He is dressage royalty, and together with his loyal partner, Charlotte Dujardin, Valegro has 'danced' his way into the record books, smashing every record and winning medal after medal. So, what is the way to his heart? Does this precious equine get turned out? And what would he be like if he were human? Charlotte tells all...
1. When Charlotte first rode Valegro, the two initial things that struck her were his trainability and sheer power: “When he was younger he used to be able to canter down the long side of the arena in about four strides! I rode him at a dressage judge convention when he was a lot younger and Stephen Clarke (a top judge) said that he wouldn’t award Valegro a 10 for his canter because he didn’t think he was going to be able to collect…”
2. The way to Valegro’s heart is with food — there is nothing he loves more.
3. He gets turned out at home throughout the summer and when there is the odd dry day in the winter. “It’s part of Carl’s routine for all of the horses, even the stallions like Uthopia,” says Charlotte.
4. Valegro is always up for his training. “He’s naturally a very hot, keen horse who loves his work. He doesn’t have a weakness — I’m so lucky,” says Charlotte.
5. Valegro isn’t a ‘worrier’ if he makes a mistake in the school, but equally he doesn’t like to get it wrong: “We can just brush it off and do it again,” says Charlotte.
6. Charlotte has never fallen off Valegro. Touch wood!
H&H caught up with the Olympic, European and World champion ahead of her next competition at Olympia which kicks off…
7. Charlotte says if Valegro were human he would almost definitely be overweight! He would be very independent and fairly smart too, but not a geek or goody-goody, as when you groom him, for example, he immediately has to go and roll to get dirty again. He would also be very good looking of course.
8. Charlotte described her fondest memory with Valegro as “definitely winning individual gold at the Olympics in London — it was such a surprise to win, I really had no expectation at all. Another great moment was at the World Equestrian Games (WEG) this year — riding down the last centre line in the grand prix I was welling up — I never cry and I was like ‘oh my God I haven’t even finished yet, don’t cry, I won’t be able to see where I’m going!’ But I knew he had given me his all and tried his best and it made me feel so emotional.”
9. An average week in the life of Valegro consists of schooling on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. He then hacks on Wednesday and Saturday and has Sunday off.
10. Valegro is hacked out by Tricia Gardiner, a member of Britain’s dressage team at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, who is now aged 77. “Mentally she still thinks she’s a teenager but obviously physically this isn’t the case — she finds it hard to walk and get on a horse now,” says Charlotte. “She literally drags Blueberry (as he is known at home) to the highest mounting block she can find and makes him stand in a position which is good for her to climb on from, faffs around a bit and drags herself up — you would honestly look at him and think he was a bog-standard, happy hacker. He then goes up the road with her, eating his way through any hedge he can find — she really needs some grass reins to keep him on the straight and narrow! It’s hilarious to watch. You then put him in the arena and he becomes this out and out performer”.
11. Charlotte thinks Valegro has three or four more years competing at the top level. “I really don’t have any goals for him moving forward,” she says. “As long as he is happy and enjoying his work, that is the most important thing. It would be great to get to the Rio Olympics and then see how he is after that, but I kind of think what will be, will be — I don’t feel there is any pressure because we’ve done everything”.
12. After Olympia, Charlotte is looking forward to competing Valegro at the World Cup final in Las Vegas in April 2015. She says: “I think it will be an incredible crowd to ride in front of. — the Americans love to clap when you’re not finished and do all of the things you’re not meant to do when you’re watching dressage! That might be a little bit of a test for Valegro. But who cares? It’s going to be fun. I’ve also been told that the arena might be a bit short, which could be interesting with the timings of the music — watch this space!”
You can see Charlotte and Valegro in action in tonight’s (17 December) Reem Acra FEI World Cup grand prix freestyle at Olympia, the London International Horse Show.