What is so special about dressage?
“Dressage is a beautiful sport — it’s about a perfect partnership between a horse and a rider,” says Carl Hester. “I’ve really enjoyed the training from the bottom to the top. It’s something I absolutely relish every day. I can’t wait to get out of bed and train horses towards grand prix.”
Why do you look forward to Royal Windsor?
“To have a show like Windsor that I can compete at is always something I look forward to. It is easy to get to, everybody is so welcoming and friendly when we get there, for the riders we have these amazing surfaces and of course it creates a fantastic atmosphere having the castle in the background,” he says.
“There’s an awful lot to do at Royal Windsor, not only if you’re interested in dressage, but if you’re a foodie, if you like the shopping and you like watching horses in general. There are so many classes there that you can watch and learn from.
“I’m taking Barolo to Windsor. He did the demonstration last year and so it will be very different for him this year with the pressure of competing. It will be a nice introduction for me and him into international dressage.”
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What do you look for in a dressage horse?
“A dressage horse has to have three good paces — that’s walk, trot and canter. Done well it looks extremely easy, but in fact it’s very difficult. The horses have to be extreme athletes to do this. Keeping a horse happy and sound and actually ready to do the competing is more than just riding — it’s about being an all-round horseman. So it’s about nutrition, psychology, fitness for horse and rider, and really leaving no stone unturned to make it to the top.
“Charlotte and I share the yard here, and we work together most days with our horses. I think people perhaps thought that after Valegro retired that that would be the end of Charlotte. But I see what’s happening everyday and she’s got an amazing mare called Mount St John Freestyle — she’s one of the most exciting horses in the yard. She makes dressage just look amazing and she’s turning into quite a superstar.”
The level of dressage competition at Windsor is higher than ever this year with a four-star class taking place, with the grand prix on the Thursday night (11 May) and the freestyle on the Friday night (12 May).