Patrik Kittel Looks Back on “Dramatic Changes” in 2012 and on to 2013

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Patrik Kittel and Watermill Scandic H.B.C. marching to victory in their first Florida competition. © 2013 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Patrik Kittel jokes that he’s going through a 36-year-old crisis–dropped by one of his top sponsors wanting more than he was willing to give, parting ways with his longtime coach, Sjef Janssen, but enjoying the independence it gives him to train his horses and build a life with his Australian wife.

What he admits is a “dramatic change” it is also another in the four-year cycles of his life–similar to athletes in many sports in which the quadrennial Olympics offers the biggest and grandest stage for their talent.

“I like being myself,” he told dressage-news.com. “I wake up every morning maybe with less money, but I decide what I do today.”

Based in Germany for the past several years, Patrik has built an enviable resumé in the sport he took up when a childhood sweetheart got him hooked on horse sports when she let him ride her Norwegian Fjord pony.

That same day, he said, he ran home to tell is mother, “I want to go to the Olympics.”

“Since that day I never wanted to do anything else.”

Patrik has made good on fulfilling his promise to himself, competing in his first Olympics, the Beijing Games in 2008, on Floresco. On his way to his second Games in London in 2012 on Scandic, a 14-year-old KWPN stallion (Solos Carex x Noraline x Amiral) the pair were on the Swedish team that turned in a fourth place finish at the European championships in 2009 then turned in a forgettable performance at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in 2010.

Bu they more than acquitted themselves by winning the bronze medal in the Freestyle at the European Championships in 2011 and confirmed the partership as one of the top combinations in the world. With Tinne Vilhelmsson-Silfvén and her string of top mounts, he helped confirm Sweden as a powerful contender for team honors in continental and world championships.

Patrik Kittel is happy with his ride on Watermill Scandic H.B.C. that won the first Swedish medal at the European Championships since 2003. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Patrik said to not train with Sjef was one of the biggest losses because he learned the most from him and always felt the Dutch trainer “stands by you in good and bad.”

“He wanted me to train more but my busness is too big,” he said, “it was at the point where I had to do my own thing, be by myself.

“I went back to square one.

“It will be difficult to replace Sjef. I’m looking for a situation like Nicole (Werner) has with Edward (Gal) and Hans Peter (Minderhoud), the person who keeps an eye on them when they are training.”

Plus, the owners of the farm that has been his long time home in Germany built a new seven-room house for he and his wife, Lyndal Oatley,  that they moved into just before Christmas. It has a garage for a couple of cars, including Patrik’s Aston-Martin Rapide.

“It’s our home in good times and bad, a secure place where we can have family and friends–that’s very important to me.

“And kids… I hope they will come sooner or later.”

That home was what led to giving up a string of top horses, including the very talented Uno Donna Unique, owned by Gestüt Peterhof. He and Lyndal did not want to move to Peterhof, and Patrik has a barn full of horses to train.

“I try not to regret the stuff I do,” he said of the two major public decisions in 2012. “You make a decision, you live with the decision. Sometimes it’s wrong one and sometimes it’s right.”

Training horses, bringing them from youngsters to as high a level as possible, is more important to Patrik than competing, though he admits he got a charge out of being the eyes on the ground for Anky van Grunsven and Salinero at the London Olympics when her husband and Dutch team coach, Sjef Janssen, was sick.

“It’s art, making horses,” he said, “tryng to make a horse as beatiful as possible. You can compare it with dancing.”

Although Patrik has a long competition record, he admits that he “gets quite nervous before going into the show ring.”

A sport psychologist suggested counting the number of negative thoughts by saying “bad” to himself. At one show, Patrik said, there were 52 “bads” but he has worked on replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts and that number is now down to 15.

As for Scandic, the KWPN stallion Solos Carex x Noraline x Amiral) that is now 14 years old, he knew after the first week it was going to work.

The plan for 2013 is the World Cup in his homeland, Sweden, at the end of April and then the European Championships in Denmark over summer.

Is Scandic the horse of his lifetime?

“Maybe. But you know what’s like. When you start you want to do an Olympics. Then when you go to an Olympics you want to get a medal, then you want to get a gold medal. It’s how the mind works.”