En Vogue – from unlikely beginnings to emotional highs as one of the world’s best

  • En Vogue (Jazz x Contango) is the Olympic team bronze medal-winning ride of Carl Hester. Despite his numerous accolades, En Vogue’s career hasn’t always been straightforward, and his achievements are a testament not only to his talent but to the work put in by those who believed in him where others may have not.

    “The attention En Vogue needed to become the horse he now is, considering his temperament, made me realise yet again that, for anybody who wants to do this, it’s not a part-time job,” explained Carl in an interview with Horse & Hound in 2022. “It’s seven days a week of dedication to being the best you can.” 

    En Vogue’s early years

    Vogue is co-owned by Carl, Sandra Biddlecombe, Charlotte Dujardin and Lady Anne Evans. But it is Lucy Scudamore, Carl’s head groom, who perhaps knows Vogue better than anyone else.

    “From the first time I saw him as a feral youngster, standing at the back of his stable snorting, I loved him,” said Lucy. “Charlotte couldn’t get on without lungeing him first, and I couldn’t tack him up in the wash bay – I had to do it in his stable.

    “People said he’d never make a grand prix horse, but Charlotte and I both believed in him.”

    And it was with Charlotte that En Vogue made his first competitive outings. Together they burst onto the scene at Somerford Park Premier League in 2017, a competition Charlotte dominated, with eight wins from eight classes. En Vogue picked up two of those wins at prix st georges and inter I.

    “Vogue’s been a challenge: initially we couldn’t even catch him in the stable and, as for bucking, well this horse could buck a saddle off,” Charlotte said following her wins.

    The pair made their grand prix debut at Hartpury College the following year, winning on 72.9%. Then in 2020, at Keysoe CDI3* Carl and Vogue debuted their partnership – at what was Vogue’s first international competition – coming fourth in the grand prix (76.5%) and third in the special (78.42%).

    “I’ve always loved Vogue and Charlotte very kindly gave me the ride on him,” said Carl at the time. “He is just incredible to ride. He is a proper international horse and one who has so much eagerness to please all the time.

    “It means that you never feel disappointed even if you make a mistake, because it’s all really just a question of fine-tuning.

    “I still don’t know him well in a test situation, and Vogue is a horse who needs time and patience and more outings. He is a worrier to ride – you can feel his heart going all the time and he runs on such high energy – but his talent is not in question and his brain is not in question, he just needs to find more confidence.”

    Carl Hester riding En Vogue in the Tokyo Olympics

    Carl Hester and En Vogue, pictured at the Tokyo Olympics.

    The combination then went on to place third in the grand prix and freestyle at the 2020 LeMieux National Championships – which, despite some riders being unable to attend owing to the Covid restrictions that were in place at the time, was an extremely strong class, featuring World Equestrian Games medallists Mount St John Freestyle, Emile Faurie’s Dono Di Maggio, as well Vogue’s future Olympic stablemate Gio.

    Carl Hester: “He was a boy going in, and he came out a man”

    In the arena, Vogue’s confidence was growing, and at home his team were doing all they could to keep him confident and happy.

    “At home, he isn’t like most of the others,” recalled Alan Davies. “He lives out at night with two younger horses, and it’s great for his physique and for his brain, too – he loves being a bit feral.”

    Vogue’s career would reach its crescendo eight months later as he was part of an inexperienced team – alongside Charlotte on Gio and Lottie Fry on Everdale – that won team bronze at the postponed Tokyo Olympics.

    With just three to a team for the first time at the Olympics, the pressure was on the then 12-year-old Vogue to overcome his nerves in the special to secure a medal for the team.

    He’d been hot and nervous in the grand prix, with a mistake in the changes, and Carl confessed the pressure was playing on his mind: “For somebody like me, who thinks about these sorts of things, it’s very intense.”

    But his worries were put to bed when Vogue pulled it out of the bag to score 78.34% and get the team off to a perfect start. “Charlotte said, ‘You don’t have a choice, you have to go for it,’” said Carl, who did just that.

    “I have struggled with Vogue’s nerves and finding the right balance, but today, the cliche was true – he was a boy going in, and he came out a man. If he trusts you, there’s not one thing he can’t do well.”

    Carl Hester and En Vogue pictured at the 2021 European Dressage Championships in Hagen.

    For Lucy, it was an emotional conclusion to years and years of work. “I cried a lot during those two weeks in Japan,” she admits. “To watch [Charlotte] train him to the top level, and then to see him build such a relationship with Carl when he took over the ride was amazing.

    “Vogue has always been with me in my career, and we’ve nursed each other along, neither of us really knowing what we were doing.”

    It was similar feeling for Charlotte, who recalls “everyone thinking I was crazy” when she persevered with the horse she felt sure was destined for the top.

    “Carl gave me the opportunity with Valegro, so it is a massive honour for me to do give him the ride [on Vogue] in return – it was emotional for me to stand and watch them in that arena.”

    Vogue and Carl went on to help the British team to silver at the European Dressage Championships at Hagen that same summer but unfortunately missed out on the World Championships in 2022 through injury.

    “It’s particularly gutting at this time of year when I wanted to get going, but I don’t want to rush him into work,” Carl told H&H at the time.

    When Vogue did return, he had a prodigious new stablemate to compete for team places with – Fame.

    The pair competed alongside each other for the 2023 outdoor season, and throughout the summer there was much debate as to who should be Carl’s ride at the 2023 European Championships

    In the end, Fame’s superior scores saw him edge out his stablemate, but Vogue enjoyed the ultimate consolation in becoming national champion that same summer.

    “At the Europeans, Fame got all the glory he deserved, but Vogue has been on an equal footing all year and I’m glad he got to come here and prove himself. He deserves every moment of this,” said Carl after taking the title for the 11th time.

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