Happy 50th birthday Carl Hester: why British dressage owes him an unpayable debt of gratitude

  • On Carl Hester’s 50th birthday today (29 June 2017), Horse & Hound’s dressage editor Alice Collins pays tribute to ‘Mr Dressage’

    Today, Carl Hester celebrates his 50th birthday (29 June 2017). So it presents the ideal opportunity for an extended birthday card — an ode to Carl, if you like.

    I vividly recall meeting him for the first time, even though it was the best part of a decade ago. I’d seen him from afar many times, including shouting out “We love you Carl!” after his demo at Your Horse Live many moons ago like a demented dressage groupie.

    The first time we met face to face was at some media event in London, just after I’d got the dressage editor gig at H&H. I felt like the proverbial swan as my legs were trembling while I tried to act cool and chit-chat away as if this was the most natural thing in the world.

    Although there have been many, many conversions between us since — and particularly since he became an H&H columnist — there’s still something a bit special about Mr Dressage.

    You know about his talent as a rider. You know he’s probably the best trainer in the world. And you know that he knows talent (human AND equine) when he sees it.

    But do you know that he makes up naughty nicknames for everyone? And that he’s irrepressibly irreverent, incredibly eloquent (often using brilliant phrases like, “I gave him a little poke in the whiskers” instead of “I touched him with my leg”) and really, really bloody funny?

    He’s a gift to journalists, as he never fails to give you a fantastic word-salad quote. But he’s a gift for real people too and it’s clear why so many people gravitate towards him like iron filings to a magnet. He makes every situation more fun.

    Continued below…

    He grafted in relative obscurity for a long time in Britain’s pre-medal dressage days. But his sort of super-talent is pretty damn rare and eventually, finally, he got that Olympic gold medal around his neck, and dressage fans around the country wept with joy for him and the rest of the team.

    There is nobody to whom British dressage owes more than this man. We wish you a happy, happy birthday Carl and I look forward to many more irreverent interviews, cracking quotes and happy horsepower in your future.

    Don’t miss Carl Hester’s next exclusive column in the 6 July issue of Horse & Hound magazine

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