Before she started traveling the world as one of its leading models, Caroline Brasch Nielsen would regularly sit on horseback alongside her sister, Frederikke Brasch Nielsen. We meet up the Brasch sisters for a trip down memory lane through more than a decade of equestrian sisterhood.
Text Caroline Nordstrand Iuel / The Horse Rider’s Journal No. 11
She is one of the 20 models of moment, part of Chanel’s exclusive cast and a regular on the runways of Valentino and Hermes. All before her 21st birthday model Caroline Brasch Nielsen has shot to the stars. Between shooting campaigns for the likes of Chloé and Fendi, however, she still finds time to return to her Danish country side roots where she grew up surrounded by ponies with her sister, 24-year-old running enthusiast, teacher and Copenhagen it-girl Frederikke.
When did you start riding?
Frederikke: I started when I was eight, and got my first horse when I was 10. Caroline was terrified of horses in the beginning. Once she was literally sick with fear.
Caroline: When I started competing I was so anxious before entering the arena that I’d sometimes hold my breath for so long that it would make me throw up. It was awful! I started when I was seven, and my dad always taught us to put ourselves one hundred per cent into the things we chose. So I did. Even if I was a bit scared at first.
Where did you ride?
Frederikke: At first our horses were kept on other farms, but when I was 15 we moved to our own farm in Northern Zealand where we got our own arena with jumps.
Caroline: After years of being picked up straight from school and driving to whatever farm our horses were at – only to return home late in the evening – it was fantastic to get our own space.
What was it like managing your horses yourself?
Frederikke: We had two horses each and it was great – and a lot easier – to be able to ride them whenever we wanted.
Caroline: But it also meant we had to get up at 6 am to muck out, feed and prepare them. Every day! Sometimes I just felt like saying, “Frede, today is your day!” But as we got older I became the stable guard. Frederikke is a bit messy, while I am the tidy sister.
What kind of riding did you practice?
Frederikke: We both did jumping and competed in regional as well as national championships. I also did some European competitions.
Caroline: I never joined the internationals, but I did follow Frederikke everywhere.
Frederikke: And we shared the same trainer, Hotho Vestergaard, who was famous for…
Caroline: Being strict!
Frederikke: Sure, he had a reputation for being a bit tough; after all, he was the best pony trainer in Denmark.
What did you enjoy the most?
Caroline: Everyday life around the horses and the unity you feel with your fellow riders… Just think of all the fun we had! From joking around in the stables to living in caravans between horses’ tents on nameless fields in the middle of nowhere. Riding has shown us all the corners of Denmark. That’s another side to the equestrian lifestyle!
Frederikke: Yes, but it wasn’t all peasant fields. There was a lot of fashion involved. You had
to have the right equipment, from headbands to leggings and covers.
What was in fashion?
Caroline: Brands like Kingsland and RG were really hot. At the championships the most prestigious asset was a gold-embroidered RG cloth carrying you and your horse’s names. Did you also compete against each other?
Frederikke: Never. We weren’t in the same age group. Plus Caroline inherited all my horses so we were never in the same category.
Caroline: True, I got all your discarded ones, haha!
Did you win any titles?
Caroline: I won the Northern Zealand championship on Kiltormer Pride. But I also really
enjoyed being Frederikke’s sidekick when my riding hadn’t yet become serious and I could play around with her friends’ sisters, pretending to ride on their backs.
What horse was your favourite?
Caroline: The aforementioned pony, Kiltormer Pride, was actually my favourite. Or “Kilometre” Pride as we nicknamed it.
Frederikke: My favourite was Sligo Choice from Ireland. It was simply an amazing horse.
What did your horses mean to you?
Caroline: You become extremely attached to a horse. Over the years, we’ve had to say goodbye
to a few, and it felt terrible.
Frederikke: It was like breaking up with a boyfriend. We would cry for weeks.
What memory stands out the most?
Caroline: I’d almost made it to the finals at the national championship when – just before the last jump – my saddle fell off. I have photos of me walking off, looking like I was about to punch someone. Hard.
What’s your most cherished memory?
Frederikke: I think I speak for the both of us when I say the overall feeling of togetherness. You do everything together – it is unparalleled.
And your worst memory?
Caroline: Getting up before dawn to ride a horse in minus degrees can be quite an ungrateful job. Frederikke: When the stable pipes exploded and water poured out like crazy. We had to carry buckets back and forth between the house and the stable. A horse rider’s winter can be tough.
Looking back, what role has riding played in your lives?
Frederikke: It’s true what they say: It’s not just a sport, it’s a way of life. You form a special bond from spending so much time together and sharing so many moments through so many years…
Caroline: Like summer days of riding in the fields surrounding our farm. We must have been every trainer’s worst nightmare – we always rode into the fields instead of working on our dressage skills.
Frederikke: And all the fun we had jumping, always telling each other to go higher and higher! Caroline: This makes me think of one of my ponies that was notoriously known for jumping the fence. It was impossible to catch and it neighed like crazy. The time I spent running after that rebel pony!