Swedish show jumper Mathilda Karlsson admits she was surprised to find herself riding at the five-star level, but sometimes, greatness comes knocking anyway. After moving to Hamburg, Germany, to pursue the sport more than a decade ago, Mathilda spent time working with Swedish Olympic silver medalist Rolf-Göran Bengtsson, who she continues to be coached by on and off today. “He has a great horse and has been traveling around [lately], but I will ride with him again. We have a close relationship and if I need anything, I can always ask him for help and advice,” Mathilda says.

In addition to Bengtsson’s influence, Karlsson says her riding has been significantly impacted this year while competing with the Moscow Bears as part of the Global Champions League in Mexico City, Mexico this past April. In this week’s Master Class, we caught up with the 32-year-old before her next LGCT stop in Paris at the end of the month to learn more about what she’s learned.

1. Mastering nerves.

I wasn’t on the [GCL] team last year (it’s my first year), but I saw some of the classes and I was like, Wow, that’s a big 1.50m. But I want to have horses that can do that and I want to do that myself. The GCL Mexico City class was massive, and I had never seen anything like that and my horse had never jumped anything like that before, but we did it.

2. Lean on veteran members of your string. 

In Mexico, I rode my 16-year-old big grey horse, Lancetti. He thought I was joking when he saw the jumps. He was like, ‘I think we are in the wrong ring.’ But I know him so well, and he always fights his heart out. He developed the scope that I never thought he would have and he just makes it quite easy. He’s not the best horse in the world, but for me in this moment, I couldn’t imagine a better one.

3. Ambition.

It was so far away for me to be a five-star rider, but Rolf always taught me to be ambitious. You have to work hard to get what you want and have success. In the same way, you need to ride a lot to learn to get the experience. It doesn’t come by itself.

4. Being a team player. 

The GCL really forces you to challenge yourself. I came in with different hopes. I thought it would be easier, but it made me focus more and push myself to be better. You’re on a team, so you just can’t say, ‘I’m not going to ride.’ You have to do it. I had to go in and try to do my best. On the team, I support other people, and I feel what it’s like to be supported in return.

5.  Working hard.

Rolf was always the first person in the stable. He was always there before us, and he was always the last one to leave. That is something you take with you, even if you’re a top, top rider. I’ve learned to be very disciplined from him.

6. Take advantage of what’s around you. 

I know I can gain so much experience by being on the GCL teams and riding the best horses in the world and learning from the best people in the world. Someday, I hope I have the chance to be on the Swedish team, maybe even for the Olympics. I know it’s a big step and far away, but I’ll do everything I can because now I have the opportunity. If I were to throw it away, I would feel stupid.

7. Riding smoothly. 

I think Rolf and I ride very differently, and I am not as strong as he is. But I learned to go with the horse and keep the rhythm and not to make a big thing out of it. He makes it look so easy, he really does.

8. Managing horses at the top level. 

I know I need to put the work in and go up in down in these [GCL] classes. I need the support from my horses, and I don’t want to challenge them too much, because they need to take good care of me.

9. Organization breeds success.  

When Rolf and Casall ASK won their final class together in the €300,000 Longines Grand Prix of Hamburg CSI5*, it didn’t surprise me because I knew that he would have it all organized. If anyone could get it together to win that very, very special moment, it would be him. He just came there and won everything. But if you know him, you know he knows how to manage himself and his horses to be the best.

10. Playing the long game. 

It’s a dream come true just to be at this level, doing it. I actually enjoy jumping in these shows and in these classes now. I know it’s a long way until I feel like I belong [here], but I think a clear round is just around the corner.

-Photos and reporting by Erin Gilmore for NF Style.