Sweden’s Malin Baryard-Johnsson is on a roll. The five-time Olympian finished fifth in the individual Olympic showjumping final, having jumped a beautiful double clear and she carried her form into the Tokyo Games team qualifier. In fact, like the other Swedish combinations, Malin and her 13-year-old Belgian warmblood mare Indiana, have not hit a fence all week.
That is impressive for any rider, but even more impressive considering what a journey Malin has been on with the mare she describes as “extremely difficult” during her earlier years. It’s testament to Malin’s riding skills and horse management that she has forged such a great partnership with the Kashmir Van Schuttershof mare – who has the same same sire as teammate Peder Fredricson’s individual silver medallist All In.
“She’s an unbelievable horse and she has the biggest of hearts, but she is a special character and the first couple of years with her were very difficult. It took a couple of years before I even felt safe on her,” said Malin, who found Indiana as a seven-year-old in Italy with owner Charlotte Söderström.
“Training and riding her was difficult – she had zero rideability, and she’s really sharp and sensitive. It was very, very hard to make her understand me and to understand what I wanted. There have been times – and it still happens sometimes – where I have to get off as soon as possible because she just freaks. She’s different. But she is also the friendliest horse and has a beautiful mind.”
Malin explained that the turning point in her journey with Indiana came when she started jumping bigger fences, and that even now she cannot jump the mare small at home, or do pole work.
“She is really difficult to jump small things on and the rideability is close to zero, although it’s got better over the years,” she says. “But jumping bigger means she has to listen to me – over small things she can survive and do it in her own way, but with this she has realised she has to be with me.”
Malin Baryard-Johnsson: ‘It is up to me to handle it’
Indiana has grown up to be a super successful horse for Malin Baryard-Johnsson – the pair rode for Sweden at the 2017 Europeans and 2018 World Equestrian Games, winning team silver at the latter, and they have accumulated many top 10 placings at five-stars shows in between. But partnering such a unique and tricky horse means Malin always has to be completely on the ball as a rider.
“She really trusts me so when she is in her difficult ways it is up to me to handle it,” says Malin. “I just have to focus and it’s good for my brain as I really have to be sharp. Anything can happen so that keeps me on my toes.
“I’ve now had her a long time; she trusts me 100% and I trust her 100%,” she adds. “We have made a great partnership; even when she is at her worst she always goes in and tries her hardest to jump the jumps.”
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