Ahead of Valegro’s retirement at Olympia later this month, H&H caught up with his rider Charlotte Dujardin at home. While she won’t be competing her wonder horse again, she has a number of stars waiting in the wings.
Here are four of the up-and-coming horses the double Olympic champion is most excited about.
Found in a point-to-point yard by Carl Hester’s former groom Caroline Dawson, this six-year-old mare by Benetton Dream x Dimaggio is the current elementary national champion.
“After Caroline spotted her, we sent Amy [Woodhead] over to try her and then bought her very cheap,” explains Charlotte.
“The day that she was going to be picked up, Carl’s lorry wouldn’t start so he took mine which had a huge picture of me on the side, which is how they realised where the horse was going.
“She’s been a really cool buy, and although she was a bit of a late starter, she has caught up in her training. She’s unbelievably talented in the piaffe.
“It’s a really cool story and I hope people find it inspirational — buying horses isn’t all about having heaps of money.”
River Rise Escala
Charlotte took over the ride from Sadie Smith, who had done all the mare’s early years education.
“It was quite a shock because Sadie had made it look so easy,” remembers Charlotte of the powerful Lord Leatherdale x Ferro mare. “She did an amazing job with her.
“I’m now working on getting her a bit hotter off my leg and everyone trains differently, so we’re still figuring each other out. Riding her was definitely harder than it looked.
“She’s now got the pirouettes and piaffe work and I’d like to get her out competing in 2017. I’m just trying to remould her a bit, but she’s super talented.”
Bought as an unbacked two-year-old from Brightwells auction for £33,000, this Vivaldi x Rubels daughter is an eye-catching dapple grey.
“I love that one,” says Charlotte of the now six-year-old. “I’ve done young horse classes with her and I think she’s a prospect for the Tokyo Olympics.”
The mare is the current medium gold national champion and also produced a colt foal by Negro in 2016.
This hot and feisty gelding by Jazz has given Charlotte a few heart-stopping moments.
“I bought him from Sandra Biddlecombe as a project,” she says. “I always wanted a Jazz, but he was wild — you couldn’t even catch him in the stable.
“We finally got him on the lunge and he started properly bucking. I’ve never seen a horse handstand like it. I wondered who on earth I’d be able to persuade to get on it.”
Cue Ryan Shannon.
“Luckily Ryan hadn’t seen what the horse was like, so he agreed to back hinm for me. En Vouge’s so hot that he holds his breath every time you touch him. Ryan got on, and apart from being crazy reactive, the horse has never put a foot wrong.
“He’s a tense, hot horse a bit like Nip Tuck and I thought he might kill me when we tried to teach him the changes. But he’s done two advanced mediums and won them both. He never runs out of fuel and he’s grand prix prospect through and through.”
Don’t miss H&H’s exclusive interview with Charlotte where she talks about having babies, why she wants a quieter year next year and why she’s still in awe of Carl in the current issue of the magazine (8 December, 2016)