Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin’s Olympic hopefuls back in action as new prizegiving format tested

  • Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin were back in action with their top horses in the CDI3* and CDI4* at a wet and windy Hagen CDI, Germany (24–28 April).

    Hagen CDI has been the traditional opener of the outdoor dressage season in Europe for many years, and although the event was usurped in that regard by the Aachen Festival 4 Dressage (27-31 March) this year, it once again attracted a stellar field of competitors.

    The CDI3* saw the understudies take centre stage, with Charlotte winning the grand prix (74.84%) and the grand prix special (74.17%) aboard the 10-year-old rising star Alive And Kicking (All at Once x Fürst Piccolo), while Carl was second in both with the popular reigning national champion En Vogue (Jazz x Contango).

    This was only Alive And Kicking’s – who Charlotte co-owns with Carl Hester and Ulrike Bachinger – second international grand prix and she caught the eye again, scoring consistent eights for her piaffe and passage, with the transitions between being a highlight.

    Meanwhile, this was En Vogue’s first appearance since the National Championships (17 September 2023) and Carl gave the now 15-year-gelding two sensitive rides to ease him back into competition, with Carl describing the special (72.17%) as En Vogue’s “best special so far”.

    Both Alive And Kicking and En Vogue have now met the minimum eligibility requirements to be selected for the Paris Olympic Games with the rules stating combinations have between 1 January 2023 and 24 June 2024 to receive at least 67% from both a level four-judge of a different nationality to the rider and as an average from all judges at two different approved CDI3*/CDI4*/CDI5*/CDI-W/CDIO events.

    Olympic hopefuls in action at Hagen CDI

    Carl and Charlotte’s two favourites for Olympic selection competed in the CDI4*. Charlotte and European individual bronze medallist Imhotep (Everdale x Vivaldi) won both the grand prix (77.47%) and the special (79.06%) while Carl and Fame were third in the grand prix (74.47%) and the special (75.8%) – just behind German combination Frederic Wandres and Bluetooth OLD in both classes.

    “I’m still having to balance and slow him down a little bit,” explained Charlotte. “Sometimes that can affect the frame a little. But I love having a horse that is so keen and willing. His work ethic is second to none and he’s so much fun.

    “I was really pleased with my ride”, said Charlotte, who had a small blip in the transition from canter to trot towards the end of the special. “There was just the last bit, that simple transition — something I never normally worry about. It just goes to show, it can catch you out. But my pirouettes and my piaffe were really good. It’s a great start to the year and coming away from here we both learned a lot.” 

    Carl was also delighted with Fiona Bigwood’s Fame: “He was much more rideable, a pleasure really! I just had a mistake with my pirouette, which was very expensive and my mistake. However, I was really happy to finish the competition with a ride like that. For us it’s not just about the points, but about having the feels and to see where we are up to.”

    Two-time Olympian Emma Hindle and her own and Richard White’s Zippo M.I. were also in action at Hagen, finishing joint 11th in the CDI3* grand prix (67.73%) and 10th in the special (66.59%) while Ireland’s Abi Lyle was 13th in the CDI4* grand prix (66.04%) and eleventh in the freestyle (73.08%) aboard Giraldo.

    New prizegiving format trialled

    A new prizegiving format was trialled at Hagen CDI, with each horse doing an individual lap of honour followed by the top three riders returning to the arena on foot for the national anthems and awards.

    Carl described the new format as “more relaxed”, adding: “From Charlotte’s and my point of view, this is the right way. It’s definitely better for the horses and their welfare. Spectators can still see the horses on a lap of honour, and it’s good that this hasn’t been completely abolished.”

    Frederic agreed: “Many thanks to Ulli Kasselmann, who developed this idea together with Monica [Theodorescu]. We are trying it out here in Hagen and I hope that many organisers will follow. This is the right step in the right direction.”

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