By Hillevi Brasch
Photography: Roland Thunholm, Gustaf Johansson
Breeding horses is hard work! And it rarely pays off in the way you expect. If you do not come from a lineage of farmers with horse breeding in their blood, what makes you even want to get into the business? Gustaf Johansson, 34 years old, of GJ Dressage and Breeding at Tollsbo Farm in Hyltebruk Sweden is a successful breeder of both dressage and jumping horses, despite his young age.
Considering he grew up without horses in his backyard, I am curious how his successful operation came to be. So, who is Gustaf Johansson?
A short presentation uncovers the following: Johansson is a breeder with anywhere between 12 and 20 foals born per year, he’s a Grand Prix rider (international merits), a trainer with a wealth of students, a dressage judge, he runs a breeding station at his farm during the breeding season accepting between 80 and 90 outside mares per season, he stands four stallions, and is also on the board of the Swedish Warmblood Association. Remarkably, given the demands and time constraints of running a successful business, Johansson is basically a one-man band, with the help of a stable hand who works part time. Otherwise, he does everything himself; collects the stallions, inseminates the mares and does every foal watch to make sure every new life gets the absolute best start. The horses he decides to keep will be put under saddle at home and then sent off to young horse trainers to be developed and trained further up the levels.
Like many successful journeys....
Johansson’s journey with horses began when he and his brother began taking weekly riding lessons at the local riding school. The interest in horses grew and eventually led to his father buying him and his brother a horse each, as well as one for himself. When Johansson was 15, he completed two weeks of work-study at Elise Fredriksson’s farm. Elise is a successful breeder of dressage horses, quite a few of her horses have been exported to the US over the years.
The farm had an impressive line-up with such greats as the Swedish Warmblood Chapman 757 (Chagall - Dorina x Dorn), Bellini 817 (SWB: Ganesco - Indra (23) x Sweet Marhu xx), and Baryshnikov 867 (SWB: Chapman - Hedvig xx x Carnoustie xx). All of them approved stallions trained to FEI level. An eye opener that sparked even more curiosity and a need to learn yet more. Johansson knew he had found his calling.
When he was 16 he made the move to Fredriksson’s farm and started working, literally day and night. “Youth is a wonderful thing” he says with a smile. “I would sometimes ride up to 18 horses a day, and the nights would be spent watching over the mares and delivering foals (around 25 foals per year). I had no clue how to be a ‘typical’ teenager or desire for that matter, to spend weekends out with friends partying, there simply was no time!”
As there were stallions standing at stud, Johansson also worked with collecting the semen and the breeding of the mares, hence his interest in breeding was sparked... To read the complete article you need to be a subscriber
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