Charlotte Dujardin’s best friend Ian Cast explains how he juggles his own career with being her number-one devotee…
“I graduated from Writtle University College as a National Diploma equine studies dressage coach. I then went on to train and compete in dressage, working with a number of international trainers and judges. I now have my own business teaching riders at all levels. As well as coaching, my other job is being the ‘right-hand man’ to Charlotte Dujardin.
“I started to coach Charlotte when she was 16. I was teaching at the yard where her mum Jane kept their ponies. Charlotte had won pretty much everything in showing and Jane asked if I could help her transition into dressage. Over time, we became mates and since then, I’ve been with her at every major event, making sure everything runs as smoothly as possible for her to perform at her best.
“The first time I saw Charlotte, I knew she had the X factor. She had a unique ability to communicate with a horse and, although she didn’t have the technical knowledge of dressage at the beginning, she had this inner ability to train horses and get the best out of every horse she rode.
“I mostly stay local to home when I’m training in case Charlotte rings me and I need to dash off to a show or to see a horse with her. I have regular clients who understand I sometimes have to drop everything for Charlotte, which they appreciate. They understand that Charlotte takes precedence, but that’s my choice. Charlotte would never expect that of me. That’s how I want it to be.
“Even when I’m not with her, we speak every day and talk about a training issue or how a show went, but also everyday life stuff. I can still be on the microphone in the warm-up at a show if Carl isn’t there. Although she has far exceeded my own personal capabilities when it comes to riding, I know what she needs help with, even if that is just to be a pair of eyes on the ground.
“The best thing about being Charlotte’s best friend is she makes you feel involved and a valued part of her team. While I have little to do with her actual performance, she makes you feel like you’re part of her success.
“Charlotte winning double gold at London 2012 is still the best memory for me so far. Just thinking about it still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. We had such a great time because competing at that level was so new to us, and being on home soil, the crowds were just amazing – it was a fairytale.
“I can’t really ride anymore because I have scoliosis and my spine is mostly metal, so I play tennis instead. Charlotte comes to watch me when she has the time. We have had a few knockabouts and, although she beats me at most other things, it’s nice to have one thing I’m better at than her. I coach riding every day, so I don’t feel like I miss it too much. I live my competitive side through Charlotte and my tennis.
“People ask me what my role is when I’m with Charlotte. I wear a few different hats. I book flights and taxis when we’re away, I stay in the hotel with her, I support her at competitions, I organise interviews and help handle the media when her PR company isn’t there – but above all, I’m her best mate and we have a laugh.
“One day we’ll be walking around Las Vegas for the World Cup Final and her face is on a massive billboard, the next we’re strolling around a garden centre looking at the Christmas decorations. I don’t see her as Charlotte Dujardin, I see her as my little sister in a way. I’ve seen so much of the world and experienced so many amazing things, and it’s all because of her.”
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