Carl Hester: ‘I never wanted a chestnut mare, [but] I love this one’

Carl Hester showed off yet another horse to watch when he made his competitive debut on the Benetton Dream mare Brioso II. The pair posted 78.03% in the prix st georges (PSG) at Summerhouse on Friday, 26 April, before upping that score to a whopping 82% at the same level at Hartpury on Sunday, 28 April.

“I’m not used to getting scores like that,” Carl joked to H&H. “I gave Charlotte a nudge and said, “we’re joining the same club as you!

“I had just wanted a nice peaceful run where I could enjoy it without wondering who was watching, and hopefully qualify her to do young horse PSGs this year.”

The nine-year-old British-bred mare, known as Bella, is owned by Carl — who bought her just-backed out of a point-to-point yard — but she has been competed up until now by Charlotte Dujardin, becoming elementary gold national champion in 2016 and claiming the medium gold title at the winter championships the following year.

But shortly afterwards, disaster struck and the mare had a full year out of competition as she recovered from first colic surgery, then a hernia.

“She was under anaesthetic twice within six weeks.” says Carl. “We gave her lots of time off, but she is incredibly tough and has bounced back.

“I’d never had a [horse by] Benetton Dream before but I absolutely adore her,” he added, despite admitting that he never wanted a chestnut mare. “She’s just my pet, and she has the best ears in the business — big floppy ears that hang out to the side.

“Last year Charlotte had so many mares to ride at that level, so she said to me, ‘Why don’t you start riding Bella?’ and I never got off.”

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Carl reports that the lovely mare has all the talent needed for grand prix — “We’re hoping she’ll be ready for next year” — and it’s extra impressive given her less-than-auspicious start.

“She had been so difficult to break as she was very cold-backed when she was young, and that’s why she ended up in a point-to-point yard,” Carl explained.

Bella was spotted there by Carl’s former groom Caroline Dawson, and Carl sent Amy Woodhead to try her so nobody would know who was buying her.

“We all had a good laugh about it in the end,” he remembers. “She has transformed into having the most amazing temperament — if you show her lots of love and affection she is very amenable.”

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