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H&H dressage and sport horse breeding editor

Olympic blog: Charlotte, we salute you

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I don’t cry. Really I don’t. I’ve seen Warhorse and I didn’t. But even from my dry ducts some salty liquid escaped as Charlotte Dujardin came down the final centre line today. She had already garnered eight 10s and went on to get four more on her way to breaking the Olympic grand prix record with 83.663% — smashing her own grand prix personal best by 2%.

Valegro makes dressage look easy. But there was nothing relaxed about the reception she got from her home crowd, the most delightfully biased lot I’ve ever heard.

I can’t remember feeling more nervous in recent times than I was during Charlotte’s test — but I, along with the rest of the spectators, jumped up when she nailed her final halt. We screamed like Justin Beber teens. We shouted, we cheered and then a noise like thunder swept round the stadium as 20,000 stamped their feet in appreciation of the coolest combo in dressage.

In the space of a week, I have turned from a grumpy Olymposceptic Londoner to the Games’ biggest, most patriotic fan.

So, ahead of the special — which will decide the team medals — Great Britain leads both the team and individual standings. That better get us some mainstream media coverage.

After Charlotte had so generously warmed up the 10 button for the remaining riders, beautiful tests from both Adelinde Cornelissen (Parzival) and Helen Langehanenberg (Damon Hill) reaped the benefits. What timing on Helen’s part to smash her personal best by 3%.

The other ride of the day (a new accolade I’ve just invented, and I belatedly award yesterday’s to Denmark’s Anna Kasprzak) has to go to Edward Gal. He made Undercover look like a seasoned grand prix horse; in fact, the Totilas stand-in has only been competing internationally for four months. The heavens opened as they came down the final centre line and a rash of umbrellas blossomed around the stands, but he never looked like blinking. That man can ride.

Aside from the inimitable Fuego, who entered the arena in free walk, cool as you like, Patrik Kittel had an impressive ride; the best “save” of the day. Early mistakes saw him trending on 68%, but such was the quality of the later work that he and Scandic clawed the marks back, eventually posting plus-74%.

This was my third trip to Greenwich and each time I’ve been thoroughly drenched by showers (showers, pah, more like torrential downpours) and got sunburnt. Perhaps I should stay away on Tuesday to manufacture some reasonable weather? Yeah right.

With 30 combinations scoring above 70%, including our own Richard Davison (who was lapping up the home-crowd cheers, grinning and making vigorous hand-gestures to ramp up the volume), expect a sensationally high standard in the special. I might even cry again.

Alice

Originally published on horseandhound.co.uk