see everything not only from their own perspective but from the employee’s perspective. The way he works with his horses, I admire it so much. Even after seven years, I can still sit and watch him ride his horses, and it’s like magic. I don’t know what he does, but he gets every horse with him in a way that not so many other riders get the horses with them. He really brings the best out of every horse he sits on. I admire that.”
Typically, when there isn’t a pandemic, Peder is gone from Wednesday or Thursday through the weekend showing. Lisen takes care of scheduling and emails, but she’s also busy with her website and several other endeavors, including organizing and running several of Sweden’s biggest horse shows, putting on a young horse auction every year, organizing the Swedish Equestrian Gala and finding young horses.
Peder’s eventing background has clearly influenced his training philosophies and facilities. His horses do lots of hill work and hacking, and he’s recently converted an old fruit tree field into a grass arena. He tries to stay away from the sand arena as much as possible since the horses are on artificial footing most weekends, and he believes hacking through the forest is great for soundness of body and mind.
But would he ever go back to eventing?
“I loved eventing. I think it’s a beautiful sport when it’s a good rider and a good horse and a nice track,” he says. “Saying that, it’s the same in show jumping or dressage: If the rider’s not good, or the horse is not good or happy, it’s not nice to watch. It’s not nice to watch a horse that’s not well prepared or competing in a class when it’s not good enough. I wouldn’t say I miss it because I’m so up in show jumping, and it’s super interesting, but I have very good memories. I love the feeling of having a Thoroughbred horse really fit and going to a show, and you have to walk the cross-country and prepare for the dressage. It’s great.”
Lisen has seen how the eventing background influences his riding now.
“In eventing you have to have a strong connection with your horse to get him over those fences. The horses really have to trust in you as a rider, so that was his strongest talent—to get horses to cooperate with him,” she says. “His main passion of riding is that he loves to work with horses. He has a very soft style of riding. He’s the person who would be going out at 10 or 11 o’clock in the evening just to longe a horse or do things that people that are really passionate about things do. They dream about it, and they do it in the evening and in the night, and he’s that kind of person.”
Peder says the Swedish team doesn’t have a coach, and every rider does what works for his or her own system.
“All team riders are different. If you’re making it to the kind of level that you’re representing your team at the Olympic Games, then you have to be true to yourself also, and you have to be the way you are,” he says. “We have a great team spirit in our Swedish team, and I think that’s because we know each other really well, and everybody accepts that everybody is the way they are.”
Peder says the best trainers are the five-star riders he gets to watch every weekend. “Because who can teach you better than the ones that beat you? Those are the ones you’re going to try to learn from,” he says.
While he doesn’t train with Peder anymore, von Eckermann says he’s always available to chat at shows, and they bounce ideas off each other.
“I believe, and he also believes, that in this sport, we are never fully learned, and there are always new things we can learn,” he says. “I always see the shows as the biggest training camp of them all. You see the best riders in the world, and you can always try to find something and find an answer by these unbelievable riders. It’s training for free. You just have to look for it yourself. He’s a super guy to talk to and discuss with. If he doesn’t know he won’t tell you some bullshit. He’s very honest in his opinions, and that’s good.”
I finish my visit with Peder in his spacious indoor arena watching him school H&M Christian K. The gelding seemed to have a big personality in the barn, posing for photos and eagerly pawing in the wash stall as Peder’s grooms got him ready to ride.
Peder quietly longed the gelding to loosen up and chatted with Holmen while she rode a young horse, then he hopped on Christian K to school him on the flat. The top horses rarely jump at home, he tells me.
I ask him what’s next for his career and what’s left to accomplish. He doesn’t tell me a bucket list; he enjoys the process of improving himself and his horses.
“When you think back you realize—last year was really, really good,” he says. “But I think it’s the same with all riders on a certain level. You never feel you’re good enough. You’re always looking forward. In one way I know it’s been going really well, but I’m only looking forward. I would really like to be better and improve.
“I feel I have a lot of things to still achieve,” he adds. “It’s not like I sit down and feel like I’ve been really good. It’s both motivation and stress—how you want to push yourself forward a bit more because you know if you don’t, you’re never going to make it. As soon as you relax and think you’re good, you’re on the way down, and I don’t feel like it at all, so I hope I still have a few more years!”
This article first appeared in the July/August 2020 issue of the Chronicle of the Horse Untacked.
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