Therese Nilshagen

Being Chief Rider at Lodbergen

Therese Nilshagen gives us an inside look at her day-to-day responsibilities, and shares with us the most enjoyable and challenging aspects of her job as Chief Rider.


Wed 27 Sep - 23

When she had just turned 20, Therese Nilshagen left Sweden to work as a groom at an equestrian center in Germany. Today, two decades later, she is the Chief Rider at the renowned Lodbergen stallion station and training center. Therese gives us an inside look at her day-to-day responsibilities, and shares with us the most enjoyable and challenging aspects of her job as Chief Rider. 


First off, what exactly does your job as Chief Rider at Lodbergen involve? 

Well, to begin with, Lodbergen is run by three partners: me, the site manager Wolfgang Stagge, and the owners who are from Switzerland. While Wolfgang handles most of the administrative duties, I'm primarily responsible for the stallion station and the training of the horses. Apart from me, we have three other riders who assist with the horse training here at the facility. However, the training of the breeding stallions is mainly my responsibility. 

I'm lucky enough to be spared from most of the paperwork, but I do also contribute to the management of the facility. It's so much fun! Despite being a relatively small stallion station, we've managed to establish ourselves as a reputable business and it's going well. Our pride lies in our exceptional breeding stallions, and currently, our main source of revenue comes from selling semen. 

"I am very grateful to be able to spend the vast majority of my time in the saddle training my horses." 

– Therese Nilshagen

My role differs from that of the other riders in that I act as the manager and oversee the training aspect. We're fortunate to have extremely talented riders on our team who assist with the horse training. We've established a solid system where I provide as much support as possible, but we also bring in trainers on a weekly basis to train them. For the development of our riders, it's crucial that they remain engaged, learn new things, and feel a sense of progression. Although their primary focus is riding and training, we also ensure that they have opportunities to compete as well. 

What does a typical day look like for you? 

If I remember correctly, my contract states that I begin work at 7am, but I usually arrive at the stables around 6am. I start by doing a quick stables check to make sure everything is in order. Then, I put a magnetic blanket on the first horse I'm going to ride, which is usually Dante. After that I usually drink a quick cup of coffee so that Dante has enough time to eat his breakfast before getting ready for training. Then I typically ride up to eight horses throughout the day.  

I have an excellent groom who is a very important part of my team, and he helps me get the horses ready during the day. Although he helps me prepare the horses, I'm not the type of rider who just mounts up and rides. I believe that to become a good rider, it's essential to be able to understand your horses, and spending time with them in the stable and in the pasture is a great way to get to know them. Although I fully trust my groom to do a fantastic job, I still like to be involved. 

Why do you usually choose to start your day with Dante? 

Well, there's actually a bit of a funny reason for that. To get to the outdoor arena, we have to pass by the paddocks where the other horses are, and Dante can be a bit of a macho at times. He doesn't always listen to me very well, so if there are other horses around, he might try to show off and be aggressive towards them. So, it's just easier to get to the outdoor arena with Dante if the paddocks aren't full with horses. But it's never a problem anywhere else, just at home. I think he knows he's the boss and one of the oldest at home, so it's probably just a case of him wanting to assert himself a bit. But once I'm on his back, I'm the boss. Also, as it's very important to me to give him a good half an hour of walking, it's nice to start the morning with him. It's working well for both of us right now. 

"Dante may have his fixations, but he's never mean. Of course, a horse should always listen, but I think it's important that they can keep their natural character, too." 

– Therese Nilshagen

Do you have time to train other riders? 

Unfortunately, at the moment I don't. My entire day is spent training the horses at the facility. If I had some time left over, I could definitely train the riders here at the facility, but in reality, it's hard to fit that into my day-to-day life. Each horse requires its time and when the day is over and I have ridden all my horses, I need time to rest. As a trainer, I feel a responsibility to train the horses every day and attend competitions to support my team, and with my current schedule, there isn't enough time to train others. Maybe later in my career, but right now I'm focusing on my own training. 

What do you find most enjoyable about your job? 

For me, the most enjoyable part of my job is the challenge that comes with each individual horse. I work with stallions and they often have strong personalities. It's a lot of fun to see them develop and improve over time, and in the process, I also become a better rider and trainer. I've always been fascinated by animals, so I really enjoy working with horses every day. 

What would you say is the most challenging part of your job? 

Patience is key in my job and it's important to keep in mind that there will be challenges along the way. There will always be ups and downs, so it's important to stay calm and not get too worked up when things don't go as planned. That's really both the charm and the challenge of being a trainer. Horses have a completely different way of communicating, and it's our job as riders to learn how to read them and figure out what they need. In my experience, no horse acts up on purpose, they often try really hard to do their best. 

"When things go wrong with horses, the first place to look for the mistake should always be yourself." 

– Therese Nilshagen

When it comes to top horses you have trained, what are common characteristics they share? What do you look for in young horses? 
  • A certain energy and resilience 

  • Positive attitude 

  • Willingness to work 

  • Three good gaits with a plus for the hind legs  

For me, the most crucial trait a horse should have is a positive attitude. With consistent work, it's possible to enhance even a mediocre trot to a fantastic one, as long as the horse has the willingness to work. 

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