Jan-Olof Wannius: Mister Persistence

With most of the equestrian world on coronavirus lockdown and show after show cancelling, there is one man holding on to his plans with the staying power of an endurance champion.

Text Catharina Hansson Photo Therese Alhaug

President Jan-Olof Wannius insists: Falsterbo Horse Show, the iconic
summer venue in the south of Sweden, is nowhere near cancellation. He is bent on carrying through the event, celebrating its 100 year anniversary this summer.

– This epidemic has caused so many shows to cancel. But not everyone agrees on the strategies, he says.

– Of course, some of these measures are absolutely necessary. But the most
important thing is to protect the vulnerable groups, says Jana Wannius, who is turning 77 this year.

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– But there are many business owners in many countries who find the cure
worse than the disease. I read one proposal to only isolate those in vulnerable groups and assist them with deliveries of food and medicine and keep the working population in business.

Jana is currently in his Florida residence and he has seen America go on
complete pandemic lockdown. The horse world is struck just as hard as any
business by the corona panic.

Show director Jan-Olof Wannius insists: Falsterbo Horse Show, the iconic summer venue in the south of Sweden, is nowhere near cancellation. He is bent on carrying through the event, celebrating its 100 year anniversary this summer.

– I was in a meeting with some of the main Swedish show organisers and their opinion, all our opinion, was that it is very important to have something to look forward to. Riders and trainers and owners may feel desperate and then it is crucial that there is hope, that there is still a goal to aim for.

Jana has declared that Falsterbo Horse Show does not need to pull the brakes until early June. Although neighbouring Germany has announced that all events must cancel into August, Sweden has indefinitely ruled that any event with more than 50 participants is prohibited. This decision could, in theory, be revoked at any moment. With Sweden described as ”the experiment”, bucking the near-global corona lockdown, anything is possible.

– We are consistently aiming to move forward with Falsterbo Horse Show. We have a complete facility and we don’t need to build anything but the 260
exhibitor’s and restaurant’s tents.

– We stay in touch with the sponsors and anyone who has signed up will receive a complete refund, should we eventually need to cancel.

“With most of the equestrian world on coronavirus lockdown and show after show cancelling, there is one man holding on to his plans with the staying power of an endurance champion.

“We are consistently aiming to move forward with Falsterbo Horse Show. We have a complete facility and we don’t need to build anything but the 260 exhibitor’s and restaurant’s tents.”

Jan-Olof Wannius

He fears a generation of horses may miss out on an important part of their
progress if summer proceeds in lockdown.

– So many horses will fall behind in their development and education when they cannot go to shows if this turns out to be prolonged. They will miss an important part of the season.

A crucial part of the Falsterbo event are the young horse championates. With Swedish horse shows currently closed there is no way for the young horses to qualify.

– We will work out an alternative qualification in collaboration with the Swedish equestrian federation. All young horse classes shall have the same number of participants as any year.

He is also willing to push the event forward.

– We can move it forward into July. But no later than August 2, that is the limit.

And, as Jana says, long term the future is bright.

– The good thing to remember in all of this is that you see an increased interest in the sport everywhere you go. Equestrian sport is growing in all of the world. It will continue to do so when all this is over.

Jana Wannius began his career in the horse world as a showjumper, bringing home multiple Swedish championships and taking part in international championships and the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

Jana Wannius began his career in the horse world as a showjumper, bringing home multiple Swedish championships and taking part in international championships and the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Now he is into his 37th year as show director for Falsterbo Horse Show.

With Jana’s long experience in the horse world – has he ever experienced
anything like this?

– Never, ever. And I am sure no man on this earth has ever experienced anything like this.

– I would have been interesting to hear what Hans Rosling (Swedish physician known for his provocative presentations using graphics to visualize world development) would have had to say about this. Bill Gates quotes his book Factfulness as one of the most important books ever (and he also chose to give it to every student graduating in the US). Rosling, as well as Gates, have warned us about the danger of a pandemic. It is astonishing to see how most governments in the world have been taken by surprise.

Jana holds on to his positive outlook.

– I am an optimist even as this continues. I try not to follow every newscast, to keep my focus straight.
– Keep your eye on the ball. Keep calm and carry on.

Therese Stub Alhaug
Therese Stub Alhaug

Editor

Therese is the editor of Equilife, and is truly dedicated to equestrian sports and horses. She started riding as a little girl, and enjoys her free time with her two horses back home. Portrait interview is her favorite topic, as it has the gift to inspire others through peoples stories, knowledge, training and general life-philosophy, and certainly, their lives with horses.

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