Being a mom, groom and best friend all in one
The satisfying crunch of gravel under the wheels fills the air as we turn into the road leading to the big equestrian facility. Horses roam the nearby pastures without blankets, the sun shines brightly in the cloudless sky. You can definitely tell that spring is in the air. After parking the car, we begin unloading our camera gear, clothes, and props. We have a content day lined up today!
Nina greets us with a warm hug as we enter the well-kept stables. Her horse Melvin is standing in the barn aisle behind her, his coat shiny, hooves freshly oiled, and eyes bright and alert. He’s quite used to being in front of the camera, and it’s not the first time we’ve been here to photograph and film Nina and Melvin together. But this time, it’s not Nina who will be in front of the camera. Today we’re here to meet Kristina “Kritan” Ingeström.
We find a sunny spot on a bench outside the stables with a stunning view of the pastures and the riding arena. As we settle in, Kritan begins telling us about her lifelong background in equestrian sports. She’s been around horses ever since she first set foot in a riding school when she was 7. A few years later, she and her two sisters got their own pony, which they took turns in riding and caring for. Since then, Kritan has spent almost every day with horses, with only a few years’ break in her 20s.
“I was so busy when I first had my children, so I stopped riding for a few years. But when they got a bit older and I felt I had more time again, I actually started again at a riding school. When Nina was little, I drove to my riding lesson one evening a week. I really enjoyed it.”
It came as no surprise to anyone that Nina inherited her mother’s love for horses. When she got her first own horse, she had the perfect partner in her mom, who had been by her side and supporting her since day one.
“When Nina got her first pony that she trained and competed with, she was just a little over 10 years old, so she needed my help with driving and getting to different places. And since I was always there as her driver anyway, it just felt natural to also lend a hand with other tasks. Even after Nina got her driver’s license we still enjoyed going to trainings and shows together, so we simply kept doing it.”
It’s been 20 years now since Nina began competing. Throughout the years, she has owned and competed with various ponies and horses, representing Sweden in the Pony, Junior, Young Rider, and U25 national teams, and competing as a senior internationally. They travelled long and far, and Kritan has always had her designated spot in the passenger seat of the horsebox. Nina never needed an additional groom as Kritan has always been there to lend a hand when she needed assistance.
“I help Nina out with many things on a day-to-day basis, especially with regular stable chores like mucking out and grooming. On days when she’s busy with work, I take care of Melvin and go for walks with him, for example. There are plenty of other things I do, too, like buying feed when we’re running low or changing the tires on the horsebox. So calling me just a groom is a bit misleading – I’m more like Nina’s right-hand, I would say.“
Kritan and Nina have a well-established routine when it comes to stablework, which is probably inevitable after so many years of working together. When I ask Kritan about how much it means to her to be able to share her passion for horses with Nina, she tells me about the strong bond they have built through their shared love of horses.
“Nina and I have always been able to talk about everything, we’re very open and honest with each other. I mean, you just can’t keep things bottled up when you’re going to sit together and drive to a show for 15 hours. You can’t just sit there and pretend to be happy, everything comes out at some point. Nowadays, I read Nina like an open book, and she can tell when something is wrong with me, too.“
“Nina and I have always been able to talk about everything”
As the years went by, Nina’s riding career took off, along with her social media presence. What started with the blog “Ninas rader”, has since evolved to a popular YouTube channel, podcast, and one of Sweden’s largest equestrian Instagram accounts. If you’re one of the 100,000+ followers who keep up with Nina’s life, chances are you’ve seen Kritan popping up in her feed. She’s been involved both in front of and behind the camera, making appearances and helping out whenever needed.
“I’m not really the type to jump in front of the camera, but if Nina wants to make a Youtube video when we’re out and about, I’m happy to be there. I actually enjoy helping her film and taking photos because it gives me something to do while she’s riding.”
“It may sound cliché, but the best part of all this is that I get to be a part of Nina’s life.”
Kritan knows for sure that if Nina hadn’t developed an interest in horses and riding, she would have found another way to spend her time in the stable.
“I would probably have gone back to riding at the riding school once a week. But what’s so great now is that I get so much more out of it. I mean, Nina can actually manage fine without my help. If I were to go on holidays, for example, it would be no problem for her to take care of everything herself. But I enjoy it so much and I want to be involved.”
When I ask Kritan if she has a favorite memory with Nina, she has to think for a while. With so many experiences they share, there are plenty of special moments to choose from. One memory that stands out for both is when Nina and Dorano won the Lövsta Future Challenge finals for Young Riders in Stockholm in 2018. Kritan also fondly remembers the first time they packed up the horsebox and headed to the Netherlands for Nina’s first international competition.
“Everything was so new back then. We were much younger and didn’t know how anything worked. It was a big thing and so exciting.”
Kritan beams with joy as she reminisces about their early show memories, and it’s pretty clear they’ve experienced and shared a lot with one another over the years. After a short moment of silence, Kritan smiles and shares something that I find so striking about their relationship: they genuinely enjoy each other’s company.
“I really value all the hours we’ve spent on the road somewhere. You might think it would be boring just sitting in the car for hours, but we’ve had so much fun. We’ve talked, laughed, and listened to so much fun stuff. And we always pack a picnic basket and have a good time. It’s something I wish everyone could experience.”