Imhotep – from the ‘naughty boy in the class’ to one of the world’s best dressage horses

  • Imhotep, or “Pete” as he is known at home, is Charlotte Dujardin’s “brilliant” top horse, and her first ride since Valegro to break the 90% barrier in international competition.

    By Lottie Fry’s grand prix partner Everdale, Imhotep was bred by Tineke Huizing in the Netherlands. He was bought as a two-year-old by Charlotte’s long-term trainer Carl Hester and Coral Ingham after being spotted by dressage rider Henry Boswell.

    “He sent me a video of the horse and I ended up buying him from it,” Carl told Horse & Hound following Imhotep’s three wins at the National Championships in 2021. “It’s the only time I’ve bought a horse from a video and I wouldn’t recommend it, but when I saw him get off the lorry I was happy!”

    The following year – at just nine years old – Imhotep was part of the British team that took silver at the World Dressage Championships in 2022 which he followed in 2023 with a team gold and individual bronze medal at the European Dressage Championships.

    But despite his impressive and ever-growing medal collection, it’s not always been plain sailing for Imhotep who proved challenging in his early years.

    Imhotep’s early years

    “Pete was so naughty as a young horse,” Charlotte says. “I remember him being ridden by Rob Barker as a four-year-old and I have never in my entire life seen a horse buck like he could. I’d give Rob a gold medal – I have no idea how he used to stay on.”

    Carl agrees: “He was difficult to stay on in the young days. You can see it in the way he moves, how his whole body moves – when Pete used to buck he’d really go for it.”

    Charlotte Dujardin and Imhotep during arena familiarisation at the World Dressage Championships 2022

    Charlotte Dujardin and Imhotep during arena familiarisation at the World Dressage Championships 2022

    But according to Carl and Charlotte’s former groom Alan Davies, behind the young Imhotep’s bravado lay a sweet character: “He was always the naughty boy of the class when he was younger. But I discovered that underneath that exterior, he is actually a very sensitive chap.

    “When we go away to shows and he’s in a place he doesn’t know, the bravado disappears, and he will just stand quietly, usually behind me, and watch what’s going on.”

    Rob competed with Imhotep as a young horse, taking him to the National Championships in 2017 as a four-year-old. Carl’s then in-house rider Sadie Smith took over the ride in 2018, taking Imhotep up to medium level.

    Charlotte began competing him in 2020 and from that point on they went unbeaten at the national level before making their international debut in Compiègne in 2022 where they scored 72.8% to come fourth in the grand prix and 76.06% for second in the grand prix special.

    “Pete met his match with Charlotte,” Carl explained in an interview on the The Horse & Hound Podcast. “How his development and relationship with Charlotte has changed over the past few years has been an incredible joy and pleasure for me to watch.”

    Charlotte Dujardin and Imhotep’s international success

    Following their international debut at Compiègne, Charlotte and Imhotep won the grand prix at Wellington CDI3* in June of 2022 – in what was only their third test ever at this level – on 77.76% and the special on 78.36%.

    “Since Valegro, Pete is the one who’s given me that feeling of so much confidence in the arena,” Charlotte told Horse & Hound at the time.

    That performance was enough to secure the combination’s place on the British team for the 2022 World Dressage Championships in Herning alongside Richard Davison (Bubblingh), Lottie Fry (Glamourdale) and Gareth Hughes (Classic Briolinca).

    Individually, Imhotep came fourth in the grand prix on 77.41%, sixth in the special on 77.52% and 10th in his first-ever freestyle on 83.13%.

    Charlotte Dujardin Royal Windsor Horse Show

    Charlotte Dujardin, aboard Imhotep, greeting her daughter Isabella, after winning the grand prix at the Royal Windsor Horse Show.

    In 2023, even more success followed as the combination won the grand prix and the freestyle at the Royal Windsor Horse Show on Charlotte’s return to competition, only two months after the birth of her daughter Isabella.

    This was followed by victories in the grand prix and the special at Wellington CDI3* before finishing as close runners-up to Olympic champions Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and TSF Dalera BB at CHIO Aachen.

    The European Dressage Championships at Riesenbeck confirmed Imhotep’s status as one of the world’s best as he scored personal bests of 82.42% in the grand prix and 82.58% in the special, before claiming the bronze medal on 91.4% in the freestyle – all despite Charlotte admitting she still “had the handbrake on”.

    The combination rounded out 2o23 with victories in the grand prix on 81.76% and the freestyle on 89.57% in front of a home crowd at The London International Horse Show.

    “I have a real partnership with Pete that I absolutely love,” said Charlotte following their win in London. “To me, that is what it’s all about – when you can reassure them, hold his hand and say it’s OK. He has so much energy and never stops – he just keeps going and going and I love that – it’s me all over.”

    Charlotte Dujardin and Imhotep at CHIO Aachen 2023

    Charlotte Dujardin and Imhotep at CHIO Aachen 2023.

    Carl and Charlotte credit much of Imhotep’s success to him living him out. “He lives outside all night long, with another horse, pretty much all year round – until we are flooded,” says Charlotte.

    Carl explains, that living outside with his field companion Jaguar, helps to keep Imhotep motivated: “Grass is natural. People are horrified and I know they don’t believe me sometimes when they come to the yard and see horses in a field, together.

    “I know it doesn’t suit every horse. Valegro couldn’t live out 24 hours a day because he is too fat, and likes food – he couldn’t be one of those horses. But for some horses like Vogue and Imhotep, the more highly strung horses, it’s a brilliant way of keeping them.”

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