It’s hard not to feel a rush of glorious nostalgia watching Carl Hester put his retired Olympic gold medallist, Uthopia, through his paces at home in Gloucestershire. The Metall x Inspekeur stallion, whom Carl rode to team gold at the 2011 European Championships, and the London Olympics a year later, is 19 years old now, but Carl reports that “he feels like he’s in the prime of his life”.
“Uti feels as soft and supple as he always did — he feels more like an 11-year-old at the moment, not 19,” Carl told H&H.
In recent video clips, Carl puts the stallion through a beautifully soft and harmonious piaffe-passage sequence in the field at home, as well a line of rhythmic one-time changes.
“This is his favourite time of year. Uti and Blueberry [Valegro] go out in the orchard together, and they both just love to eat! Uti is doing some stud work at the moment, and we use him as a schoolmaster two days a week – the girls here have a chance to sit on him and feel changes, piaffe and passage. Then Alan [Davies] hacks him out a couple of days a week too.
“I ride him every now and then. It’s lovely to just hop on and have a play with him. When I press the right buttons he can still do things for a 10, like his one-tempis. Alan and I reminisce about the good old days, and how he hasn’t changed.”
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Among the many memorable highlights of Carl and Uthopia’s glittering career is their grand prix victory at the 2011 European Championships in Rotterdam, where they scored 82.57%, and earned a full house of seven 10s for their extended trot. Their test secured Britain’s first ever team gold dressage medal, alongside Charlotte Dujardin at her first championship with Valegro, Laura Bechtolsheimer (now Tomlinson) on Mistral Hojris and Emile Faurie on Elmegardens Marquis.
As well as gold in 2011 and 2012, Carl and Uthopia also helped Britain claim team bronze at the 2013 Europeans in Herning. Uthopia went on to compete very successfully with Charlotte Dujardin, triumphing at Saumur and Windsor in 2014, and at Olympia in 2015. His final show was the World Cup qualifier at Amsterdam in January 2016, where he and Charlotte finished fourth in the freestyle with 82.38%.
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