Geir Gulliksen is for many people synonymous with Norwegian showjumping. Looking back at 41 years as a national team rider and nine royal goblets in the bin, Gulliksen is for sure a veteran. Yet, he has more to learn, according to himself.
Text: Therese Stub Alhaug, Photo: Malene Nilssen
We meet up with Geir at his magnificent home yard in Norway. Far away from the center of the sport. – We must dare to develop, he confirms.
What does he mean by that?
– In a small horse country like Norway, where distances are huge, our greatest challenge will be to receive enough impulses. Everyone needs inspiration and something to strive for, and then we need to go further behind the scenes than staying updates about results and short facts as many available media offers today. A magazine like EQUILIFE is good as it serves as a source of inspiration and knowledge across borders, age, disciplines, and nations.
Gulliksen finds inspiration from different people – with one thing in common:
– I am inspired by people who work hard to achieve their dreams or goals, whatever they are. The day you think there’s nothing more to learn, you are lost. We need role models, and to get better, we need to have something to strive for. We must dare to develop, and also have the courage to change things that do not work.
As a Norwegian yourselves, how shall people living in countries like Norway, with less culture for horses and equestrian sports, stay updated?
– The danger of living in a small country like Norway is that you in a way get isolated from the outside world. Equestrian knowledge is far more accessible when you live in countries like Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany where the sport is strongly represented. But Even though the Equestrian sports do not have a long history in Norway, our young equestrians represent a high participation, nationally and internationally. Partly because they can benefit from the experience that the generation before them possesses, and partly as they tend to travel more and gain experience from international shows and different instructors. Also, in terms of horse-keeping and horsemanship in general. If we still want to participate at an international level, we must dare to develop. Here in Norway, we are a bit too much for ourselves, on our own mound. I think we, therefore, can easily lean towards being a bit too idealistic. Not that such idealism is not good, but you must be a small portion of an idealist and a realist to have success. We must look out and relate to reality and see how things “really do work out there”. That does not mean you should replace a horse because it is not functioning at first, but we must find a balance that says: ‘Ok! Enough is enough – this does not work after many attempts, so then I have to try something else.’
“The day you think there’s nothing more to learn, you are lost.”
Keeping horses in Norway is expensive, and unfortunately, many people experience economy as a limitation for both the sport and horse husbandry in general. How do we cope with this? – This is true, says Geir and adds the importance of being aware of how we relate to this challenge.
– The economic aspect sometimes allows envy and bitterness to grow. But these emotions won’t make you a better rider. The fact that this sport is expensive is something we cannot change. The only thing we can influence is our own situation. It is, of course, easy to use excuses that the horse is not good enough, or that others have much better conditions than yourselves, but this will take you nowhere. It’s also about priorities. I see many that prioritize hard to afford to keep it going in the sport, and my experience is that priorities make people more aware, which in turn breed success. If we use our energy positively on our own opportunities, and ourselves, we’ll get much further – even without money.
Looking back at the days you started competed. What seems to be the biggest difference from today’s sport?
– There have been significant changes over the last ten years. Back then you needed a horse, but the expensive equipment was necessarily not required. The sport has become more professionalized. That’s the biggest difference. While I in earlier days, had all my horse equipment hanging in a bag below the saddle, riders today have a truck full of equipment. It’s become a little bit too much, with sometimes less focus on the hard work and the riding itself.
What keep you going in the sport after so many years?
-I like horses, and I like to compete. These two things together keep me going. One must like horses to do this over the years, and to have success one must work hard. Talent alone does not take you far. I might be privileged today, but I have also had my years where I was forced to work from dawn to dusk. I’ve had my phase in life with hard work to get where I am today.