Rolf Göran Bengtsson – My Year with the Champion

Märta Lindqvist talks about her year with the champion, Rolf Göran Bengtsson:

  • What did I learn from treating Rolf Göran Bengtsson’s horses for a year?
  • What’s it like to follow super horse Casall Ask in the competition and after the competition?
  • And how did I feel when a full year’s work was put to the test for 70 seconds, in the final of the Global Champions Tour 2016, in Doha, Qatar.

Rolf Göran Bengtsson made my 2016 an exciting year

This year has been completely packed with experiences and meetings. I will try to limit myself to writing about perhaps the coolest thing that happened in 2016: what it’s been like to follow the master Rolf Göran Bengtsson and his amazing horse Casall Ask.

There are actually a few stables I have followed with such passion and regularity and have been involved in almost every competition. Approximately once a month during the year, every creature of the whole stable outside of Hamburg has received treatments, and together with Atlasbalans, I have also been part of all the major competitions. This has given me a much better understanding of high-performing horses and for the show jumping sport in general. Here I will try to tell you about the year that’s passed, from the first visit to Itzehoe in northern Germany to the big final of the Global Champions Tour in Qatar, which took place in November.
It all started in November 2015 when Hans Bohlin and I went to the Bengtsson-Kristoffersson stables outside of Hamburg to demonstrate what the Swedish Fascia Vibes Machine would be able to do for the show jumping horses. Rolf had previously tried Swedish Fascia Vibes treatment for a groin injury, with great result, but he had yet to see what the response in a horse would be.

I wasn’t quite sure what had been said or what was going to happen, only that we had been given the opportunity to show how horses can be helped with Swedish Fascia Vibes treatment. Hans Bohlin who has designed and manufactured the machine wanted to discuss ways we could help maintain the health of the horses. I came along to perform the treatments, since I have worked extensively with Swedish Fascia Vibes for a few years and much longer as a traditional horse masseuse, with genuine Swedish massage.

I always find it interesting to get a feel for my environment; get a sense of the context and its people. And this was for sure a context under real-time pressure. Everyone who was there had a purpose – wanted to be seen, heard and sell their goods and services. My instinct told me that there’s no time to waste but rather start “talking about horses” right away; focus on agility, form, and pace!

Rolf Göran Bengtsson:
“I have 30 minutes to spare to discuss Swedish Fascia Vibes”

Rolf told us that he had about 30 minutes to discuss Swedish Fascia Vibes before he was off to Doha for the GCT-final. There was no time for small talk. So I quickly explained what I had seen in Evi’s horse that she was riding in the arena. We were immediately in agreement on the limitations of the horse’s movement and what to improve. Nothing beats talking horses with professionals! My nervousness around “demonstrating and selling my stuff” disappeared instantly.

Wisdom 1: Talk about improving what is good, rather than trying to solve what is not working

Here is a thought about looking at and judging other people’s horses. It is important to not just look for what is wrong or try to fix what is broken but more focus on fine-tuning and improving weaknesses that all creatures have. All movement is good, but there is always room for improvement: how to be more tactile, fluid, powerful and so on. Sometimes the body hurts, but not always even when there are things to work with. More health and soundness can be found in a pain-free body. We can always attain more ease, flow, and energy.

First Swedish Fascia Vibes of RGB’s horses

It bugs me that I am stuck with my old habit of initially always feeling “this will probably never work…”

But wise from experience, now after a few years with the machine, I know that in most cases old tensions can be released in a short time, with great improvements after just one treatment.

The first horse that I treated was rather dense in the deep-set posterior muscles and was tough to shape, gather and bend. Thanks to good technique it went well but with no spontaneous roundness; it wanted to go back to long and straight.

After the first treatment things around us calmed down and we had time for both coffee and some treatments of the riders. The initial tension I had felt when stepping into this context (and wanting to provide perfect treatments, see and say the right things, not be too pushy or be in the way) disappeared, because everybody was super nice and very helpful.

Returning to Rolf Göran’s stable

Back at Rolf’s stable, I examined a horse that still is one of my favorites; a tall, extremely beautiful but tense and easily scared gelding. He was locked in a state of tension rather typical for this sort of horse; that hears and sees everything, with a high energy level and a strong tendency of wanting to escape. It’s like he was trapped in a vicious circle of tension that literally locks up the body. His back was hard and numb and his neck raised high, looking like a statue’s.

The horse received the treatment gracefully but not without stress; the same stress that is always there no matter what. With a gentle approach I went over the entire body and helped him out of his mental and physical state of tension. No matter how good the rider may be; this type of strain is not something one easily “rides out”.

Andreas Erni, the ”stable jockey”, experienced a great change when he rode him after the treatment. The following day we had a long line of horses who wanted to try Swedish Fascia Vibes.

Wisdom 2: Let the client experience the result

I have always thought, and have with time become more and more certain, that the best way (at least for me) to work is to let the client be the judge of what is best. No arguments or promises in the world can persuade a customer unless the actual treatment felt good and had the intended effect. If the customer isn’t convinced, then redo and do it right!

If the rider continues to experience the horse as crooked, off balance and tense, then the horse probably is crooked and tense. Even if the problem is in the rider, successful treatment of the horse should be detectable to the rider.

Treatment every 5th week

After my first visit, I’ve been going back to Hamburg about every five weeks. Sometimes I’ve been attending major events to give short treatments right after a trip and as a warmup the first day of a competition weekend. It’s also given me a great opportunity to treat other top class riders and horses. The Swedish Fascia Vibes Machine has in record time become known to the jumping elite.

Rolf is tremendously skilled at forming fine horses consistently over time. The ground training is very thorough and his horses are strong and agile. Still, there is almost always something that can be worked on in most horses.

It has been so rewarding, exciting and cool to follow this great team of fine horses over a long time, and witness them build up and move beyond their weak spots.

And coolest of them all is, of course, 17-year-old Casall Ask, who has had a fantastic season. Always strong and healthy, but with a propensity for dry tissues. Such dryness may result in slower reactions and that is what I’ve been focusing on. Full fluid in the back and keeping the shoulders upright, loose and mobile.

Casall Ask is great fun to work with, he loves the treatment and doesn’t mind at all if it gets a bit rough. He is a powerhouse that is hard to move. He knows who he is and what he can do. He accepts my service with grace and puts on a happy face, alternating between sleeping and eating while I’m sweating away.

So many rewarding and joyful things have happened during this year. We have met lots of exciting people and skilled “horse humans”. The precision found in keepers and riders is inspiring. One person in particular who has been a friend and support during this year is the osteopath George Oduro. He’s had to put up with thousands of questions and discussions about everything that has to do with riding, treating, types of horses and much more. He works with all elite riders from various disciplines and lives near Rolf. It is such a benefit to get to meet people that are easy to talk with and learn from!

Grand Champions Final in Doha with Rolf Göran Bengtsson

What about the grand final then? The better “we” did during the Global Champions Tour, the scarier the day of the final seemed. The greater “our” chances to win, the more nervous I got.

There were many things that contributed to the tension. The fact that I liked everyone in the stable so much, that I cared deeply for the horses, that I saw the enormous work behind the success and that Rolf had been so close to winning many times before but still not had won the entire series.

Everyone working with horses knows how delicate, yet important the daily form is. Reaching the top is a balance between max performance and relaxation between trials. Being reminded of how fragile everything is made my stomach turn the closer we came to the final.

My own weak nerves can barely cope with watching show jumping on television. To follow the escalation at close range, in real life, was almost more excitement than I could handle. Me and the boys from Atlasblans went to the Oslo Horse Show, which was a preparation for Doha. The weekend that followed I went to Hamburg for a last run-through before going to Qatar.

And then there was time for Doah! Around the entire show area, seriousness and tension vibrated in the air. There was not much of an audience to speak of and people were not displaying any emotions of festivity. Keepers, owners, riders all seemed rather tense. I felt that I just wanted to stay out of the way but be ready to show up when I was needed.

From a treatment perspective, I went over both horses the Friday before the final. They both felt top notch; calm, soft and energetic. They rested without problems and seemed mentally ready. They knew what is coming but kept cool, ate and relaxed. Clarimo may have had a slight tension due to the heat but Casall was in top form. I gave him short and pepping full-body treatment.

The actual final competition was excruciatingly nerve-wracking, with 40 horses starting. Rolf was the last one to jump and had to witness how horse after horse knocked down fences. The course looked insanely difficult. I was thinking that if all these great jumpers keep knocking down fences, how will “we” then do?

”Rolf Göran Bengtsson and Casall Ask…

Rolf Göran and Casall Ask rode onto the course and dominated the first round gracefully, in a feline fashion.

Edwina Tops-Alexander, the great title challenger, knocked down his winning chances immediately. So it was clear that Rolf had won the grand title after the first round. We could have started celebrating on the spot, but the chance to win the entire class had a paralyzing effect on us.

”Rolf Göran Bengtsson and Casall Ask… Rond Two”

They jumped fine and fault free in round two.

”Rolf Göran Bengtsson and Casall Ask… Jump Off”

During jump-off, with impossibly tight turns but a great portion of luck, they WON. I was completely exhausted. Everybody went crazy from joy, jumping up and down and with tears in their eyes. But Casall looked amused in the chaos, with a facial expression that seemed to be saying “What’s the big deal – that was nothing!”

It was simply magical to see such performance! The victory was so well earned. For the first time, the duo won the entire Global Champions Tour as well as three partial victories in one year and then to win the entire class on the day of the final… Speechless!

Then Clarimo Ask and Rolf won the team jumping together with Nicola Philippaerts (Team Paris Jets), which maxed out the enjoyment of the weekend.

2016 is soon over I what happens next year is still unknown. This year has been filled with travels, treatments, meetings with fantastic horses and people and competitions. Now I am looking forward to a Christmas break and time for some reflection.

Warm greetings/ Märta!

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