Team Hester’s blog: Fearing the emotion of Valegro retiring

  • So after a great storm, comes freezing temperatures apparently! Despite the trials of the December weather, I do love this time of year. Although the -6c averages each morning may be harsh on our hands and faces (not to mention the water taps), I always think that the horses, like any livestock, look really well on it. I find it’s so much easier to keep them warm and healthy in cold, dry air as opposed to the relatively tepid, damp conditions we can so often encounter during the British winter.

    With the outdoor school fairly frozen each morning over the past week or so, we have to be so grateful for the indoor to get the horses worked as normal. I know very well what it’s like to not to have such a luxury and so I appreciate how much easier it makes our lives when the cold sets in!

    Wednesday and Saturday each week are hacking days here and thankfully the roads have been pretty safe with little ice around so far. Layering up to stay warm out riding while it’s absolutely freezing is an entirely different proposition however. I finally nailed it the other day thanks to a voluminous combination of two giant coats plus a bodywarmer on top of several other garments. Said top coat was a luminous yellow reflective number (we wear hi-viz gear out hacking anyway); suffice to say I resembled a giant traffic cone that happened to be atop a horse. Perhaps not the most dashing, but definitely warm, and clearly visible for a five mile radius. Inconspicuous was not the order of the day.

    Press day at the yard

    Press day at the yard

    All roads lead to Olympia

    The build up to Olympia is well and truly underway and although I was on the fringes of it last year, it feels really different being in the middle of it now. Alan will go up this Sunday with Blueberry (Valegro) and Barney (Nip Tuck) and will be there until Wednesday night.

    Obviously for Barney it’s important that he’s ready for one of the biggest competitions of the year, but for Blueberry we face an entirely different prospect. For me, his retirement at Olympia feels surreal, and that’s as a relative newcomer. Thus I can only begin to imagine the mix of emotions that Charlotte, Carl and Alan are harbouring right now and will carry on feeling as the time ticks away into next week.

    Blueberry is incredibly well and it’s great to think that he is heading into his new chapter of life in such good order. For me, this is credit to the care he has received in terms of his training and management throughout his career and the skill with which his phenomenal talent has been nurtured and preserved. I, like so many others I’m sure, feel infinitely fortunate to be part of the ‘Valegro generation’ and have no doubt that he will sparkle next week as he always does. He’ll certainly be pleased to be there, Alan says he loves a party!

    Lest we forget that Barney has also had an fantastic year and hopefully it will carry on into his World Cup campaign over the coming weeks and months. He has continued to improve with every outing and I know that Carl and his owner Jane are hugely proud of everything he has achieved so far. In the stable he is a very gentle horse and he currently looks an absolute picture. I can’t wait to see how he gets on this time around.

    Continued below…

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    There is so much media focus on Carl and Charlotte and Friday last week was pre-Olympia press day (pictured top) where all of the national papers and TV channels descended here on the same day for interviews and pictures. It’s a funny thing really and something I’m not used to being exposed to. They were all very nice and I quite liked the cross over of our two professional worlds; I found it really interesting me to meet people from a totally different walk of life who have the job of trying to capture yours.

    So for now, all roads lead to Olympia. The travelling trunks are out which means Alan has started to pack the boys’ extensive wardrobes for next week and we’re on countdown until Sunday. I’m so glad that the BBC are going to be streaming the action, including Blueberry’s appearances, although I fear the emotion of the occasion might take away my ability to see the screen at all.


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