Mie Ostersen can’t remember a time when she wasn’t entrenched in the horse world, as her parents raised her in the thriving harness racing industry in Varberg, Sweden. But she didn’t really get introduced to show jumping until she was a teenager. Now, at age 23, she’s one of the top grooms at Irish Olympic show jumper Cian O’Connor’s stable with an FEI World Equestrian Games on her resume and the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games on her to-do list.
“My father trained trotting horses, and my mother would help with the riding and grooming of the horses,” Ostersen said. “From an early age I started grooming and riding my horses at home. All my basic skills I have learned from my parents. They taught me a lot, and I’m grateful for it. I can always call and talk to them. It’s great to have a family that understands the sport and the time it takes to do what I do.
“[Harness racing] is very different from show jumping,” Ostersen continued. “But in the end, we want the same final result. We want happy horses that want to do the job.”
Growing up, Ostersen helped take care of her family’s trotters and rode them when she could. Her father also worked as a farrier, and when she was 15, he introduced her to an Irish show jumping couple, Michael Whyte and Sarah Murphy, for whom he shod horses.
“I was interested in seeing a different side of the horses. I’d been doing the racing thing for so long with my dad. That’s when I first fell in love with the sport,” Ostersen said. “I would go to the stable most days after school, and on the weekends we would go to shows. I rode their horses and groomed them. They taught me a lot. It was also a different language; I got to practice my English.”
After Ostersen graduated from high school in 2016, she went to visit Whyte and Murphy in Ireland, where they’d returned after their sojourn in Sweden. She wanted to take a year off before university and thought about traveling, but she also needed to work. Whyte and Murphy connected her with O’Connor, and the job with him was a good fit.
“I found out that I could do that with grooming—work with horses and see the world—so I thought it would be a great idea,” Ostersen said. “I got the chance to spend the winter in Florida, and it was nice. I thought it couldn’t get much better!”
O’Connor is based in Ireland, winters in Florida, and he travels extensively to compete. “I’ve been to so many countries!” Ostersen said. “There are times we’re busy, but there are also times afterward when we make time to see things. When we were in Paris, we got to see the Eiffel Tower and see a few things around town, which was cool as I’d never been to Paris before. I’ve gone to Dubai as well, which is such a different culture. In Florida is when we get to see the most of an area, because we’re based there for so long, three to four months. We’ve gotten to travel a good bit then.”
Ostersen enjoys helping O’Connor. “Before I started, I’d heard that he was hard to work for, but we get along quite well,” she said. “He knows I mind his horses well, and I know what he likes. We have long days, but they’re usually really good days. He’s a quite fair man to work for. He is very organized and always has a plan! He always puts the horses first, no matter what.”
When O’Connor’s team is in Ireland, they’re based at Karlswood, a state-of-the-art facility in County Meath. “The new facility here is a beautiful place to work, with absolutely everything you could think of, from water treadmill to salt room, spa and vibrating floor,” said Ostersen. “Our horses get to go on the water treadmill, and they all love it. They get to work out at the same time as they get to splash in the water. After jumping they get to go on the spa. On other days they would go on the vibrating floor or go in the salt room. A horse that is well-minded is also a horse that will feel good!”
Ostersen’s primary goal is to keep her charges content. “I keep my horses happy with a lot of grooming and snacks,” she said. “It’s important to have them out in the field, and if they can’t go in the field I would bring them out for grass. I keep my horses happy with a nice straw bed. We find they tend to lie down more in the straw instead of shavings. There is nothing better than a relaxed horse that can enjoy a good nap. Last but not least, it’s important to reward the horses if they do something good. That’s where the treats come in. Most horses are happy when they get food!”
Ostersen doesn’t ride much in her role with O’Connor, but she doesn’t mind. “I love just spending time with the horses, grooming them, taking them out for grass, bonding with them,” she said. “When you get to spend a lot of time with them, you know what the horse is like, and if there’s an issue, you notice it. I love seeing the horses happy.”
PSG Final is one of Ostersen’s favorite charges, and she’s taken care of him for two years. “I love the ones that are a bit special, that there’s something different to them,” she said. “PSG Final is very much one-of-a-kind. He makes me smile every day! He loves napping; you could leave him napping for hours.”
A highlight of her time grooming was when a jubilant Irish team, including O’Connor riding PSG Final, won the Longines FEI Nations Cup Final at Barcelona (Spain) in 2019. “Not only did we win, we also qualified for the Olympic Games in Tokyo. It was our last chance to qualify! We knew what we had to do, and as a team, we secured the qualification,” she recalled.
Another memory she’ll cherish is accompanying O’Connor and Good Luck to the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina. “Good Luck has always been in the stable, and he’s the kind of horse that you never thought you’d get to mind, but I actually got to mind him for a while and to do the World Equestrian Games with him, which was really cool for me,” she said. “It was a great experience. Just to be there and be able to groom that horse was a big thing for me.”
Ostersen originally intended to take one year off before starting university, but it’s now been four years, and she doesn’t have plans to change course just yet. “I take one day at a time. My goal right now is to do the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2021,” she said. “I would like to go back to school one day. But that could be a year or two down the line. I’m still young, and right now I’m very happy with my life.”