I think the only place to start this week is at the end. The close of Blueberry’s (Valegro) competitive career is certainly not the culmination of his ridden one, but it does mark the close of an incredible chapter in dressage.
The story of he and Charlotte’s meteoric rise to global superstardom has been illustrated by an array of mesmerising performances over the years, to the point where he has become so much more than just a horse. He is a phenomenon. I was holding the fort at home throughout Olympia week and so we thought it only right that you should hear about his farewell in words of his bestie, Alan (Davies, Carl and Charlotte’s travelling groom)…
So Olympia turned out to be a more momentous occasion than I could have ever imagined. Blueberry was overjoyed about the whole thing from the moment he got to leap into the truck with his mate Barney (Nip Tuck). He was very grumpy with me when I got back from our trip to compete in Lyon with Barney most recently, Blueberry was not impressed that he had been left at home!
We travelled down on the Sunday and got settled in early, which proved to be a good idea as the media attention was continuous all through Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Carl and Charlotte started each day with radio interviews while Blueberry and I had to keep popping out from the stables to do appearances and photo shoots throughout the week. It felt like there was a reporter there from every conceivable TV station on the planet, it was unbelievable.
Amidst all hype over Blueberry, Barney had the serious business of competing to be getting on with, and tried very hard to behave in the electric atmosphere. He was a star and went beautifully to win both classes. We are all so proud of him and so happy for Jane (de la Mare — Barney’s owner), whose faith in him has never wavered.
Blueberry took the whole whirlwind of media following him like a true professional; he never turned a hair. He graced everyone with his gorgeous smile every time he was asked and then went onto do one of the best tests of his life on the Wednesday night, just to make sure that everyone will remember him as the utter superstar that he is.
My abiding memory will be waiting with him in the collecting ring before his final retirement appearance, late on the Wednesday evening. Blueberry and I were instructed to stay in the collecting ring until we were called in to join everyone in the main arena. We were out there for about five minutes and then they opened the curtains: the noise that hit me of cheering and clapping was like nothing I have ever heard. It took me a few moments to compose myself and I must admit to shedding a few tears as I walked in with Blueberry. I had to tell myself to get a grip as I had to do an interview in the arena almost straight away!
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I drove the two boys home that night and had time to reflect on the last few days. There are no words to describe the incredible love that the fans have shown for Blueberry. I’m lucky enough to still have him in my life every day, but it is obviously quite sad that he won’t be seen competing any more. Thankfully he is feeling so fit and well he will be able to do some appearances in his retirement which I am sure he will enjoy as much as his fans, so he will see you all soon!
Let the festivities begin
We’re all feeling pretty Christmassy at Oakelbrook. Alan is working over Christmas and will be putting Carl to work with the mucking out while the rest of us are away! I then take over the mantel for New Year to give Alan a break, with Sadie and Chloe back too. So from all of us here at Team Hester, we hope you have a very happy Christmas and our very best wish for the coming year.
Fizz & Alan