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‘It’s so hard to get that lucky strike’: Charlotte Dujardin on helping upcoming dressage riders

This week’s guest on the Horse & Hound Podcast is none other than Charlotte Dujardin, the reigning Olympic dressage champion, and winner of many medals riding the legendary Valegro, and more recently Mount St John Freestyle. She has an enviable string of horses in training, too, from four-year-olds right up to her current grand prix horses, Freestyle and Gio, and rides up to 11 horses every day – even in lockdown. But 2020 gave Charlotte a new experience, as an owner rather than just a rider, after she passed the ride on her now 12-year-old Jazz x Contango gelding En Vogue to Carl Hester.

“Vogue is a horse that I bought as a three-year-old and trained up to grand prix – I did a couple of grand prix on him myself – but having two othe grand prix horses, I thought Vogue would be nice for Carl to have. He is the most amazing horse to ride,” Charlotte told H&H dressage editor Polly Bryan on episode 33 of the Horse & Hound Podcast.

Carl had already had great success with Vogue, finishing third in the grand prix special at October’s Keysoe CDI3*, with over 78%, and taking reserve national champion behind Charlotte and Freestyle at the National Grand Prix Championships in December, with Carl’s best-ever score.

“I never thought I’d say this, but I’m actually really enjoying watching someone else ride my horses. I have always wanted to ride them myself, but at the national championships I got really emotional watching Carl on Vogue. It was so special to stand and watch Carl ride my horse, and a horse that means so much to me; he was a very difficult young horse, not naughty, but just very hot to train. It was very emotional and a really proud moment for me.

En Vogue isn’t the only one of Charlotte’s horses that she has opted not to compete herself.

“I have a really good seven-year-old, River Rise Isabella, who is with Katie Bailey,” said Charlotte. “She is a huge horse, probably about 17.2hh. I had her with Rob Barker originally as a young horse, and Rob won quite a lot on her. Now I’ve passed the ride to Katie, who is a really good up and coming rider, and I think it’s great that I can now give riders like her the opportunity to have some fantastic horses, and give back to the sport a bit.

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“As riders we all work so hard and we all want it, but it’s so hard to get that lucky strike. I was so lucky that Carl was so generous to me and gave me the chance to fulfill my dreams,” added Charlotte, referring to Carl giving her the ride on a young Valegro when she was at the very beginning of her own grand prix career.

“If I can do that for somebody else, I’d love to be able to. And I’m really enjoying watching other people ride and develop my horses.”

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