‘I was hoping his balls would fall off’ and 11 other memorable championship quotes

  • With this year’s Olympics and Paralympics postponed and 2021 still shrouded in uncertainty, we can’t be the only ones missing the excitement and drama of a championship, where the very best stories unfold with emotional scenes and memorable interviews.

    So to help fill the championship-shaped hole this summer, we have taken a deep dive back through Horse & Hound championship reports from the past four years to find some of the very best quotes dressage riders have given us... 

    1. Edward Gal, 2019 Europeans

    At last year’s European Championships, the Netherlands’ Edward Gal had a difficult job on his hands with the macho stallion Zonik, who had to share with warm-up with a distracting number of mares.

    “He was wild with the mares in the warm-up — I was hoping his balls would fall off!” exclaimed Edward.

    2. Carl Hester, 2019 Europeans

    “There’s often 24 guinea fowl and five hens in the ring with him at my place — I think it helped him feel at home in there!” laughed Carl Hester after a heart-stopping moment turned comical at the same champonship, when several crows invaded Carl’s grand prix test with Hawtins Delicato.

    3. Gareth Hughes, 2019 Europeans

    It took a while for Gareth Hughes to register his own achievements in Rotterdam, finishing seventh and best of the Brits in the special with Classic Briolinca.

    “I don’t know what score I expected, but not that. I’m not a Carl, I’m not a Charlotte — I’m just a Gareth,” he said in astonishment at his plus-78% score.

    4. Spencer Wilton, 2018 WEG

    Britain’s Spencer Wilton had battled a painful back injury in the run-up to the World Equestrian Games in 2018, and for a while he wondered whether he would be able to compete with Super Nova II at all.

    “If it wasn’t for our team physio, Ashleigh Wallace, and chief medical officer, Pippa Bennett, I wouldn’t be standing here now. Two weeks ago I couldn’t even put my socks on, but now I’m feeling as though I could start a gymnastics career,” he joked after his grand prix.

    5. Isabell Werth, 2018 WEG

    The 2018 WEG was a triumphant championship for mares, marking the first time in history that a mare – namely Isabell Werth’s Bella Rose – has been crowned world champion.

    While the German world number one has ridden plenty of super mares and geldings, she admits she’s not a stallion fan.

    “The only good stallion is a gelded stallion,” she joked.

    6. Laura Graves, 2018 WEG

    The USA’s Laura Graves’ silver medal-winning ride Verdades certainly didn’t look or feel his age – 16 – at WEG.

    “He’s like Benjamin Button — he seems to get younger every year,” said a delighted Laura.

    7. Carl Hester, 2017 Europeans

    Carl Hester and Nip Tuck lead the British side to fourth at the Gothenburg Europeans in 2017, with Carl being as amusing as always in his affectionate deprecation of “Barney”, whose extended trot has never been his strong point.

    “I dread those three extended trots in the grand prix, but off I go each time with a big smile, hanging on for grim death until I get the other side,” said Carl.

    8. Sönke Rothenberger, 2017 Europeans

    rothenberger fire

    Germany’s Sönke Rothenberger expressed his views around the idea of a HiLo Drop rule being implemented, with a valid analogy.

    “I’m frustrated by the idea of the HiLo Drop rule. Everyone should have their own impressions — we don’t want them all to be the same,” he said. “It would be like if all men find the same woman attractive — there’d be a lot of frustrated men out there!”

    9. Lee Pearson, 2016 Paralympics

    Lee Pearson was full of emotion talking about Zion at the Rio Paralympics in 2016 after declaring their team test “the best test he’s ever done”.

    “He’s sensitive, but he’s also a thug, and he doesn’t know he can be spectacular,” added Lee of the geding with whom he shares an intense bond. “Whatever happens, I’m taking the best horse home.”

    10. Carl Hester, 2016 Olympics

    Nip Tuck gave Carl Hester a tricky time in the grand prix at the Rio Olympics in 2016, proving spooky in the early movements and jumping out of his skin in the transition to extended walk.

    “One minute it’s a camera, one minute it’s a flower; he’s got a tiny mind,” said Carl. “In the transition to walk he saw a tiny flower. I think he needs glasses; we’ll have to see if someone can invent them.”

    11. Charlotte Dujardin, 2016 Olympics

    Also at the 2016 Games, Charlotte Dujardin wanted to avoid getting so nervous about her performances with Valegro that she destroyed her enjoyment of the Games. And she certainly managed it – even after a stray bullet landed in the media tent.

    “I’m having the time of my life. We’re here among the best athletes in the world and in the village I keep getting star-struck.

    “I’ve seen people of all different shapes and sizes, and some with thighs I thought could never get that big. I’ve been pin-swapping like mad. I know there’s been a few bullets, but I love it here.”

    12. Charlotte Dujardin, 2016 Olympics

    It was all emotion later in the week as Charlotte and Valegro claimed their second Olympic title in what was to be their final competition together.

    “Blueberry knew I was nervous. He looked after me and helped me out,” said Charlotte. “Trotting round the edge, he picked up and I knew we were ready to go.

    “Then on the last centre line he felt truly magical. It was effortless and easy and nothing was going to break that bond we have. I can’t tell you what it’s like to ride him; he has a heart of gold.”

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