Dressage legend Kyra Kyrklund: – I enjoy seeing people succeed

In the world of dressage she is known as a living legend, and she believes the most important thing a rider can do is to accept each horse’s individual potential. Working on developing riders and horses is her true passion.

By: the Editors
Published: 13.03.2019


From jumping an eventing horse, to the Olympics with Matador

– It’s non stop, really. My life is a couple of days at home, then two days in Oslo, back home and another trip. Next off to Portugal, I believe. Or wait, maybe it’s Sweden? Yes, Sweden, then Portugal.

At first glance Kyra doesn’t fit the image of a groomed price-winner. Her smile is warm and she’s remarkably calm. Little resembles a stressed Olympic rider when Cavalier meets her at Norwegian Horse Festival. Kyra has just finished her clinic. She sips some water and begins her story at the very beginning. 

– When I was young dressage wasn’t really a thing. If you could master simple flying changes you were basically a champion. That’s why I chose dressage, because of the lack of focus. When I got my first horse it was a cross country horse that I used for jumping. When it got some problems with its leg, we had to stop jumping. My next horse was a four year old. My thoughts were like this; if it jumps well, we’ll focus on jumping. If not, we go for dressage. Long story short, that horse really couldn’t jump.


By the way, Kyra and the four year old that couldn’t jump made it all the way to the Moscow Olympics. Kyra starts laughing and continues; 

– His name was Piccolo. It’s fun to think back to that time, but Matador is the horse I always carry with me in my thoughts. For me, our story isn’t really about the results, but more so that Matador is the horse I always compare others to, pursuing that perfect feeling you can achieve with a horse. 

Breeding and development

The black stallion Matador is the horse behind much of Kyra’s long list of merits and her unique experience. She has been an active part of the dressage development and points to breeding as a crucial factor for the sport. 

– So much has happened! At the end of the 90’s the development really shot forward. Earlier, more all-round horses were bred. Now, with the enhanced focus on breeding, you can early understand and see if a horse is more suited for jumping or dressage. The difference is just as clear as you the difference between a trotter and a sport horse.

What do you look for in a horse?

– It’s of course a combination of several things, but most of all I think it’s a matter of intuition. I believe the many years in the sport has given me a great fundament of experience and knowledge. When you try a new horse, it speaks to you already during the first minutes. Different riders look for different things. For me, a good horse has three well-developed gaits and a good temper. I would also prefer a horse that is energetic, but not “crazy”. I’m not too fond of «spooky» horses, but I don’t mind them being a little sensitive to sounds. And of course, they need to be healthy. 

Being a part of the development and progression of so many equipages is something I really cherish. I truly enjoy seeing people around me succeed! 
— Kyra Kyrklund

The art of teaching

Kyra still rides every day, even though she doesn’t compete anymore. She resides in England with her husband at a farm with a stable with room for twenty horses. In the beginning all boxes were occupied, but as her schedule is very active, she has chosen to reduce the amount.

– I travel and teach so much that it’s simply no time for a full stable anymore. I have realised that there just isn’t time to cover it all.  

In your opinion, what characterizes a good rider?

– The best riders are the ones that are not afraid to fail. They are adventurous, curious and dare to try new things. Also, they should be a bit nerdy. You need that to be able to dedicate all that time and effort to become a great rider. 

Kyra believes the relationship between instructor and rider is a crucial part in succeeding, in combination with mastering the basics from the very beginning.  

– It’s much more difficult to correct incorporated errors later than it is to learn things correctly from the start. 

Her best tips for riders out there is to find a good coach that you believe in – and vice versa. And that the communication between you two is open and honest. 

– Actually, that relationship means much more, in the long run, than the points you get at a competition. Riding a Grand Prix is basically about knowing how to do the exercises and getting the correct response from your horse. Every rider with that control could in theory ride a Grand Prix. Not scoring a 90%, but let’s say.. 70%. And if you think about that, 70% means seven points for each exercise. Which is very good, if you ask me!

Don’t put it all on the points from the judges. They too are just people, with their own experiences and preferences. They don’t know your horse and its current level like you do. They need to consider an ideal image rather than the individual frame and the potential.  
— Kyra Kyrklund

She shrugs and gives us a smile. Almost like she knows a secret only she has discovered. The bottle of water is now empty, and she is packing the gear from the clinic, different aids she has used to help the riders keep a good balance, correct position and better movement. 

– Everyone wants to win of course. But it’s impossible for everyone to win all the time and every horse can’t be at Grand Prix level. Still, I firmly believe that all horses can develop and become better. However, it needs to be a positive learning experience and within each individual horse’s capacity. Every horse is born with a given potential and we, as the riders, need to respect that. Always.