From fear of horses to fearless riding – Ludwig Svennerstal – 30 Under 30

Ludwig is single girls. Sorry we cannot give out his phone number.

His parent’s could never have envisioned that their little boy who was terrified of horses would someday storm around the Olympics as a world-class eventer. In 2012, Ludwig Svennerstal (SWE) did just that. Now, at the age of 24, his success continues, placing in the top ten at two different four-stars, on two different horses in the past two years. He produces horses to the top levels; coaches; and studies part-time. He has big plans and he has the ability, making him one one of the world’s Top 30 Under 30.

Parents were thinking football
Ludwig’s parents started riding after he was born and they developed an interest in horse riding at the lower levels. Through them, Ludwig’s interest in horses began.

“I wanted to ride but I was very scared at the beginning. My parents questioned if I really wanted to do it because I was so afraid of horses for the first few years. They even thought it would have been better if I played football. I started riding at seven and until age ten, I was terrified of horses. Then it turned around and I became more serious about my riding when I was around 14. I think I just naturally overcame my fear. It is difficult to say because I was so young. My confidence grew the more I rode I guess, ” Ludwig says.

World class training and a move to England
As Ludwig became more serious about riding, he started training with Peter Markne (Swedish Grand Prix dressage and show jump rider). He credits Peter for much of his early development as a rider. “He has been a great inspiration for me, I was based with him for two years before I moved to England. When I was at his place I became more professional and dedicated to the sport.”

At 19 years of age, Ludwig moved to England and was based with Christopher Bartle (German Event Team Coach) for three years. “It was really fantastic I learned so much there and I owe him so much for my success,” he reflects.

Galloping in England...looks like fun.

Galloping in England…looks like fun.

Badgerstown
Now he is based at Badgerstown, Sir Mark Todd’s yard. He is thoroughly enjoying this experience. “Each day is a little different. I am studying a bit in the winter but I rent some boxes here and most of the time we ride together in the arena. Me, Mark and Tom (McEwen) are the main riders. We share advice among each other. Mark is sharing the most obviously. It is a really fantastic environment because everyone is so friendly and Mark is like a mentor and helps a lot. He is a really, really nice guy and good trainer. We have a few lessons but he also shares some advice when we ride together. Watching him is very interesting you learn a lot from that,” says Ludwig.

Being based at Sir Mark Todd’s facility would certainly be a dream for many. One cannot help but wonder how it happened for Ludwig. So we asked Mark and he explained, “Ludwig was basically looking for a new base. He was up North and wanted to move to a place down in the area where I am. I had some stables available and so he moved in. He did not necessarily move here to train with me; it was going to be a more convenient place for him. Obviously being in our environment and our facilities was probably one of the reasons he chose to come here.”

Mark also shared a little about Ludwig, “He is a very natural rider. He sits well and has great balance on a horse. He has a good feeling on the flat for what is required and how to make a horse go in the correct way. Jumping wise, again he has balance, rhythm and a good eye. He also has a competitive nature, which you also need. The one thing I keep telling him is he needs to be a little bit softer. He can get a bit tight in his body and in his arms and get a little strong. We are working on getting him to ride in a softer way.”

Mark enjoys having the up and coming riders based at Badgerstown, he says, “These guys are both really nice gentlemen (Ludwig and Tom). Having them here keeps me enthusiastic. It is always good to watch other people ride. We feed off each other a little bit. Sometimes one will set up some jumping exercises that might be a different to what we usually do so it adds variety. It is good having young people around it keeps me young; I have to keep up with them. ”

Ludwig and Alexander

Ludwig and Alexander

Four star producer
Ludwig competed his first four star at the age 21 on King Bob, the only horse that he purchased as a school master. He prefers to produce horses himself and has produced notable successes. He explains “I think it is important to build a partnership and relationship with a horse, it is much better to start with them at an early stage. It takes time if you want to achieve really good results.”

Horses produced by Ludwig include:

  • Shamwari 4, Ludwig’s 2012 Olympic horse. Sold in 2014 to Boyd Martin (USA).
  • Tempranillo, Ludwig rode him at the CCI3* Blenheim. Sold to Christopher Burton (AUS) who, with this purchase, won Hartpury CIC3* 2013 and placed 22nd at Pau CCI4* 2013.
  • Livingstone, Ludwig rode him to the three star level. Sold to Piggy French (GBR). The horse is currently with a young rider, Will Furlong, recently winning the Houghton Hall Young Rider CCI2*.

“We have always bought really nice young horses and produced them. If you start with good materials, they result in good horses in the end. I have some horses from Sweden, some from Germany, one or two Irish ones. It just depends on what I come across.”

Planning for 2015 and beyond
The last couple of years he has had success and failure at four-star competitions. In 2014 at Badminton, Ludwig placed 8th on Alexander, and was eliminated on King Bob. However, in 2013 at Burghley, he placed 8th on King Bob. His rides at these competitions have given him valuable information to make plans for competing in the future,  “I did Badminton this year and loved it but it is tough on the horses. It will be hard to prepare for the European Championships time wise after doing Badminton. With my best horse Alexander, I will focus just on the Championships. But with King Bob, I think I will go to Badminton. I really wanted to go to Rolex. If Shamwari 4 did not sell to Boyd last year, I would have gone. Right now, I do not have enough four-star horses to have some at Badminton and some at Rolex. Plus, you would want a horse that you knew could be high enough placing to make it financially possible to go over.”

European Championships are the goal for 2015 as Sweden is in the hunt for an Olympic team qualification. Ludwig is optimistic, “I think we have a very good chance. We had a dreadful year this year but hopefully we can rise from that. Sara Algotsson Ostholt had a baby and she will be back. We should have a strong team for next year.”

Ludwig does some teaching and he is making plans to get back to Sweden to conduct some clinics. It is important for him to maintain a presence in his homeland. Many are familiar with Sweden’s popular Malmar CIC3* event and Ludwig is very pleased with how Eventing is expanding at home. “The number of events in Sweden is growing. They are trying quite hard to build it up. I am really positive about how Sweden has improved since I have left. I am impressed with some new events coming up and the quality of the events. There are still not many events and that is the difficulty.”

This winter, Ludwig is pursuing part-time university studies at Cass Business School, one of the top schools in England. Studying will not impact his plans to compete at the 2016 Olympics. His ability to produce horses and his competitive results demonstrates that he has what it takes to be one of the world’s best. Mark says, “Ludwig’s best horse, Alexander, is a very smart horse that could very well be a medal contender for Rio.”

It will be interesting to watch Mark and Ludwig battle for gold.

To keep up with Ludwig daily:
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Alexander and Ludwig...a very handsome pair.

Alexander and Ludwig…a very handsome pair.

All photos courtesy of Ludwig.

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