Connecting with ponies in Lista Travselskab

An educator’s passion for horses provides an opportunity that enriches the community

Lista Travselskab

Photo courtesy of Mona Olsen
Above: Driver’s view from the pony cart as a rainbow came out over the Nesheim Travbane during the pony camp with Lista Travselskab.

Mona Anita K. Olsen, PhD
Cornell University

As a visitor to Lista, Norway, I had always passed the sign for Nesheim Travbane (racetrack) when driving from Borhaug to Vanse, wondering what it was used for in the community beyond a location where summer parties and festivals were held. I would drive near Nesheim Travbane and see it typically empty. As a business professor, I wondered how it could be utilized as an asset in the community on a more routine basis. This summer, after working on some lectures at Eilert Sundt Videregående Skole (high school), I asked different teachers and students where they saw entrepreneurship in the community of Farsund. I was introduced to a passionate educator named Åse Helland.

Helland impressed me not only for her ability to connect with her students, but her genuine interest in encouraging me to learn more about the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Farsund and participate in cultural activities and experiences in the community. I had been speaking on the topic of linking passions, skills, and opportunities to create businesses that work. After a brief experience in her class, I learned about many educational organizations and clubs in the community trying to leverage existing infrastructure to create experiences and learning opportunities for people in the community and visitors (pony camp and windsurfing included). Helland asked me to consider attending a pony camp at Nesheim Travbane with Lista Travselskab (Trotting Society) to experience the location and see how she connects her passion and skills to create opportunities for students.

I was able to attend the annual pony camp with Lista Travelskab on a weekend in August. The camp taught me how to take care of a pony, and also the difference between a pony and a horse. I learned about the safety measures taken to ensure proper riding technique with a race-cart, and how to communicate with the ponies (including the necessary commands to make a successful race possible). Each student was asked to take the pony and race-cart out on the track and do laps to get a feel for the pony and the cart. When I was on the racetrack for the first time, I was nervous. I received help the first few laps until I felt comfortable with the leadership required to manage the pony. Then I took my first lap on my own. Amazingly, a beautiful rainbow came out over the Nesheim Travbane. I will forever remember that moment, in which I understood the appeal of being on a pony and out in nature.

Lista Travselskab

Photo courtesy of Mona Olsen
Above: Driver’s view from the pony cart as a rainbow came out over the Nesheim Travbane during the pony camp with Lista Travselskab.

The second part of the camp was working on agility training. The camp went over the techniques for managing the pony through different obstacles. Despite the mix of sunshine, hail, and rain, we kept working on our technique, improving with each lap of the agility course. We even switched ponies to experience different size wheels and speeds on the track. The pony camp concluded with a community dinner and reflective bonding, for not only students but also the extended family. Families from all over Norway had come to participate, transporting ponies from a variety of locations. Each participant had a different level of knowledge and experience with ponies and this allowed for great opportunities to engage.

I had the opportunity to talk with Helland after the pony camp experience about her passion for encouraging pony riding to engage community. She noted, “All my life I loved horses. When I was a little girl, I dreamed of having my own place with horses. It was impossible to have horses where my parents lived, so I went over to my friends’ houses to borrow their horses. Sometimes, dreams come true, because where I live now, I have my own.”

Connecting her passion with her skills as an educator to provide an opportunity for the community was a gradual process. “For several years, I had been busy in the local trotting association called Lista Travlag,” she said. “When we bought a pony named Syrèn for our daughter Silje, when she was eight years old, I saw opportunity to bring more children together around learning to work with and experience ponies. So, we started the pony group. The pony group met every other Friday and Saturday. The opportunity then presented itself to have a yearly pony camp that would be open to a larger community. The children love to come together to learn new skills and be together. It’s also fun for the parents to build community. It has become a tradition, and a good one! The joy we have and can share together with our ‘four-legged friends’ makes it worth continuing each year.”

To learn more about the Lista Travselskab, visit

Mona Anita K. Olsen is an assistant professor of entrepreneurship at the School of Hotel Administration in the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business in Ithaca, N.Y. She is also the founder of Innovation Barn AS and the 501c3 iMADdu (I make a difference, do you?) Inc. 

This article originally appeared in the November 2, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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Mona Anita K. Olsen

Mona Anita K. Olsen is the founder of Innovation Barn AS in Borhaug, Norway, currently bringing Flow to Flow(ers) at Route 8 Flow in Farsund. She holds an academic appointment for teaching and research as an Associate Professor (Førsteamanuensis) at the University of Southeastern Norway (USN) in the School of Business in the Department of Business and IT.

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