‘She’s captured my heart’ – meet ‘Audrey’, Charlotte Dujardin’s latest grand prix star

  • Alive And Kicking (All At Once x Fürst Piccolo), or “Audrey” as she is known at home, has burst onto the scene with Charlotte Dujardin, winning international grand prix classes in Lier and Hagen.

    Charlotte co-owns the Westfalian mare with Carl Hester and Ulrike Bachinger and discovered her as a four-year-old in Sweden after being a guest ride judge for the four-year-old class at the 2018 Swedish Warmblood Young Horse Championships in Flyinge.

    “I bought her off a video without trying her,” says Charlotte. “She captured my heart the minute I saw her, so I took the risk and got her.”

    Alive And Kicking’s early years

    Alive And Kicking was bred by Michael Schulte in Germany and was bought and developed as a young horse by the American rider Lauren Asher, who competed her in the 2017 VSN Trophy Finals in the Netherlands as a three-year-old.

    Lauren sold the mare to Bjarke Laustsen and Patricia Florin from Sweden, who only owned her for a few months before Charlotte took her on.

    She was first competed in the UK by Carl’s former stable rider Sadie Smith in the five-year-old classes, while Charlotte took her out to compete at novice and elementary – with their scores not once dropping below 70%.

    However, she only competed sparingly as a young horse, and it wasn’t until Charlotte McDowall took her on as a six-year-old that her career got underway in earnest.

    Charlotte – known as Charlie – grew up in Gloucestershire doing showing and working hunter classes before the Covid pandemic resulted in her A Levels being cancelled leaving her free for the summer of 2020.

    Alan Davies keeps his Shetland ponies at our house, basically in our back garden, and he knew I had free time so he asked me if I’d do some cover work, including hacking out, for him at Carl’s while he was on holiday,” explains Charlie. “I was so excited – I had been to the yard before, but now I could experience it properly.”

    Charlotte Dujardin and Alive and Kicking

    Charlotte Dujardin and Alive and Kicking at Somerford Park Premier League in 2022.

    A few weeks into riding for Carl, Charlotte (Dujardin) asked Charlie if she’d like to ride Alive And Kicking – with Charlie admitting she’d already fallen for the mare.

    “Audrey was already my favourite to hack, but when I rode her properly for the first time, Charlotte said, ‘It’s the perfect picture’,” remembers Charlie. “I would have been happy just to ride her the once, but Charlotte suggested I do some shows with her and it all went from there.”

    The pair ended up riding down the centre line together 41 times, competing up the levels to prix st georges (PSG), qualifying for both the NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships and the LeMieux National Dressage Championships twice.

    The pair’s final appearance together at the 2022 National Championships was one to remember, with them winning the young rider title on 72.35%, earning praise from Charlotte, who said: “It’s been a huge learning curve for her but she did me proud. It’s great to give Charlie those opportunities and it’s nice to see the talent coming through.”

    Charlotte Dujardin: “She’s called Audrey, as in Hepburn, because she’s so beautiful”

    2022 was something of a breakthrough year for Alive And Kicking, as Charlotte also rode her to small tour Premier League wins at Hickstead and Hartpury College – with their scores topping out at 79.17%.

    Following their win at Hickstead, Charlotte told Horse & Hound: “Audrey’s quite a hot mare and I thought I needed to have a go and see what she felt like. I’ve ridden her at home but in the arena, she’s so brave and bold, and not fazed by anything.

    Alive And Kicking and Charlotte Dujardin working at home in 2023, not long after the birth of Charlotte’s daughter, Isabella.

    “She’s so talented and has so many gears that at the moment I have to settle for first or have legs everywhere, but she’s very capable of high marks.”

    The combination was also runner-up in the PSG at the 2022 National Championships, finishing behind Charlotte’s other ride that day, Hilus MHB. Charlotte was already four-and-a-half months pregnant at the time and the competition proved to be her last before the birth of her daughter Isabella in 2023.

    Two months after giving birth, Charlotte and Alive And Kicking were back in action, winning the inter II at Somerford Park Premier League on 77.99%.

    “I’ve been very lucky to have such a great team back home to keep them ticking over until I was ready to ride again,” said Charlotte following her win.

    The pair also won the PSG freestyle at Wellington Premier League on 78.33% and were once again runners-up at the National Championships – this time to another of Charlotte’s rides, Hawtins San Floriana, in the inter II.

    At that point, Alive And Kicking was perhaps not getting the plaudits her performances deserved, as Imhotep was achieving remarkable scores at grand prix, while her younger stablemate Times Kismet was looking like a world-beater at small tour.

    But once she made the step up to grand prix – winning her debut at Hartpury College with a convincing 79.13% – all eyes were on her.

    “To do her first [grand prix] at just nine years old and gain a huge 79% makes me more proud than you can imagine,” Charlotte wrote in a post on social media following their win. “Of course, the grand prix journey only just begins from here and there is no rush with any horse, but the feeling today was incredible.”

    Four months later Alive And Kicking kicked off her international career in style, winning the grand prix (75%) and her first-ever grand prix special (75.19%) at the CDI3* in Lier.

    The combination produced two harmonious, flowing tests, scoring consistent sevens and eights, with highlights from the judges including the passage and the general impression, for which she received several nines.

    “I couldn’t ask for much more,” said Charlotte, following the grand prix. “My job as a rider [is] to give her confidence to go in there and have a nice time. And I think she did do that.”

    They then followed up their win in Lier with another double at the CDI3* in Hagen, taking the grand prix (74.84%) and the grand prix special (74.17%) with aplomb.

    “For such an inexperienced horse at this level, she’s giving me such a fantastic feeling for the future,” said Charlotte, “I’m absolutely thrilled with her.”

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