Rolf-G ¶ran Bengtsson, Swedish showjumper

  • Swedish showjumper Rolf-G ¶ran Bengtsson was born in June 1962 and now lives in Breitenburg, northern Germany where he rents a yard of 35 boxes with business partner Bo Kristofferson.

    Rolf learnt to ride on his father’s farm near Lund, Sweden on a Shetland pony.

    As a teenager he evented, winning the national pony championships in 1977 and 1979, but turned to showjumping to enable him to ride more horses and compete more often.

    He trained and worked as a mechanic for eight years after leaving school to fund his passion, riding in the evenings after work.

    In 1986, aged 24, a training bursary allowed him to work abroad at David Broome’s yard in England where he stayed for a two-month stint.

    He returned to Sweden with the hope of making a living from horses and spent the next 10 years as a test rider at stallion gradings to fund himself.

    It was the gelding Paradiso that took Rolf onto the international stage competing at the World Championships in 1994 and the 1995 World Cup final.

    In 1996 he was selected to ride in the Atlanta Olympics, where Sweden finished 10th.

    Rolf met Dutch rider Jan Tops in Atlanta and went to work as his stable jockey in the Netherlands the following year, staying for five-and-a-half years.

    At the 2004 Athens Olympics Rolf took team silver and individual fourth with Mac Kinley. But it is with Ninja La Silla that he has had the most success.

    The 17-year-old KWPN gelding has taken Rolf to an impressive six championships. The pair won individual silver in Hong Kong – Sweden’s first individual medal in showjumping since 1932 – and European gold in 2011.

    Rolf plans to take Ninja to London 2012 but his top stallion Casall La Silla is also being prepared.

    Rolf is something of national hero in Sweden, winning the Swedish equivalent of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year – the Jerringpriset prize – at the end of 2011.

    To read an exclusive interview with Rolf-G ¶ran Bengtsson, as well as a debate over jumping on grass and a look at all the latest riding boots on the market, see the showjumping special of H&H out today (29 March)

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