Portrait: Patrik Kittel, the Smiling Swede

3 min.

Many big names in the equestrian sport have had horses in their lives from a very young age, and several have been on a horse before they could even walk. Therefore, it must be said that Patrik Kittel entered the horse world relatively late, at the age of eleven. It didn’t take more than his first encounter with a horse for him to be convinced that he should be part of that world. After persuading his mother to buy a horse, Kittel began his journey into the wonderful world of dressage.

During his youth in Sweden, Kittel participated in several Swedish youth championships. Alongside school and competitions, he received training from Ingamay Bylund, who was part of the Swedish bronze-winning team at the 1984 Olympics.

Germany and the European Championships

After finishing school, like many other aspiring equestrians, he moved to Germany. There, he started working as what he calls “the boy for everything,” in the stable. In Germany, Kittel was able to slowly build his riding career, and over time, he found more and more success. Many Grand Prix wins and his Olympic debut in 2008 had already marked him as a talented rider. However, in 2011, he surprised most dressage fans at the European Championships in Rotterdam. He achieved an impressive fourth place with the Swedish team and finished fifth in the Grand Prix Special, ahead of the likes of Isabell Werth herself. But in the freestyle, he moved up two places to claim third position, thus winning his first-ever European Championship medal. This made him only the second Swedish dressage rider ever to win an individual medal at the European Championships. During the European Championships in Rotterdam, he rode Watermill Scandic, his steady partner for over six years.

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Swedish Champion


Kittel has maintained his good form since the bronze medal in Rotterdam and has rarely found himself outside the top 20 on the FEI’s ranking of the best dressage riders. He won the Swedish Championships four years in a row, from 2013 to 2016, missed 2017 due to an injury to his horse, and then won another five times consecutively from 2018 to 2022. He has thus won nine out of the last ten Swedish Championships. Alongside his personal success, he has been part of the Swedish teams that won European Championship bronze in both 2017 and 2019.

In addition to his talent and results, Kittel is known as a showman who performs with a big smile and does his best to entertain the audience. Furthermore, he has expressed his opinion that dressage can be changed to make the sport more entertaining for a wider audience. He is also known as a skilled trainer of both horses and riders, for which he has received awards.

Read also: “I am an ordinary rider – I just do everything without equipment”


Despite the smile and entertainment, Kittel’s story also has a dark side. In 2009, a video emerged apparently showing Kittel’s horse, Scandic, with a blue tongue as a result of rollkur. Rollkur, also called hyperflexion, is defined as flexion of the horse’s neck achieved through aggressive force. The incident sparked public debate on the topic, which ultimately led to the FEI banning rollkur at international competitions. There is, in theory, at least, a distinction between rollkur and the so-called “low, deep, and round” (LDR), which refers to flexing the horse’s neck without aggressive force. Kittel has stated that the video was taken out of context and that he is deeply concerned about horse welfare. The FEI’s investigation into Kittel based on the incident did not result in any penalties.

Regardless of what one may think of Kittel, there can be no doubt that he is passionate about his sport and horses in general. He spreads positivity and works to make the sport bigger and better. Only time can tell, if his positive contributions to the sport will overshadow the controversy in the future.

Read also: Portrait: World Champion Charlotte “Lottie” Fry

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