After 20 years of hard graft, Jan Brink is hungry for Olympic success. In the past, the 43-year-old Swedish rider always had to sell his best horses to build up his business. But then he struck lucky with one owner-breeder, Hans-Yngve Goransson, who allowed Jan to take the 17hh Swedish Warmblood stallion Bjorsells Briar from a two-year-old to the top.
Now 13, Briar’s breakthrough came at last year’s European Championships, where he won individual silver and open bronze. Since then, Jan and Briar have proved that the result was not a one-off, scoring nearly 73%, just 1% behind the winner and reigning European Champion Ulla Salzgeber, at the Stuttgart German Masters last November.
Jan believes that Briar’s second Olympics have come at the right time.
“He was only nine — the youngest horse in Sydney — and too excited. I think the best age for a grand prix horse is 12 or 13. Briar is confident in the movements, which I can ride out more than I could two years ago. He has the experience and is at the age to achieve a good score,” he says.
Jan knew that Briar, now one of Sweden’s top breeding stallions and Swedish champion for the past three years, was special as a four-year-old.
“You never know how good a horse is going to turn out, but he has a lot of energy and a special way of moving with a high knee action. He finds the collected work — piaffe, passage and pirouettes — easy and his willingness to work sets him apart,” he adds.
Jan also showed talent from an early age, but his non-horsey parents expected it to be in a slightly different sphere. He was a member of his country’s junior ice hockey team. He only started riding at 10. Then, at 16, he had to chose between the two sports.
“I chose horses because of the lifestyle and the fact it had a long-term future. An ice hockey player’s career is finished after five or six years,” says Jan.
He tried show jumping and eventing, but his temperament was more suited to dressage. A perfectionist, it is no coincidence that his trainers include the legendary Georg Theodorescu and Herbert Rehbein.
For 12 years, he has trained with Kyra Kyrklund; he has been on the Swedish team for the same length of time. It now looks as though his other attribute, patience, might finally reap him some rewards.