British Olympic dressage rider Carl Hester has been given the ride on Donald Mactaggart’s Liebling II, the 11-year-old gelding previously ridden by Anna Ross-Davies.

British dressage team captain Richard Davison told H&H: “My understanding is that the horse is not for sale but will be ridden by Carl Hester.

“It is obviously heartbreaking for Anna to lose the ride, but we should thank Donald Mactaggart for the opportunities he has given her for seven years and for making the horse available for teams during that time.

“It’s fantastic to have his continued support with another Brit, who is also one of our most experienced riders.”

On Thursday, the horse left Donald Mactaggart’s Patchetts Equestrian Centre in Hertfordshire, where Anna is equestrian manager.

“If that’s the case, I wish them both well,” she told H&H. “It was a fantastic seven years training Liebling to grand prix, and finishing 10th with him at the Europeans was an experience I’ll never forget.”

[updated 19 September, ’08]

Carl Hester’s first competition with Liebling II will be Saumur CDI*** in France at the end of the month (25-28 September).

Carl told H&H: “It’s a privilege to be able to ride him. It’s a very difficult situation but I just want to carry on the success that Anna, Donald and Patchetts have had.”

He said his aim at Saumur is to “get around the arena without one of his [Liebling’s] infamous explosions”, referring to incidents like the one at Aachen in 2007 when “Lenny” took exception to the TV cameras and misbehaved, scoring a disappointing 61.875 in the grand prix.

“He is obviously a very well-trained horse who has had success at some shows and been rather quirky at others. I just want to feel my way around the dressage test,” said Carl.