Caretaker Spotlight: Emilia Svensson

Published: April 4, 2018 06:56 pm EDT

We often see signs and slogans, that read Dream Big or Live, Laugh and Love, but how often do people have the courage to chase after those dreams and make them reality?

In the quaint town of Vetlanda, Sweden, Emelia Svensson had her very own pony... just like every child in her quiet town. Her love for horses naturally developed into much more than a hobby when a Standardbred stable moved close to her home. She spent the days and evenings learning to care for the horses and ultimately how to train and drive, something that came easily for Emelia.

When you do what you love, they say you never have to work a day in your life. Truer words couldn’t have been spoken when Emelia reflects on her time spent at the Trond Smedshammer Stable based in New Jersey. Svensson was fond of many of the horses that worked with, but only one captured her heart: the horse she calls "the love of her life”, trotting star Strong Yankee. The pair were inseparable, frequently seen taking trips around the oval track at White Birch with Emelia on her bicycle and Strong Yankee in tow.

Earning the trust of your horses as well as knowing their needs, characteristics, and motivation is key when working in a large stable. The caretaker essentially plays the lead role in the horse's overall well-being. A horse needs its caretaker as much as the caretaker needs that return connection. When found, the bond is something rare and special.

“I remember her as very young and pure and completely dedicated to her horses,” reflected Smedshammer.

As a caretaker, downtime is very important, both mentally and physically. On Sundays Emelia can be found enjoying her downtime by taking part in hot yoga.

“It makes me feel great, and relaxed,” says Svensson. When asked if her boyfriend, Jim Gillespie -- who is also involved in the industry -- joins her, Svensson replied with a laugh. “No hot yoga for Jimmy, yet!”

Emelia mentioned how nice it would be to enjoy a stable together with Jimmy if the opportunity arrives, but for now she is currently enjoying her time with the Craig Gilmour Stable at First Line Training Centre.

“Emelia is one of the hardest working people I have ever seen in this business," said Gilmour. "Her passion and love for the horses makes her a major part of the success I have had lately and I am lucky to have her working for me.”

One area of the business Emelia would like to see improved within the Canadian harness racing industry is the recognition for the caretakers. For the major races in Sweden, the caretakers’ names are listed in the program and they are seen as a part of the team in the eyes of the industry as well as the public. Many caretakers take pride in their work, and having recognition and validation for hard work is very much appreciated and, in return, motivational. When asked what she would tell someone looking to become a caretaker, she was quick to point out to “not to compare your life with your friends and family outside of the business” since being a caretaker is a lifestyle, not your typical Monday-Friday 9-5 job.“You have to love and be passionate not only about the horses but the racing industry,” said Svensson.

Finding balance is important, may it be taking time for you or spending time out with friends, socially going out and enjoying a good laugh. “All of my best friends, I have met around the world because of the horses, and for that I am forever grateful.”

She was firm in saying, “Bottom line, I love it!”

The harness racing industry is lucky she has chosen this path.

(submitted by Sarah Scott)