Carl Hester is coming off the back of another fantastic year, which included winning European team gold on Fame and his 11th national grand prix title on En Vogue. Having two horses of such obvious quality puts Carl in an extremely strong position to take up one of the three spots available at next year’s Paris Olympics. But he’s taking nothing for granted.
“The standard is so high at the moment,” Carl explains in an interview on the latest episode of The Horse & Hound Podcast, supported by Spillers Horse Feeds. “I just have to keep my fingers crossed that I’m riding well enough and the horses are going well enough to be part of that team for next year.”
With competition coming from Gareth Hughes, Becky Moody, and potentially, Annabella Pidgley, it is not guaranteed that the trio of Carl, Charlotte Dujardin and Lottie Fry, who won bronze in Tokyo, will get the opportunity to go for gold in Paris – however likely it may seem now.
This is partly because Paris will present a slightly different set of challenges to the European Championships in Risenbeck, with the grand prix special, not the grand prix, determining the team medals.
“I have just been focussing on the grand prix because, of course, that’s what was going to win us the team medal [in Risenbeck]. But the special, I really feel, looking towards the future, is the test Fame could excel the most at because he’s so good at those difficult things, like the piaffe passage, and the pirouettes.
“If I’d had a little bit more time, that special could have been even more special,” says Carl, reflecting on Fame’s 80.1% score at the Europeans.
Carl Hester: “Pete doesn’t care if it’s Hartpury or Paris”
With the summer’s competition cycle now over, Carl says he and Charlotte have “really started to think about how we’ll do this winter’s work.”
However, they won’t immediately be working on their test riding, and both Fame and En Vogue, as well as Charlotte’s ride Imhotep (Pete), will be afforded time off to recharge.
“I don’t think Charlotte will ride Pete until next year, we’ll just keep him ticking over with hacking and lunging because you can’t keep him on the go all winter,” says Carl.
“They don’t forget what they’ve learnt, especially if it’s been done in a systematic way. Pete knows the job, you can see what’s going to make him better, and it’s not actually doing more movements, it’s being strong enough to carry himself in an even better way.
“We’re really lucky with Pete because he lives in a field so he doesn’t actually need work for exercise. He doesn’t need to be fit until next March, because his first outdoor show will probably be in April.
“There’s a possibility he might do London but I’m hoping that Charlotte will have a different one to ride so we don’t have to bring him up for a peak and then take him back down again.
“Then for the summer, we have to remember that we’re just going across the water, which we can do easily in 10 hours, so it won’t take too much stress out him travelling. I don’t think Pete will mind whether it’s Hartpurty down the road or Paris. He doesn’t know the difference, so I’ve got a really good feeling for him for next year.”
To hear more from Carl Hester on Paris and how he’s preparing his horses, as well as his favourite memories from the Nationals and much more, listen to episode 142 of The Horse & Hound Podcast here, or search “The Horse & Hound Podcast” in your favourite podcast app.
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