AADA Interviews Ulf Wadeborn
USEF ‘S’ Dressage Judge and Swedish Warmblood Breed Judge
AADA is proud to interview Ulf Wadeborn, a USDF ‘S’ Dressage and Breed Judge. Ulf gives his thoughts on the sport he has dedicated his life to, Amateur Riders and how anyone can improve. Ulf operates a training barn in Los Angeles California
1. Where were you born and raised?
2. When did you start riding?
I have been a horse idiot since I was 5 years old, when I discovered the local riding school in Stockholm. Whenever I could, I would run down to the school to watch the riders and be with the horses. Even at 5 years old, my mother could not stop me! So she went down to the school and asked if that was ok, which it was. I started riding about 7 years old.
3. Did you have a riding mentor?
My primary education came from my long time friend and trainer Bo Tibblin. He was the director of dressage at Strömsholm, the national riding school of Sweden.
4. What were you doing before you became a professional trainer?
Riding and teaching is all I have ever done. After graduating high school, I was suppose to go to the University to study economics, but I never made it to class, as I was offered a job at the riding school.
Even with a job, in Sweden, you cannot call yourself a trainer or even a riding teacher without completing a college level education. So I went to Strömsholm, the national riding school, for 3 years, to get my degree.
5. What are some of your likes and dislikes about your present equestrian career?
I love my work, teaching clinics, judging at horse shows, training ambitious students. It is a fantastic profession. The one negative is the travel. I am on the road or on an airplane almost every week. It would be nice to be able to stay home more than I do
6. Do you have a favorite dressage test to ride?
I do not have a favorite test. Each test has its own challenges depending on the training of the horse.
7. How did you first become a dressage and breeding judge?
I first became a dressage judge in Sweden where I am a large ‘R’. An ‘R’ rating in Sweden allow you to judge up to Prix St. George. After coming to the United States, I took the USDF ‘L’ program and worked my way up to the ‘S’ ranking that I hold today. Later my breeding credential was added in Sweden, where I am allowed to judge movement and confirmation for the Swedish Warmblood Registry.
8. If you could judge any show in the world, which show would that be?
That would be the World Equestrian Games. The Olympics are what people focus on, but that has a bit too many people for me. WEG is the ultimate in horse competitions for me.
9. What are the differences between being a dressage judge in Sweden vs the USA?
One very large difference is judges do not get paid much in Sweden, typically about $200 a day. You cannot make a living from judging. You are also only allowed to judge 40 rides a day.
10. Is showing in Sweden different from the USA?
No, the judging system is the same. But the categories and classes offered in shows are different. Amateur classes do not exist and not all tests are available at all shows. Local shows usually offer tests that are Lätt’, ‘L’ for short. These tests are equivalent to 1st and 2nd level. National shows start at ‘Medelsvår or ‘M’ for short. ‘M’ is equivalent to 3rd and 4th level.
The big difference is that Amateurs and professionals compete together and are judged exactly the same. There are no separate awards.
11. What are some of the biggest challenges dressage judges have?
That is a good question. For myself, I cannot really think of a challenge I have. I really enjoy judging.
12. If you could ride any horse (alive or deceased), who would you choose?
Oh that is a hard one. There are a couple of horses that would interest me. The one that sticks in my mind is Valegro. I saw him before he became well known and said “that horse is going to be something special”.
13. If a young person wanted to get into horses professionally, what would you advise them to do?
Find a good trainer that has the formal education plus skill and then work under them. If possible, go to Europe and work there as a working student. Many trainers have summer programs where they accept students to work in their barns.
14. In your experience, what do you feel is the number 1 challenge for amateur riders?
Getting the proper kind of help. In the United States, there are lots of “trainers” who hang up a shingle, but have not gotten a formal instructor education.
15. What is your favorite type of student to teach?
I really enjoy helping the ambitious student. Does not matter how much skill or talent they have. Someone who is really driven to learn and try.
16. Do you have any suggestions for AADA members about how they can learn more about dressage?
A really good program for any dressage rider to take is the USDF ‘L’ program. The first 3 sections of the course, A, B, and C can be taken by anyone as a silent auditor. It is an excellent formal education.
17. Do you have suggestion for members to develop their riding and horse care skills?
Working with an educated and qualified trainer is #1. If that is not available, develop an eye. Watch good riders at shows, online, anywhere you can get a picture of what a successful riding looks like. ClipMyHorse (www.CMH.tv), is a subscription service that would allow you to watch a lot of the European competitions.
18. What are some of your other interests?
19. How did you balance your personal life with your career?
I don’t have a personal life. It is horses 24/7.
20. Do you have any other suggestions for our Amateur community?
Have fun with your riding and do not be in a hurry to go up the levels. There is no quick fix. Build your foundation slowly.
21. What is your website?
22. How can riders get in contact with you?
They can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author:
Debbie Kurth is an Adult Amateur dressage rider in the Los Angeles area, where she balances her career as a former Walt Disney Imagineer, CEO of Multimedia Designs, writer and the creator of “The Horse Professionals Network“.