Carl Hester, British dressage rider

  • Carl Hester, born 29 June 1967, is a British dressage rider who currently lives in Gloucestershire.

    Growing up on the Channel Island Sark, Carl rode a donkey called Jacko until he was big enough to ride carriage horses — the only horses on the island.

    He came to the mainland at 16, when he was offered a job in Dorset at the Fortune Centre of Riding Therapy. He stayed there for two and a half years, during which time he evented and took his BHS Assistant Instructors exam.

    In 1985, just 18 months after taking up dressage, Carl became national young rider champion on a skewbald mare called Jolly Dolly.

    Following his time at the Fortune Centre, he rode for Christopher and Jannie Taylor for three years. They gave him the ride on a horse called Slightly Trendy and in 1988 this combination were selected for the young rider dressage team. Although Carl missed the chance to compete due to a broken leg, the horse inspired him to direct his attentions to pure dressage.

    In 1989, Carl was asked to work as a rider for the Bechtolsheimers. In his three and a half years with them, Carl went to the World Championships in 1990 and the European Championships in 1991 on Rubelit Von Unkenriff, and the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 on Georgioni.

    After leaving the Bechtolsheimers Carl moved to Stow-on-the-Wold, where he shared a yard with Kate Carter. When they outgrew the yard, both Kate and Carl set up on their own.

    Carl has had an extremely successful career in senior ranks — representing Britain in four Olympic Games. He was part of the gold medal-winning team in London, when Britain won our first ever Olympic dressage medal.

    The Oldenburg gelding Escapado played a pivotal role in Carl’s international career, finishing best of the Brits in 13th at the 2004 Athens Olympics and fifth at the 2005 European Championships.

    However just days after the European Championships in Hagen, he was sold to Dutch breeding stable Exquis, to be ridden by Hans Peter Minderhoud.

    But in May 2011 Escapado returned to England to live out his retirement at home with Carl.

    Unfortunately, in 2008 both Dolendo and Lecantos sustained injuries and were therefore pulled out of the running for Olympic selection, but Carl returned to form in fine style at the 2009 winter championships at Hartpury College, taking the intermediaire I freestyle with Movistar.

    At the 2010 world championships in Kentucky Carl won team silver on Liebling II.

    He was also part of the gold medal winning team at the 2011 European Dressage Championships in Rotterdam, riding Uthopia, where the pair also picked up two individual silver medals.

    At what was a particularly successful Olympia for British dressage in December 2011, Carl and Uthopia came third in the grand prix qualifier and third again in the freestyle.

    The British Olympic Association named Carl the equestrian Olympic athlete of the year” in December 2011 as an acknowledgment of his outstanding year.

    By January 2012 Carl and Uthopia had moved up to second place in the world dressage rankings, sitting just behind Holland’s Adelinde Cornelissen.

    Amidst a number of high-profile transfers in early 2012 Carl denied rumours that Uthopia had been sold, despite there being a number of attractive offers for the stallion.

    Carl was part of the Olympic gold medal-winning team in London 2012, the bronze medal-winning team at the European Championships in Herning, Denmark in 2013 and the silver medal-winning team at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France in 2014.

    In September 2013 Carl won his 66th national dressage championship title riding Fine Time to victory in the grand prix kur.

    Carl is also a highly regarded trainer — he was dressage trainer of the year in 1996 and was awarded the Spillers equestrian personality of the year in 1997. He trained Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro to win dual Olympic gold at London 2012.

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