‘I thought, can I still do it?’: Charlotte Dujardin on returning to riding after giving birth to baby Isabella

  • Charlotte Dujardin has made a triumphant return to competition just nine weeks after giving birth to her first baby, a daughter named Isabella. Riding her 2022 world silver medallist Imhotep, Charlotte won both the grand prix and freestyle at Royal Windsor Horse Show CDI4*.

    Charlotte says she owes her speedy and stunning return to the fact that she “tried to stay as fit as possible throughout pregnancy”.

    “I still rode a bit, and I was on my spin bike pretty much all the way through pregnancy,” says Charlotte. “I got back on board three weeks ago; before I got back on a horse I thought, ‘Have I still got it? Can I still do it? But then I rode and I thought, ‘Oh my god, I feel amazing’.”

    Charlotte was excited to be back out competing, nine months after she last rode in the ring at the National Dressage Championships. She credits her role as trainer to Annabella Pidgley as helping her stay connected to the dressage circuit during the months she was off games.

    “I’ve been very blessed to be going everywhere with Annabella Pidgley, and living it all through her,” says Charlotte. “I’ve been to all her shows and it has really kept me in the game – my eye is still in through watching, and that does really help. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being with Annabella and pushing her forward and watching her succeed. But it’s amazing to be back. And now it’s Isabella’s time to support mummy!”

    Charlotte Dujardin: ‘Having baby Isabella here means the world’

    Following the national anthem during the grand prix prize-giving at Windsor, Charlotte melted hearts everywhere by taking Imhotep (Pete) over to where her fiancé Dean and Isabella were watching at the side of the arena, to say hello to her daughter before taking a lap of honour.

    “Having my baby girl Isabella here means the world to me. I wanted to do her proud,” she says. “Having her has opened up my soul to another level; it’s truly magical. I’m enjoying being a mum and an athlete.”

    It was a last minute decision for Charlotte Dujardin to make a late entry and come to ride at Windsor, partly prompted by Carl Hester, who has been riding Pete while Charlotte was off.

    “Two weeks ago Charlotte said she was coming back to ride, and she arrived and got on four horses,” said Carl. “After that I said to her, ‘Just ride Pete, he’s a big enough ride as it is – he’s like riding four horses.’ But Windsor was not the plan – I said to her after her second day back riding, ‘You want to go to Windsor don’t you’, and she said, ‘Actually yes I do!’’

    Now she’s back on the show circuit again, Charlotte is also aiming for selection with Pete for the European Dressage Championships this September.

    “I’m so lucky to have such a team of people to get me here,” she says. “I didn’t know how it was going to do; I just wanted to give Pete a nice time, and I need to be back doing test riding.”

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