SPONSORSHIP: Volvo has sponsored the world-renowned Gothenburg Horse Show for the past 40 years
by Julia Brandon
Officially the second-largest city in Sweden, and ranked by Forbes as the 12th most inventive in the world, Gothenburg has made a name for itself as a major centre for sports, such as association football, handball and ice hockey. For the past 40 years Gothenburg has also become internationally famous for its acclaimed equestrian activities, namely the Gothenburg Horse Show.
“This show means a lot to me and my colleagues,” says German rider Ludger Beerbaum, one of the world’s leading international show jumpers. “The crowd is unbelievable, they are with every rider, it doesn’t matter where you come from.”
Hosting both show jumping and dressage events over the course of four days, the event invites 40 riders from all over the world, including Europe, Asia, Canada and the United States to compete at the highest level in equestrian sport.
“The Gothenburg Horse Show is very highly rated – we’ve been voted one of the top five shows in the world – so our starting field is always strong, but when we’re hosting the final we get the best riders in the world taking part,” says Tomas Torgersen, show director.
It takes blood, sweat, tears and plenty of years to get the event ready for both rider and horse. With horses not even beginning their training until the age of three (for show jumpers), it can often take up to four or five years to reach competition standard.
“If you’re very lucky and you’re successful with training a horse, the earliest it would start at the Gothenburg Horse Show would be around eight or nine years of age,” says Torgersen. “Of course, there are a lot of horses that just simply aren’t talented enough or suited for that kind of work because it’s a top sport.”
Riders not only need to concentrate on their own abilities but on keeping the horse healthy and happy as well.
Worth in the region of one to two million euros each, it is a lot easier on both mind and pocket to retain a horse than to train a new one, says Torgersen. If kept in good condition, it is not unusual for a horse to continue to compete well into its later years.
The oldest horse to have won a Grand Prix at the level of the Gothenburg Horse Show, although this is quite exceptional, was a horse called Welham ridden by British equestrian John Whitaker.
“Welham was a fantastic horse and actually didn’t start in Grand Prix until he was 16 years old,” says Torgersen. “He was a late bloomer.”
In 2016, Gothenburg plays host to a double World Cup, with both show jumping and dressage set to hold their
World Cup finals in the Swedish city from 24-28 March. Typically, the World Cups are held every three to five years, and there is stiff competition from the other international venues to host them, so to land both in the same year is quite a coup.
“We’re a major event and part of a global happening in riding, all of which is helped by our developing young talent through our grass-roots projects,” says Torgersen.
Beerbaum adds: “The show is super organised – it’s a huge sport, big entertainment, and tickets are sold out on every day. Each year we look forward to returning to Gothenburg.”
Adding to the excitement this time is the show’s 40th anniversary, which will be celebrated with a large party on the evening of the last show day. “One of the most important elements of the Gothenburg Horse show is the public,” Torgersen says. “For 40 years now we’ve had about 11,000 people in the stands for almost every performance so we feel it is important that we include them in our celebrations.”
Volvo came in as a main sponsor in 1978. Sharing a home town has meant both brands resonate strongly with the local Swedish population and are part of the city’s heritage, although there is also a natural synergy. Many of Volvo’s key vehicles, such as its XC60 and XC90 four-wheel drive off-roaders are the perfect mode of transport for equestrians with horse trailers to pull and plenty of muddy fields to park in. When it comes to all-in-one horseboxes, Volvo’s coveted FH range of horse trucks are a veritable home-from-home for travelling equestrians and their trusty steeds, fitted with stalls and living/sleeping accommodation. The relationship has also been cemented over the years by Volvo’s 40-year sponsorship of the show, as well as its 20-year sponsorship of the equestrian world cup worldwide.
“I grew up in Gothenburg and Volvo has always been one of the city’s main industries,” says Torgersen. “With the commitment Volvo has had via its sponsorship, its connection with the sport will always be strong.”