Meet Siril Helljesen

Siril Helljesen, Dressage rider

“I just really love the process, you know? The process on your way to your goals. I’m really motivated by it, by accomplishing the goals I set and the process to get there.”

Tell a bit about your stable and where you are located 🙏🏻

Our stables are located in Råde, one hour outside of Oslo, Norway. I live there with my husband and my two kids, and it’s our own place that we bought in 2014. It’s a dressage stable where we have horses in training, boarding horses, my own horses, and from time to time we also have some sales horses.

We have a quite small stable with room for 23 horses in total, where 6 of them are our own, including our daughters’ two ponies. The stables are located in very open and rural surroundings with lots of forest edges and animal life around us. We hack out a lot, and we have lots of uphill tracks where the horses get to climb and build lots of muscle, see different things and they get to reset their heads in between the training sessions. We are a small team, and we are three people who work here full time. The benefit of having a small team is that we know each other very well, we all know our roles, and everyone knows their tasks and routines.

Tell us about your horses and their personalities 🐴

As of today, I don’t have any profiled horses that do the top level classes, but I do have a couple that are very exciting projects.

Level Up D, called “Leo”, is a liver chestnut KWPN stallion of 8 years, and he is after Skovens Rafael and Contango, with Jazz in the damline. Leo is a horse that I own myself, and the plan is for him to do MA and the St. Georg small tour. He is a rockstar, and I imagine him wearing a leather vest and a bandana if he was a person. He’s always happy, utterly charming, polite and he’s everyone’s favourite because he is so uncomplicated and lovely to handle. He is a little modest and a bit of a coward, and he’s not as tough as he gives the impression of. At my first show with Leo I felt like I had to ride him in extended trot everywhere because he was so insecure and really held back. He’s easily distracted and his main motivation is getting praised.

Nordstrands Dior, also known as “Dior”, is a 7 year old dark bay Danish Warmblood mare after Donkey Boy. She is a diva, very feminine, it feels like she knows she’s super elegant. She’s very kind and sweet, but she gets hysterical if things are different than usual, like when there’s a new object in the corner of the indoor arena. She has a great work ethic, she’s very ambitious, and she’s full of power. If she was a human being, I think she would be an ambitious lawyer hurrying away to a meeting whilst wearing a pencil skirt. I don’t own her myself, but I’m lucky to have her in training.

I have some youngsters that I’m going to get into training as soon as they’re ready. And I do get the occasional phone about horses that people want to put in training or for sale at my stables. I don’t have any horses on a World Cup or Grand Prix level at the moment, and I’d love to have one really good horse again where I could aim for that level. At this time, I have prioritised my job as a National Team leader for U21 and also having a family life with young children, so right now I really appreciate being part of other riders’ journeys and to educate the riders and horses I coach to the highest level possible. I find it truly motivating to work with teams, and to work for improving the Norwegian dressage sport and young Norwegian riders.

Goals for the year and for your career ⭐️

For the year: for my own riding, it’s no longer a huge goal of mine to have specific competition goals in mind such as the Olympics because I’ve already been lucky enough to have been there. But a goal for my personal riding is to always get out the full potential of all the horses I ride, and the athletes and horses I work with. I have a goal of getting Norwegian teams in all age groups at the European Championships this year, and that more of our National team riders will reach 70% or more in the international classes. I strive for getting more of our individual riders up and forward to a level where they can compete alongside the best riders in the world in their age group, and not just that they are good enough to enter the classes, but that they’re actually able to be on that very level among the top, result-wise. We want to get the riders more bound together and develop them up and forward together.

For my career: To continue developing horses and riders, because I really love working on both myself and my students to push both me and them to get better. I really love when you see someone whom you have worked a lot with and contributed a lot to, and that you know really put in the effort, when they finally get the success that they’ve worked so hard for. I think that is one of my favourite things as a coach. Personally I’m driven by pushing myself every day to reach my goals, and when I manage to transfer my knowledge to my students so that they understand and learn I get this rush of happiness. I’m hoping to one day ride Grand Prix again, especially when the kids are a little bit older, and I’m hoping to educate a lot of more horses to a higher level through good riding, good training systems and finding the key to every horse I work with. I just really love the process, you know? The process on your way to your goals. I’m really motivated by it, by accomplishing the goals I set and the process to get there. For me, the shows are just a bonus. It’s the tip of the iceberg, in a way, where you get to show everything you have worked on back home. And when I finally get to ride out in the arena and show that I’ve taught the horse to carry itself in a correct way, to be agile, to do great transitions, and to get it muscled correctly, that feeling really gives me the butterflies and I love it. I also love to compete and the excitement of the competition.

Highlights of your career so far 🤩

  • My biggest achievement was to qualify for and compete in the Olympics back in London 2012 with my fantastic mare Dorina.
  • Biggest result is my 2nd place in the World Cup Grand Prix of Stockholm in 2011, also with Dorina. I’m quite proud of having beaten Isabel Werth in that class.
  • 3rd place in the Grand Prix of Rotterdam in 2012.
  • 1st place in the Grand Prix at Hickstead in 2011.
  • Having competed in the Europeans and been in the finals.
  • I have never been an individual gold medalist in the individual National Championships but I have a silver medal, and I’ve won team gold plenty of times.
  • One of my favorite accomplishments is winning the Grand Prix at Oslo Horse Show on my birthday, and they played the birthday song in front of the Norwegian crowd on home soil. That was pretty special.

Do you have any fun facts to share with us? 😜

  • I always have to sit by myself and visualise the dressage test, detail by detail, and I preferably have to sit by A. I can spend over an hour doing this, going through even the tiniest touch in order for it to be perfect. I even go through the warmup and visualise scenarios that might happen, for example people coming over to chat or people asking questions, in order to be prepared for it instead of getting stressed by it.
  • I’ve worked quite a lot with mental coaches in order to teach myself to deal with nerves in competition. I’ve learned myself that competition nerves are just adrenaline, and I need adrenaline to succeed, so I now welcome the nerves as a contributing factor to my success.
  • I always have to check my saddle before I get on, no matter how great my groom is. It’s not because they don’t do it correctly, but it’s an obsessive thought of mine. If I don’t check my saddle, I will just constantly think about it. So I always tell new staff “it’s not you, it’s me”.
  • I never ride with thin saddle pads. They just slide up and that annoys me, and it triggers my saddle checking obsessiveness to the fullest.

“I love that we are all connected in the sport by sharing the same love for the horses, no matter our gender or age.”

Siril Helljesen

Connected is our DNA. What does this mean to you? 💙

I’m driven by getting the cooperation with the horse and to get that great riding feeling with every horse, that we become one. To come under the skin of every horse, to unlock the potential it has, find the correct connection to every horse, and to find their individual keys. The horse must feel well and let me in in order for our forces to intertwine and get the best out of each other.

As a coach, I think connected for me transfers to being able to convey what has to be done to reach the riders’ very best, and to help them reach for that. I’m maybe the trainer that sometimes says the things you don’t want to hear because it means you have to put in a lot of effort, but I think it unlocks the mind of the rider to see more potential. I feel connected to my students when I manage to convey good riding and teach them things that make the horse and rider understand each other better and help them become one.

Ecte stands for quality, sustainability, elegance, and functionality, and they stick to their method instead of jumping onto the hype waves. These are things that I really respect and appreciate, because I feel like I have the same goal, values and method when it comes to producing horses and riders. You want quality, functionality, elegance and sustainability in a horse as well, and you have to trust your system.

I’m proud to represent a brand that has the values that Ecte has, and they match my values in terms of riding, teaching and horsemanship. I also love that we are all connected in the sport by sharing the same love for the horses, no matter our gender or age. We all connect around it together.