Tinne Vilhelmsson-Silfven and a “Perfect” Life

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Tinne Vilhelmsson-Silfvén and Don Auriello celebrating their biggest victory so far in Florida, the CDI5* World Dressage Masters Freestyle. © 2013 Ilse Schwarz/dressagenews.com
Tinne Vilhelmsson-Silfvén and Don Auriello celebrating their biggest victory so far in Florida, the CDI5* World Dressage Masters Freestyle. © 2013 Ilse Schwarz/dressagenews.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

For Tinne Vilhelmsson-Silfven life has never been better personally and professionally and winter in Florida enabled her to get a jump start on the year and helped propel her to the highest she has ever been in the world rankings.

The six-time Olympian for Sweden feels at home after her third winter of three months in Florida, so much so that she hopes to stay even longer next year.

“From the first day I felt very welcome,” she told dressage-news.com sitting in shirt sleeves in the sun at an outdoor delicatessen across from the Global Dressage Festival show grounds. “It didn’t take any time at all to feel a part of it.”

“It” is a calendar of 24 horse shows at four different show grounds less than 30 minutes apart beginning with the first of 12 CDIs in mid-January to the last CDI, the only Nations Cup in the Western Hemisphere, three months later. The 2014 provisional schedule looks similar.

And the 45-year-old mother of a pre-teen boy admits it feels more like home all the time, partly as she has come to understand the differences in national level competitions in Sweden and America but mostly when she’s reminded of the winter temperatures in Sweden while the sub-tropical South Florida weather helps humans enjoy an easygoing style and is “made for horses.”

“The horses really appreciate it,” she said of the three Grand Prix horses she competed in Florida this year, her London Olympic mount, Don Auriello, Divertimento and Excalibur of Avalon V.

After training outdoors in weather more typical of summer, the horses “feel really healthy even if competing the whole winter,” unlike the weariness of winters of snow, ice and a few hours of gloomy daylight.

“After the winter here we have an advantage when season starts in Europe as we have been training outdoors all winter.”

Tinne said the schedule of shows in Palm Beach provides a “super opportunity” that does not exist anywhere else for riders to compete as often as riders want without having to travel.

And she hopes it will hold her in good stead when she rides Don Auriello, an 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Don Davidoff x Wey o mey x White Star) at the World Cup Final in her homeland later this month.

The pair 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 who wil be competing for top honors at Gothenberg.

It’s 13 years since Tinne began riding fulltime 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, Tinne has advanced higher up the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) world rankings than ever before–in sixth place with Don Auriello and becoming the top ranked Swedish rider. She is still ranked 40th on Favourit, although the horse was sold to be competed by another rider, and 42nd on Divertimento.

Tinne Vilhelmsson-Silfvén and Divertimento in Florida. © 2013 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Tinne Vilhelmsson-Silfvén and Divertimento in Florida. © 2013 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

The arrangement with Antonia that has enabled her to spend winters in Florida with three Grand Prix horses competing internationally has given her more confidence.

“Professionally it has never been so good,” she said. “We are a complete team. This is the most organized time in my professional life.

“Personally I’m living my dream. It’s perfect.”

There is a balance in her life of what’s important to her–family, horses, the whole team–that enables her to perform at her peak.

“I want nothing to change, not right now. l love my life and living my life the way I want to live it. I cannot even compare life to the way it was before Antonia. Now I can focus on doing the best I can. I prefer it this way.

“I’m able to do what I always wanted to do, but I wasn’t able to do.”

She expects more Europeans to join her in Florida, though it is difficult for riders to leave their customers while others also are committed to stallion testing that is held in winter.

The longer people see that the circuit works and there is prizemoney so they can make a living while in Florida the more likelihood there is of Europeans joining the circuit.

The Global Dressage Festival in Wellington has the biggest prizemoney by far–$275,000 total for its five CDIs.