15 pearls of wisdom from Carl Hester: Valegro, Charlotte Dujardin and how his yard works

  • He’s one of Great Britain’s most successful dressage riders and the man behind golden girl Charlotte Dujardin’s world record breaking achievements. But how does Carl Hester like to run his yard, and just how much did Valegro cost him? We find out.

    1. He buys two horses per year on average — most of these are two and a half year olds.

    2. He purchased Valegro as a youngster for £4,000. His bargain price tag was due to the fact he was still entire and not showing many signs of being a future superstar. As soon as Carl purchased him, he had Valegro gelded which improved him dramatically.

    Carl with Valegro and his groom Alan Davies

    Carl with Valegro and his groom Alan Davies

    3. All of Carl’s young horses live out in the field 24/7.

    4. When Carl is looking to buy a youngster he says: “They need to have a good walk and canter as these paces are difficult to markedly improve. We can work with the trot. I also look for expression in its raw form to utilise later in life for grand prix movements. They must be naturally motivated and want to work.”

    5. Carl’s youngsters are ridden for no more than 20-30 minutes per day.

    6. Carl says a horse with a really good walk is hard to find.

    7. Carl doesn’t necessarily want a horse who has a quiet, easy temperament. “I’m not looking for a police horse!” he says.

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    8. Transitions within your schooling session are important to keep things varied and interesting.

    9. Valegro was nine years old before he could show elasticity and suspension in half-pass.

    10. Grand prix horses need to be good at both sitting and pushing in their work: “It is very rare to

    Carl's stable jockey Amy Woodhead rides grand prix stallion Pro-Set under his watchful eye

    Carl’s stable jockey Amy Woodhead rides grand prix stallion Pro-Set under his watchful eye

    find a horse who is good at both,” says Carl.

    11. “Charlotte Dujardin is very good at riding trot,” says Carl. “She improves the trot of every horse she rides,” he admits.

    12. Carl’s yard contains 18 horses who are looked after by five full-time members of staff. “I don’t make a profit from the yard!” he confesses. “But this means that there is fantastic attention to detail in everything we do.”

    13. “The one way to keep a horse sound is to keep it moving,” says Carl. His top horses get out of their stables three to four times per day. This usually consists of spending time on the horsewalker, being schooled, spending time in the field, going for a hack or being lunged.

    14. Carl’s top horses are warmed up for 30-35 minutes for each schooling session. They then go for a nice walk down the road to warm down after the session.

    15. “If you want to improve your core strength, ride without stirrups,” says Carl.

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