Tinne Vilhelmsson-Silfvén–Six Olympics for Sweden and Getting Better
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
For Tinne Vilhelmsson-Silfvén, the third winter in Florida has made a big difference in preparing for the biggest dressage championships, providing her with three months of competing whenever she feels like it from a lineup of shows that includes 12 CDIs and at least as many national events.
After months of training outdoors in weather more typical of summer, the horses “feel really healthy even if competing the whole winter” when they return home to Sweden in April, unlike the weariness of bitter winters of snow, ice and a few hours of gloomy daylight.
It’s 13 years since Tinne began riding for Antonia Ax:son Johnson and her Lövsta Stuteri and three years since the owner decided to bring her stable of top mounts to Florida for the winter. Antonia’s daughter lives in New York and competes at the Winter Equestrian Festival of 12 weeks of jumper competitions in Wellington.
In this time, she has advanced higher up the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) world rankings than ever before–in seventh place with Don Auriello to become the top ranked Swedish rider. She is still ranked 40th on Favourit, although the horse has been sold to be competed by another rider, and 42nd on Divertimento she is developing to be a Grand Prix mount along with a small tour horse, Excalibur of Avalon V.
A creative partnership with Freestyle composer and choreographer Cees Slings has led to performances that Stephen Clarke of Great Britain and president of the ground jury at last summer’s Olympics declared after she rode Don Auriello to victory in January’s World Dressage Masters in Florida:
“Tinne’s ride demonstrates what dressage should be all about, uphill, complete harmony, with the horse an outstanding picture.”
On Don Auriello, an 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Don Davidoff x Wey o mey x White Star) she has chalked up scores of 80-plus per cent twice in three months that puts her in the company of the likes of Adelinde Cornelissen and Jerich Parzival and Helen Langehanenberg and Damon Hill NRW.
Don Auriello is also the horse that took Tinne to London last summer for her sixth straight Olympics, writing history for the nation that dominated Olympic dressage in the first years of the Games. The pair began their CDI Grand Prix career together in Florida in 2011, their first year in Florida.
Tinne, whose mother was active as a competition organizer, started riding as a kid in the Swedish riding school system. At age 10, she got a pony, kept riding then left for Germany when she was aged 16 for one year. She moved back home to finish school then went back to Germant for four years.
She was successful, but signing on with Antonia Ax:son Johnson in January, 2000 “changed my professional life.”
The possibilities of competing as often as possible on top quality horses became a reality that was not an option as an individual.
The string of top horses has “changed a lot for me,” she said, as has coming to Florida for the past three years.
The three years have gone fast, but it is easier to come back to a place one knows, made even easier by what she describes as the “fantastic new yard” where she is based in Wellington with her husband and son, Lucas, aged 11.
Favourit was her top horse the first year in Florida and built a record of riding for Sweden in the European Championships in 2009 and 2011 and the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in 2010 before being sold for star Young Rider Sanneke Rothenberger to compete in the highly competitive Under-25 division.
Don Auriello has moved to the top of the lineup. The World Cup Final at home in Sweden in April and the Europeans in neighboring Denmark at the end of summer are the big goals for 2013. He has an enviable show record, chalking up 11 victories and two second placings in 13 starts in Florida alone.
“I want to try to do some more Olympics,” said the rider who at the age of 45 could be in several more of the Games that are held once every four years. If it happens, she would enhance her own legend.
“The main thing, though, is to have fun.
“I may not compete forever, but I’m not done yet.”
Coming to Florida, Tinne said, had made a huge difference in the way the horses are prepared for competition.
“They are much more ready in the spring time, much more fit, better trained.
“At first I was afraid they would be tired from the travel. But if the horses stayed in Sweden, the winters are cold, the weather is tough on them, especially when you travel in the snow and ice to shows.
“I couldn’t say I’d have dreamt five years ago I would be able to do this.”