Saturday, August 25, 2012

Malin Baryard-Johnsson: A small treatise on my favorite rider

I first began to admire Malin Baryard-Johnsson after Horse Junkies United posted their article Stirrups are for Losers in which they showcased Malin losing her stirrups in the 2011 FEI World Cup jump off and still finishing third. I have watched this video over and over again - trying to find inspiration for and the example of composure, calm, perseverance and trust in the face of a ride that did not go as planned.

Just to round out a proper bio, I should give you the usual detail that Malin is Swedish and has been riding since 6 years old. She won a team Silver for Sweden in show jumping in the 2004 Athens Olympics. She also has a long list of accomplishments when she was a junior rider.

Obsessed with this video in late 2011, I sort of forgot about it until quite recently when I had been doing some cantering without stirrups. I frantically searched YouTube for the video and came across some surprises and gems that firmly placed Malin as my favorite rider based both on her riding performance and total style. Malin is sponsored by H&M and they produced a series of high quality videos of Malin and Peder Fredricson explaining their favorite riding exercises.

Do you know the phrase that gets thrown around which goes something like "make it easy for the horse to do the right thing"? Malin to me is an excellent example in these videos of how to make it easy for the horse to do the right thing. She invokes this capacity to invite the horse to do the right thing in my mind with her calmness and interactions with the horse.  I wouldn't really call her a "form rider" in the way that George Morris will describe people - but, really, what the hell do I know?  I just LOVE the way she trills at the horse to both praise and soothe.

                                          Lesson 1

                                          Lesson 5
                                         Lesson 8

                                         Lesson 9

                                          Meet Malin's Gaggle of Mounts

Ok. So all this riding jazz is fine and dandy and I'm just loving watching Malin ride. And then....I find the total gem! Malin does a music video called "Do You Wanna Ride?" My jaw drops. Just drops. Now I am a quirky lady with some totally unrelated interests, and this video includes quite a bit of them! First, Malin is just beautiful in that special Scandinavian way and project both grace and a sort of personal weirdness (I guess we can call that individualtiy). The lyrics of the song are genuinely about riding a course with "oxer" and "vertical" and horse clicks all being mixed. I'm pretty sure its really her voice and all of her horses that she introduces in the above video. Then the video gets pretty random and there is a guitar player totally shredding in her barn in a pile of hay. I just can't get enough of it. It is so entertaining and original and speaks to so many of the things I love: style, the countryside, animals, riding. All in a nerdy and aesthetically appealing way - to me. And I present to you............

                                           Do you wanna ride?

Another reason that I so appreciate Malin and her video is because you don't often see media presenting actual equestrians when they show horses. For example, I have been elated to see two different Vanity Fair spreads in which fashion is presented with horses. Plus, a few seasons ago, Gossip Girl had an episode that took place partially at a polo match. I get so excited about the horses but then notice something that isn't quite right (or just outright wrong or dangerous) with the photos and video because the featured person doesn't actually know how to ride.

They didn't even attempt to put Kristen Stewart on horseback in that dress! Yes, yes I would sit on a horse in that dress and with that hat. Incidentally, I am obsessed with the white horse second from the left in the upper photo. He (I assume) is beyond gorgeous. Look at that head carriage!

Back to the point. Gossip Girl had an episode in which Serena van der Woodsen gallops a polo pony. Look at this photo: her leg isn't even in the right place.

Actually....I don't think that horse is even moving in this photo. This is the video from this episode. The riding starts at 2min mark.

My entire point is that it is fun to see real equestrians in stylized photos and in vide, like Malin Baryard.
Photo from H&M corporate website

Thus ends my odd praise of Malin Baryard who both rides phenomenally and has some excellent style.

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