A portrait of Victoria Gulliksen
She rides up to ten horses a day. And when she’s not riding, she is constantly on the run. Victoria Gulliksen was born into the equestrian lifestyle and could have chosen an easy life. But a day without splinters, dirty boots and horses of different skill-sets is unknown to Victoria.
By: Celine Mee Storrvik / Translation: Morten Hofgaard Jørstad
Photo: Madeleine Delp Bergsjø
At first glance, Victoria looks the part. In Norway the sport is often aligned with a high level of resources. We meet Victoria standing in the courtyard of her families’ top-modern facility. She was raised this way and fits perfectly into the image. Born into the possibility of riding on the very highest level. But the prejudices quickly shatter when Victoria sits down on a rare break. She crosses her legs, smiles happily and tells us to ask whatever we want. This is not a woman that has been handed everything without any costs. Victoria is as tough as they come.
On an average day Victoria rides about ten horses. Five horses on the competitive level. The rest is a mix of young horses and other horses that are sent to Victoria for her to train. Her passion also extends to her pupils and she ranks new recruitment as the most significant challenge for the sport in Norway.
– The costs connected to our sport is very high and it is challenging to attract new riders. We also see too many riding schools closing, which leaves the options limited for new riders. My uncle runs a riding school in Ålesund, North-West in Norway. I go there as often as I can to hold lessons, meet young riders and do what I can to share my enthusiasm for our sport.
The sentences are now pouring from Victoria. This is a cause close to her heart. She is conscious of her position as a role model and wants to make the most of it. For riders at all levels, the sponsors that are contributing and for the sport in general.
Contrasts and competition
The Gulliksen family have a long history of show jumping. Both Victoria and her brother Johan-Sebastian have followed in their father’s footsteps. The father of the family, Geir Gulliksen, has been one of Norway’s leading show jumpers for decades. From the lush family farm in Lier, a thirty minutes’ drive from Oslo, they have turned their common passion into a family business.
– It’s interesting and fun to see how different we are as riders, and that me and Johan represent the extremes of our fathers riding style. Johan is strong and rides big, powerful horses in a very collected way. I prefer smaller horses and have a lighter riding-style. Johan never gets scared and rides fast, whereas I only ride fast when I need to. Our father is fond of the English regime, I am extremely fascinated by the American style whilst Johan loves the German one. You can say that impulses from all over the world meets here at Lier. But the one thing we do have in common is the instincts for competition. That is the driving force behind it all. At the same time, we are a close family, and are careful to support and acknowledge each other whenever one is achieving good results.
With an analytical mind, Victoria likes to view herself and others from a distance to get perspective. She is constructive, humble and realistic when she describes herself as a rider. She writes all activity plans for her horses on a weekly basis and adapts them to the different seasons. September can be described as a calmer period, if a day in Victoria’s life at all can be viewed as calm.
– I like to begin my day with a run from six to seven. Then down to the stable well before eight. I normally ride six horses before a quick, late lunch. Then back to more riding, holding classes and doing all the necessary yard work.
Victoria emphasises a varied regime of training for her horses and is careful to include a good portion of fitness. She talks about hacks with trot and canter, motivational exercise, and the importance of chemistry between horse and rider. A topic that leads to rapid half-sentences and a vibrant body language.
– Varied training on different surfaces is crucial for both horses and humans. Current science show that the surface normally used in outdoor arenas is not the optimal for horses doing a lot of circles. And we now know that the restitution period after tendon injuries are reduced if you focus on slow trot in straight lines. Of course, it depends on the injury, but we use hikes for retraining and see good results from that.
It’s important for Victoria to be in a good overall shape. That it is a direct line between the shape of the rider and the possibility to perform on the highest equestrian level.
– Finding the motivation outside the riding arena is very important to me. To convert the sense of achievement to more than just riding. A life with horses is also about the ability to readjust quickly. After all, we are dealing with living creatures. It’s easy to be devastated if a competing season is ruined by an injury. How you can cope with the ups and downs are the most important skill as a rider.
To handle fear
When Victoria flies past the hurdles she makes it look so effortless. She’s experienced, soft, relaxed and concentrated.
– If I ever get scared? Yes, of course! The fear can come in different situations, not only if I am close to falling off. Sometimes I start crying without really noticing myself. Tears dripping down. If that happens it’s useless to fight it. The body’s reaction to fear is to become tense, and that doesn’t help. My solution is to climb off, lounge the horse until I calm down and then continue what I was doing.
Fear is an important topic she regularly discusses with her students. And she has a recipe to share so they can tackle their own fears.
– Jump low, jump often and be humble. Several times I have experienced that the chemistry between myself and the horse are missing. I always try to correct this with my trainer, but you should also know when to accept that the chemistry is gone. And let someone else ride that particular horse. Chemistry is the key, always.
26 years old Victoria Gulliksen is standing in the courtyard with her top horse Viego. He follows her every step, pushes his mule under her arm and makes her laugh out load. When we ask her what she would have done in her life if she couldn’t have chosen horses, she turns quiet for the first time this afternoon.
– I have spent some time thinking about that question before and haven’t been able to find a good answer. The only thing I am certain of is that it couldn’t been a traditional office job. Probably something very active, and maybe a bit chaotic.
She turns hear head to Viego and give him a kiss on the neck. Realises that she’s in a hurry, smiles and thanks us for coming out to Lier. Just before they reach the stable door Victoria turns around to answer our very last question: