You don't make it to the top of the sport of show jumping without a talented, reliable team. That team becomes even more important when you're competing in big championships like the FEI World Equestrian Games, traveling the globe as part of the Scandinavian Vikings team, and helping to develop your children into promising riders as well. Geir Gulliksen knows this, and that's why he's especially grateful for his groom, Nikki Javorek.
Nikki began grooming at only 12 years old in her home country of Slovakia and completed professional grooming school after her regular high school curriculum. After grooming at the 5* level for a couple of years, Nikki connected with Geir's daughter, Victoria Gulliksen, and was offered a position at the Gulliksen's yard in Norway. She was on a plane only a couple of days later.
The 28-year-old is on the road traveling to World Cups and various legs of the Global Champions Tour much of the time, but when she's at the Gulliksen's home base near Oslow, she enjoys the quietness of Geir's private corner of the yard.
"We've got a big yard with a big indoor, outdoor, everything you need, but my stable is separate from everyone. Geir's horses are a little separate - he has four boxes 'downstairs' from the rest of the stables. Victoria and Johann (Geir's children who also ride) have the client and sale horses and they're based up the hill. I get to spend a lot of time with just the horses, and riding in the forest. I'm very lucky."
Lucky indeed, but grooming means long days, lots of physical labor, and a schedule that could make the busiest CEO's head spin.
"If you don't love it, you can't do it. You need to have passion, and you have to love the horses," Nikki says. "I also love to ride and normally at home, I'm riding. Geir is traveling and doing business and is the manager of the Global team so I am lucky to have a lot of opportunity to ride the horses."
All of this helps Nikki narrow down exactly what Geir's three main horses (VDL Groep Quatro, Gin Chin Van Het Lindenhof, and Arakorn) need at shows.
Organization: I use the Kingsland backpack because it's perfect to keep everything organized. It keeps the helmet separate from the boots so that nothing gets dirty, and it somehow magically fits everything we need.
Keep Calm and Eat Cookies: I love bringing treats for the horses. I'm using sugar cubes because they're not coloring the mouth - I don't like when the horses come out of the ring and they have the colored spit from cookies. Sugar doesn't do that so there's no chance of anyone mistaking a treat for blood in the mouth or anything like that!
Spurs Galore: Normally I'm carrying different spurs for diff horses. Geir is so easy because he's not usually changing something on the same horse and likes to keep things consistent. But I want to have everything I need to be prepared.
Body Protector: Geir turned 60 this year and he's had a bad fall before. He also has a blood clotting issue so we're just really careful about his health. He wears the vests over his show jacket while he's jumping - it's a nice extra measure of safety.
Hole Punch: For last-minute tack or stirrup adjustments.
Charms: I have a great friend in Czech named Dani and she makes these lucky charms by hand. She sent them to me as a present, I didn't know about it, but now I love them! Geir was so skeptical of them but one day I didn't use them and he was like, 'Where are the lucky charms?!' They're so cute and I love the small details and having everything perfect. I love sparkly things, and anything I can do to give a little more luck to my horses, I want to do!
Black Tape: In case of a broken zipper on Geir's riding boots!
What's the next stop for Geir, Nikki, and team? "One of my favorite shows - Leipzig. It was my first big 5* show I ever attended, and it's close to my home so a lot of my friends come visit me!"
Photos by SEH Photography.