‘We are now the nation people are most scared of’: national champion Emile Faurie on Britain’s dramatic dressage journey

  • Last month, Emile Faurie became the 2021 British national champion, riding Dono Di Maggio to victory at the National Dressage Championships. Emile is such an established name and familiar face in the dressage world, but the last time he was national champion was 27 years ago in 1994. Back then, he took the title on Virtu, who was his very first grand prix horse. 

    “Virtu was a very different character [to Dono Di Maggio] in that he was quite introverted when I first met him and a little bit lazy,” recalls Emile as he chats to dressage editor Polly Bryan on episode 71 of the Horse & Hound Podcast, currently supported by NAF. 

    “In those days I had so much more time and I spent a long time with Virtu riding him on the gallops and all sorts of things to get to know him. He was a genius horse in piaffe and passage as, in fact, is Dono, although Virtu was a lot smaller at around 16hh.”

    It was with Virtu that Emile won Britain’s first ever senior championship team medal – silver – at the 1993 European championships in Lipica, Slovenia, riding alongside Laura Fry, Richard Davison and Ferdi Eilberg. Emile and Virtu also won individual bronze that year, which Emile says was a real highlight of his career.

    “Winning an individual medal with Virtu was so special to me, and something I had dreamed of since I can remember,” he says. 

    “Winning our first gold medal as a team at the Rotterdam Europeans in 2011, alongside Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro, Carl Hester and Uthopia and Laura Tomlinson (née Bechtolsheimer) on Mistral Højris, was another real highlight for me,” he adds. “I was riding Elmegardens Marquis at the time. We’d been battling for so long so to get to that point where we actually took home a gold medal was probably one of the greatest highlights of my life.”

    Emile Faurie: ‘Britain is a force to be reckoned with’

    Emile Faurie has witnessed a remarkable transformation in the level and fortunes of British dressage during his 30-year stint at top level.

    “It’s incredible to think we used to be lucky if we came last,” he chuckles. “It’s really not that long a period of time in the great scheme of things, but it has progressed to the point where we are the nation that people are most scared of; a real force to be reckoned with. 

    “A great deal of that success comes from UK Sport, the National Lottery and World Class – we are so lucky to have had that extra funding to have a support mechanism that has given riders such great help to be able to focus on our performances. 

    “We have such depth of riders now; we are a nation that has horsemanship in our very being,” he adds. “The quality of our riding as well as our horsemanship has made us such a strong force.”

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