The second you meet Johanna Lassnack it becomes crystal clear why so many riders young and old, beginners and professionals find inspiration in her approach to being a rider – and truth be told – a human being in general. Malgré Tout Media met this extraordinary entrepreneur, social media sensation, coach, and horse lover, for a talk about her way into the world of horses, the many ups and downs, and the amazing life she has made for herself.
Johanna Lassnack, 30 started her life with horses on the sideline so to speak. She went to school with a girl who had horses at home, and one day Johanna asked her friend if it would be okay for her to come see the horses.
“And after that day I started begging my mother to please let me start riding,” Johanna remembers.
” Two weeks later I was allowed to start at a riding school. I was 7 years old, and I have been with horses everyday ever since, having the best time. Always being the first to get there and the last to leave. Doing it all, mucking out, grooming and helping with anything I could get my hands on.”
From low self-esteem to focus on mental training
Eventually Johanna Lassnack got to buy one of the riding school ponies and from there on things started to pick up. She got more ponies, some of which were semi good, and she would go to competitions with them. But they would continuously stop in front of the jumps, and often she would not even be able to make it through the course.
” I really started doubting myself, even though I was a pretty good rider, and the one that people would sort of turn to, you know: Oh, just ask Johanna, she can help you. But when I started doing competitions and it didn’t go that well, I started losing faith in myself, and began caring more about what other people were thinking and saying. Plus, I was never that good in school, had a hard time keeping up, had to repeat a grade and generally had a really low self-esteem.”
Fast forward to high school. Johanna got a teacher who actually believed in her more than she did herself. And from there on her life started to change for the better. Three years later she graduated with the highest grades in all subjects except English. And then the real journey began.
“I had always been really nervous at competitions and suddenly I was able to work on that,”Johanna explains.
” So, I became very interested in all aspects of the mental part and started to focus on my own self development and train to become a mental coach. To begin with actually just for my own sake. But the more knowledge I gained, the more I realized how helpful it was also on horseback. In everything from battling nervousness to focusing and performing at one’s best.”
The beginning of an online universe
After some years Johanna Lassnack began contemplating how she could share what she had learned with other equestrians.
“Today I have the great opportunity to travel and lecture about the topic and even coach young riders on an individual level. Many riders spend an enormous amount of time and money on horse equipment, good training, competitions and feed, but completely forget to take care of themselves. With the online universe ‘Ryttarinspiration’ (Rider inspiration) I wanted to change that,” says Johanna who was only 22 when she started putting her plans in motion.
The website came to life while Johanna was working as a flight attendant, this was back in 2013. A time when social media was also speeding up. So, in fact it all started on Facebook with the profile named “Ryttarinspiration”. And without Johanna really knowing where it was going to take her.
” When I had gone to lectures myself and taken courses to become a mental coach it was very often a man in his 50s who would talk and explain,” Johanna remembers.
“And I really could not relate to this kind of person, who would talk about hockey, football and track and field, so that meant I had to try and create my own sort of images and examples. That was when I realized how much it matters that we are actually sitting on a living animal. Like, if I was to go and play a football game, then I can psych myself up to it. Get the adrenalin pumping. But when it comes to horses, you have to be neutral, to stay the same the whole time, be in control of your thoughts and emotions.”
Humorous video content created an explosion
Johanna Lassnack started posting some inspirational quotes and thinking that if that hopefully picked up some momentum then she could try and find the courage to write some of her own words.
“A lot of people started sharing my posts, and I guess looking at it now, one would think that I might have had a strategi from the beginning – but really, I did not. But I do see now in hindsight, that it made sense that I also started adding some humour. I began doing little sketches, that I called” the typical rider”. Just little videos, where I poked fun at us riders. That is when I started getting even more followers and people were sharing it all over the world. It was like an explosion.”
After about 2 ½ years Johanna got a request from a riding school in the area where she lived – would she come and give a lecture?
“But I was like, no. I don’t know how to do that. What shall I say? How do I present myself? But I still said yes. And I remember having this kind of euphoric sense afterwards – wauw! But I was also sad, because I felt there were so many things I did not get to talk about, so in a way I was displeased. Then someone came up to me and said: That was so amazing, I could totally see myself in what you talked about. And I could not help thinking: Have we been to the same lecture. And 2-3 months later I was invited back to the same place, so I guess it had not been that bad,” Johanna laugh.
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Be careful what you wish for
What Johanna Lassnack really wanted though was to quit being a flight attendant and get her own horse again after having had to put down her beloved friend through seven years. Her grandfather who had helped before didn’t want to anymore and her parents could not afford it.
“I had competed at Globen and Falsterbo with “Juppe” and he had taught me so much. And it was almost torture to be reduced to being a spectator, so I realized I had to pull myself together and create something for myself. That’s when I got the idea to gather all my remaining vacation days which mounted up to about 7 weeks in total and then spend them touring the country giving lectures. From north to south all the way around in Sweden.”
Well, be careful what you wish for. Johanna did a post about the lectures on Facebook and a week later her entire 7 weeks had filled up with places who wanted her to come by.
Becoming her own brand
But she did it. And as it turned out, there was a real need and demand for it, and there still is, but Johanna has had to cut back on this massive lecture scale, because it takes a lot to travel that much and be “on stage” that much. She still gives lectures from time to time, and does a number of online events, and then she has her own clients ranging from riders at riding schools to top riders within both showjumping, dressage and eventing.
” I am so passionate about that part of it – the one-on-one situation,” she explains.
” This is where you can really get to the bottom of things. There are a lot of great things to be done and said at lectures. You get to see how the audience respond and so on, but then they leave and go home and most times you never get to see them again. So that’s how I work now. And then I have also started my own brand Johanna Lassnack, which really was never the intention from the beginning.
It all started with ”Ryttarinspiration”, and that was the whole idea. But as time went by, I thought maybe it would make sense to stand on more than one leg, and I also wanted to be able to spend even more time with my horses and on my riding. Which is one of the reasons I am doing this in the first place,” says Johanna, who has been working on her own brand for three years now.
“It was important for me to get long term collaborations with other brands where I can have a good relationship and we can help each other. Really do something great. And now that’s what I am doing. I have 6-7 partners that I have a close relationship with. Among them are Maya Delorez, Vitamin Well, NAF, Brogaarden, Svensk Ridsport and Torstenssons.”
One of the brands that Johanna collaborates with is the swedish equestrian design Maya Delorez.
Try not to compare yourself to others
With everything Johanna has succeeded with and much of it having started online, it seems only natural to take a closer look at her feelings and points of view on social media in general. Is she a fan or does she also see some drawbacks?
“I think social media is amazing, because you can follow people, have friends and so on. That’s the good part. I used to call it a parallel world, but I don’t anymore, because this is our world now. Very often we are more on Instagram than we are present in the “real” world. So, in a way this is our real world. And I think we need to accept that.
The challenge with Instagram is that you only see small fractions of this somewhat ideal world of people’s lives and then you put the pieces together and create your own image of these people. And I do meet a lot of young girls who look at other girls’ profiles and think: Wauw, she has such cool clothes, and look how she always wins competitions, and this one has so many followers and friends, and she goes to parties and gets high grades. And then you create this image of something you need to have yourself.”
“Or the one who gets high grades might have a low self-esteem and dislike herself. The girl who gets all the cool stuff for her horses, could have a sick mom or dad, or suffer abuse in the family.
What I am saying is, that you don’t see the whole story on Instagram. And that is something that I address in my lectures a lot: What do you yourself put out on Instagram? Do you take a picture and then remove some things that you don’t like? That you don’t want people to see? It is important to understand the mechanism and to not compare yourself to these ideals. Because nobody comes with the full package, and it is so important to focus on your own talents. And sometimes you know what they are, sometimes you don’t and that’s okay. It will come…”
* Learn from your mistakes. If you never fail, you never learn.
* Don’t judge others. A smile can go a long way.
* Get help from someone with more experience. No one knows everything. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
* Create your own opportunities. Don’t wait for someone else to create them for you.
* Create routines. That way you will feel confident in what you are doing.
* Be patient. Whether it’s a new business you’re starting or you’re striving to become the best rider, it won’t happen overnight. Doing a little every day will eventually get you where you want to be!
Try to keep a positive approach
Another thing that Johanna brings forward in her lectures, coaching and in general is the fact that many people ask a lot of negative questions within the equestrian sport on social media. Like: Why do you ride with such long spurs? Why do you use hat bid? Or why do you jump this or that height? This is where Johanna tries to look at things from a different angel and instead tries to promote a fair talk or debate.
” I try to get people to ask different questions in a different tone. Like: Hmm…I see that you use longer spurs than I do, how come? What are your thoughts behind that? How have you decided to do that? Those kinds of questions are okay and much more engaging instead of: Don’t you get that it is wrong to use those spurs?
Plus the whole thing about sending a like, a positive comment, write congratulation for example. That way you don’t just see other people as competitors. We are all in the sport because we love it. We are all struggling with things that nobody knows about and doing the best we can. Sometimes we make a mistake or are mistaken, but we learn all the time. None of us have all the answers from the beginning. So be nice to each other also at competitions. Say high. Give a thumbs up on Instagram. It all contributes so much more to our passion but also jut to ourselves as individuals. Because what you project is what you get back.
The book that every rider needs to read
No doubt Johanna is one of a kind. Her energy, positivity and enthusiasm combined is extraordinary. And this despite – or maybe due to the fact that she herself has gone through some really rough times in her life. The hardest of them, no doubt, was losing her father, who took his own life about 1 ½ years ago. A heart-breaking experience that Johanna has chosen to be honest and open about – also on social media. One of those honest post was seen by Susanne Högdahl, who writes for the equestrian media Ridsport in Sweden.
Susan had a dream to write a book and had been in contact with a couple of high profiles riders. But when she saw one of Johanna’s posts regarding the challenges of coming back to life after her father’s death, she knew that this was the person she wanted to do a book with.
” And this book is the one that I wish had been there when I was younger. There are so many books on mental training, but right now at least in Sweden there are no books focusing on the rider. And we need to think about how we can be the best riders for our horse both at competitions and at home in the training. So, the thought behind this book is to provide a mental tool to enable the rider to take the riding to the next level while at the same time becoming more confident as a person.”
The book which is planned to be translated into English also, includes several parts, ranging from how you can handle emotions in the saddle to other parts of the life with horses. When it comes to competitions, Johanna explains how to create a system with the help of concrete tools, to go into a “focus bubble” and manage performance anxiety. At the same time, other everyday topics are treated such as daring to believe in and be oneself, how to be a good role model, dealing with general fears and horsemanship.
“All horse people share a very strong love for the animal and put an incredible amount of focus into that love. But in the end, we are two who must perform: you yourself must also feel good, be able to focus and perform when it comes down to it. The book is meant to help the rider become the one our horse wants on its back, “Johanna concludes.