Interview Birgitte Raitan – Paradressage rider successful with a Fjord Pony

23. Dec 14 | 6:14 | By | Category: INTERNATIONAL NEWS, interviews

23 Dec 2014

Birgitte Raitan was one of the secret stars of the WEG – although she didn´t get a medal! It was the incredible performance of the 21-year-old law student from Norway which excited everyone. Also her Norwegian mare „Sno“ was just such a cute horse everyboby loved them from the beginning. But here Birgitte tells her whole story, talks about her illness and her big dream of seeing a killer whale in freedom…

Although not winning any medal at the WEG you were almost everywhere on the photos of the day – because you and your Norwegian mare Sno are such an incredible team. How did you get this wonderful, very special horse?

Since I was 2 years old I have been sitting on a horse. It started with therapeutic riding. When I was 18 years old we got a new trainer for the therapeutic riding group. Everybody learned a lot from her. We all learned very basic dressage, and she saw a potential in me. She wanted to give me private lessons. We needed a calm horse who could learn me the basics in dressage. My trainer at that time is the daughter of the owner of Langedrag mountain farm and wildlife park. At Langedrag they have maybe 30 Fjord Horses, and my trainer had some of them at her stable not far away from where I lived. She picked out Sno because she is a very very kind pony. She is calm, but not on of the traditionally heavier type Fjord Horse is. Because of my balance I also needed a horse that wasn’t heavy to hold in front, and Sno is a very easy horse to ride and not heavy in front. So that´s how I got Sno.

Was this your first WEG? How was the feeling for you participating there? Was it a dream come true?

These were my first WEG. I started to compete with other competitors this year in May, so it was very unexpected to reach one of my goals so fast. Since I started to learn dressage with Sno, my dream has been to compete in the big championships. So representing Norway in WEG was definitely very huge to me.

What is your handicap exactely?

I have AMC, which describes congenital joint contractures in two or more areas of the body + muscle loss. I have joint contractures in my legs and back + muscle loss in my legs and in my lower back. In addition to that I have a severe scoliosis at a little bit over 110 degrees. This makes it hard for me to sit balanced on the horse. I normally use my arms to support me, but I can’t do that when I ride. Especially when I can’t use my legs and I have to use two whips instead. That’s why I use a side saddle.

How does riding help you handling with your handicap?

I started to ride at the age of 2 because this was supposed to help my handicap. If it does I’m not sure, but riding definitely makes me get in better physical shape.

Maybe you can tell us a bit more about Sno… How she is at the stables, at the shows?

She is the best Fjord Horse. She is very calm, never runs away. The thing she can do is to go after food, but she would never run. She loves carrots and would do anything to get some, for example she kisses in the hope to get a reward for it. She is almost not afraid of anything, thats why she was «friendly horse» for Jens Lasse Dokkan`s horse Heiberg at the WEG. I was a lot more nervous than she was there.

What are you doing when you are not riding? How does a normal day look like for you?

I study law, and another hobby of mine is to watch football and ice-hockey. So a normal day would be to study at the University of Oslo, being at the stable, meet friends and to watch football or hockey if my team plays that day.

What do horses mean to you?

Horses, and especially Sno, have become a big part of my life. It so fun to ride and to go to places I never would have without a horse.

Do you have an idol in what you do?

I don’t have just one idol, but there are so many riders I look up to. I look up to the riders that are in the top in the world, both dressage and para dressage riders. For example who doesn’t want to ride like Charlotte Dujardin, and I also like her because she seems like a really good person, allows Valegro to be outside in a big grassy paddock and Dujardin also wears a helmet! I admire para riders that have similar handicap like me, but ride better than me. For example Angelika Trabert and Stinna Tange both rides with two whips like me. I remember I saw Trabert at Oslo Horse Show many years ago. At that time I was only on a therapeutic riding group and we didn’t learn dressage. I rode with only one short jumping whip, so I only had one “leg” to use when I rode. I believe it was after I had seen Trabert that I wanted to have two whips so I could do more things on the horse. From that point she became one of my idol, because she rode so good without any legs. I also look up to the others on Norways para national team. They have been competing for many years and have so much more experience than me, and are great riders. All of my trainers are really good riders too, and they know so much about horses that I want to learn more about. And a rider I noticed at WEG, Laura Graves from USA, rode really harmonious and before the bell rang for her turn, she just walked around calmly, instead of piaffe and passage like many others do. That was cool to see!

Is there a thing you certainly is on your list what to do in life? A thing you would really like to do?

On the top of my bucket list, except to reach my goals in dressage, is to see a killer whale – of course in freedom!

here some pictures from Birgitte Raitan

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Interview: Alexandra Koch

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