Carl Hester proved himself far and away the best of the Brits in Athens last month, producing the best Olympic performance by any British dressage rider in the Grand Prix Special, qualifying for the Kur and finishing in 13th individually.
His feats this weekend with the dashing Escapado saw the pair staving off the challenge from many of his eternal rivals, including Athens team mate Nicola McGivern and Olympic travelling reserve Emile Faurie. The pair cruised to victory by a 1.5% margin in the Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Freestyle Championship, and by an even greater margin in the Grange Hotels Grand Prix Championship to take the National Champion title.
This is Hester’s fifth National Champion Title, but the day did not go entirely according to plan. Described as “cutting a swathe” through the collecting ring by some, Hester was more diplomatic about Escapado’s unsettled behaviour: “There is still so much I have to learn about that horse. Outside with my working in didn’t feel entirely perfect, and then he went in and he was absolutely brilliant to ride.”
The combination is now due to have a bit of a break until December, when they get going in the World Cup Series. Hoping for a place in the European Championships in Moscow next summer, Hester’s only concerns are that so far, he and Escapado have proved themselves a combination better suited to hotter climes.
“Moscow can be hot and I’m just hoping I pick the hot day. I’m sure that they have one hot day a year and I hope that’s the day of my test – if I can get that far and manage to be selected again.”
Hester’s success this weekend went further than his win on Escapado. He also added another victory to his belt in the Solid Gold Medium Open and Restricted, when Pro-Set danced his way into a solid lead.
“He’s been the bridesmaid all his life so far”, said Hester. “He’s been reserve champion on so many occasions, but today was his day and he was just fantastic to ride.”