Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester may not have been competing at Olympia 2017, but they captivated the crowds with their demonstration with Emma Blundell’s hugely exciting nine-year-old mare Mount St John Freestyle (Fidermark x Donnerhall), whom Charlotte hopes to ride at the World Equestrian Games 2018.
1. She loves an audience
Olympia is renowned for its buzzy atmosphere, but it seems nothing fazes this mare — she didn’t blink an eyelid at the crowds sitting close to the arena during the demonstration, or the appreciative — and sometimes spontaneous — applause. Sound like another horse we know?
2. She works in beautiful rhythm and self-carriage
Carl encouraged Charlotte to show a give-and-retake of the reins in canter and Freestyle barely moved from her beautiful frame and rhythm, demonstrating her great ability to carry herself. Charlotte moved on to ride sweeping half-passes across the arena, with great reach and suppleness. “The half-pass is equally supple both ways and Freestyle’s ears are regular and level throughout,” pointed out Carl.
3. Her temperament is second to none
Freestyle is a horse who simply loves to work, and that was apparent in her willingness and relaxation during the demonstration. “Look at her lovely, floppy ears — they show that she’s completely relaxed and enjoying herself,” said Carl. “She really is ‘Mrs Valegro’.”
4. The grand prix work comes naturally to her
She may not have done a grand prix test in competition yet, but Freestyle certainly would not have looked out of place during the World Cup grand prix class that followed the demonstration. She and Charlotte displayed a line of faultless, poker straight one-time changes, worthy of very high marks, as well as neat, tight pirouettes and gorgeously rhythmic, elastic passage. “Charlotte, you’re so boring,” chided Carl, as the pair showed off another line of mistake-free changes.
5. Carl and Charlotte aren’t rushing her education
Carl asked Charlotte to move from walk into piaffe, and then into passage, which is still a challenge for a horse so new to the level. “It’s not a crisp transition at the moment — we have to let her think trot because if we collect her too much at the moment she gets a little stuck,” explained Carl. Ever patient, Charlotte eased Freestyle forward into a gentle passage, keeping her thinking forward so as not to lose the energy and rhythm.
6. She has an exceptional rider on her back
There’s no doubt about it – Charlotte is a master at guiding a horse through a grand prix test. Carl highlighted the strength of her core, which allows her to look effortless and elegant on a horse, as well as her ability to collect Freestyle and transform her trot from “ordinary to spectacular”.
“Good collection changes her into an international superstar,” enthused Carl. “I know a lot of people from other countries would have liked to have seen the end of Charlotte, but I think we’re really only seeing the beginning – Freestyle is another superstar.”
Don’t miss our full report from Olympia Horse Show in the 21 December 2017 issue of Horse & Hound magazine