PER-ANDERS GRÅBERG – And the ruthless love for higher speeds
PER-ANDERS GRÅBERG - And the ruthless love for higher speedsSource:
He wanted to take steroids to get taller as a boy. Luckily he didn't because today Per Anders Gråberg is Scandinavia's best jockey.
Photography & Text: Hobert&Krupa Styling: Hobert&Krupa / BLK DNM
- You can still ride a horse despite your injuries, he says. It's about learning how to accept the feeling of pain.
We've met a rider made of willpower and repaired bones.
He looks like a rock star. Moves like a Jagger.
Does he think he is cool himself? Scandinavia’s best jockey looks surprized.
- I mean I think what I do is cool but it's not like I'm walking around thinking about how cool I am in general, he answers.
Ok. Humble. His voice is so low. But how about women then? There are a considerable amount of groupiefied Jockey-rumours going on in the racing world right now. What is it like in reality? Aren't girls just crazy about him?
- Well...I guess when I was younger... (blush?) but now when I'm older I don't party like back then. I just want to go home to my family. Riding is my business.
The snowstorm is roaring outside the window. Per-Anders is sipping a cup of black coffee. No sugar. No milk. We better hurry, he says. He's about to get a massage before today's race.
- Per-Anders Gråberg has one of the best bodies I've ever seen in this business, the massage therapist says.
Does it take a lot to maintain it? We wonder.
- Not really, Per-Anders replies. It's not that I'm on an extreme diet or so. I can eat what I want and I've always been tiny.
Tiny. Right. He is 1.64 cm tall and 53,5 kilos in weight.
Travelling all over the world and racing horses for millionaire-owners, this concentration of willpower carries a story reminding one of a rich red wine.
- The older I've become the better I've been, Per-Anders tells. I never had that immediate confirmation that I would become the best but each year has brought me a little bit better results.
Sipping coffee. Mindful.
At the age of 42, his military discipline has brought him a title as Scandinavia’s best jockey.
- I think it has a great deal to do with my focus, Per-Anders who's won all there is to win in Scandinavia says. I never complain about what I'm doing and I'm very loyal to my daily duties.
In a few weeks, he is off to the racing paradise in Dubai. Trainer Niels Petersen takes his horses and jockeys there to train each winter.
- Riding with some of the world’s best jockeys is truly amazing, Per-Anders says. The trips to Dubai have been a great part of my development.
Is he ever afraid on a horse?
- Never. His eyes look sharp. The day I get afraid is the day for me to quit.
As a twelve-year-old boy, he rode a horse that took off and ran out in the traffic.
- We met cars and trucks and a speed sign saying 50 km per hours and I just realized " Shit! I'm catching up with the cars," Per-Anders tells.
The horse eventually slowed down and the twelve-year-old Per-Anders went back home just like any other day thus far.
But his life was changed.
A ruthless love for high speed was born.
- But as a boy I wanted to take steroids to get taller, Per-Anders explains. I was trying different sports when I was a kid and during one period of my life I tried my hand at downhill skiing.
Per-Anders knew he wanted to become the best but that his light-weighted body wasn't going to take him there.
- I've never felt bad about my height, he says. But as I tried adapting to the wrong sports, my body suddenly became a problem.
A healthy weight is important to the success of a rider.
- One of the major keys is to find a physical level that resonates with your natural condition, Per-Anders says.
It's mentally and physically hard for the body to starve.
- I eat good homemade Swedish food as often as I can, Per-Anders says.
And I love to drink champagne or wine with dinner, no matter if I'm racing or if I'm free the day after.
A normal week of his life looks intense.
- I wake up at 6 AM to have breakfast with my daughters, Per-Anders tells. I then drive them to school, go to Täby Galopp to ride 3-4 horses and then I go directly to the airport.
The races are normally held somewhere around the larger cities of Scandinavia.
- But I always catch the late night flight back home when I'm done, Per-Anders says.
Has he considered slowing down?
Now Per-Anders looks a bit as if being introduced to the idea of playing a round of Candy Crush.
- I've never thought of anything but racing, he says. The co-operation with a 500-kilo horse beats any other feeling.
No, Per-Anders is hooked. "An elemental force", is how he would describe the feeling of racing.
- You and your horse become one and the acceleration takes you to a level of life where nothing else matters, Per-Anders says. As a jockey, you are the best when you don't even manage to think.
This is an experience that seems almost spiritual to one whom hasn't tried it. And what's fascinating about it is that it's a deep moment of complete awareness that matters. But the sport also includes many dangers. In a split second, everything can be over.
- During a race in Oslo, my horse broke a leg and I had the oncoming equipage galloping all over me, Per-Andres tells. One of the horses trampled my back and I got three big fractures on my backbone.
That must have taken a long period of rehab? we ask.
- Not really, Per-Anders empties his cup of coffee and says. After six weeks of rehab, I was out on the racing track again.
That's a quick recovery, we ascertain. And that race went well?
- I won, he says.
Of course he did. Silence.
Maybe we should go and get some more coffee?
The huge focus seems to be the greater power through Per Anders carrier.
- I rode my first race in 1991, he says. I was a jockey Apprentice with trainer John Huber and rode 60 races before my first gain.
After one year at John Huber's, Per-Anders continued to the team of trainer Michael Khan. Here he met the legendary jockey Johan Stenström, known as "Cup Johan" for his three Stockholm Cup wins.
- Johan became my role model, Per-Anders says.
And after a few years of racing in Scandinavia Johan introduced Per-Anders to California.
- I spent five winters with the Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella, Per-Anders tells. And I rode in California with some of the greatest jockeys in the world, like Gary Stevens and Laffit Pincay, which was so instructive.
Today Per-Anders is back in Sweden and under a contract with trainer Niels Petersen.
- I have huge confidence each time I am racing his horses, Per-Anders says.
Niels is a skilled horseman whom I feel a huge respect for.
There are some painful moments, like a fissured leg muscle, a broken back, three - concussions, a couple of fractured ribs, broken fingers, broken toes, all of which might give one a greater sense of weariness.
- They are a part of the job, Per-Anders says. You can still ride a horse with these experiences. It's about learning how to accept the feeling of pain, he says.
An old man is coming in to the restaurant where our interview takes place.
- The weather is hell out there, the old man says. They are looking in to the terrain now to see if it's too dangerous to ride.
After a few minutes waiting, a speaker's voice announces that the snowstorm is too heavy and that there won't be any racing today.
- Ok, the father-of-two, red wine drinking rock star with a repaired backbone rises up to say. I am off back to Stockholm.
His eyes are gazing at the crazy snowstorm covering the racing track outside the window as he shakes our hands and says it was nice to meet us.
- It's a shame they cancelled though, Per-Anders Gråberg, 42 years old, and Scandinavia’s best jockey looks out at the screaming hurricane and says.
- I wouldn't mind a race.