Carl Hester did the business for Britain as the first of our riders into the ring for the grand prix special at Tokyo Olympic dressage, riding En Vogue. This competition is to decide the team medals. They produced a harmonious display to score 78.344%.
“Charlotte [Dujardin] said ‘you don’t have a choice, you have to go for it,” said Carl. “I have struggled with his nerves and finding the right balance, but today, the cliché was true – he was a boy going in, and he came out a man tonight.”
Carl and his inexperienced 12-year-old gelding started brilliantly, with a smattering of eights and nines. They were trending as the group leader on 78% in the first half of the test, and although the second part was marginally less impressive, their final pirouette and one-tempis sealed their excellent score. Carl finished with a big smile and huge pat for En Vogue.
“He feels like one of the best horses you could ever sit on,” Carl added. “When he’s in gear, it’s like you’re in air on him. We’ve always known he’s so talented, I’ve just been waiting for the right ride to prove it. And that’s not the finished article – he’s an 80% horse.”
Carl had said beforehand that En Vogue (Jazz x Contango) favoured the grand prix special over the grand prix, and so it proved in this more flowing test. The pair scored 75.124% on day one, but with his highlight usually being the tempi changes which weren’t perfect last time, he was hoping for better for the special.
Carl was the second-last rider to go in this first group, due to Britain qualifying in second spot behind Germany. Fifth into the ring, US rider Adrienne Lyle produced the first eye-catching test, riding Salvino to score 76.109% with a beautifully active and accurate test. And the momentum built up as the next rider, Denmark’s Nanna Skodborg Merrald posted 74.21% on 17-year-old Zack, setting the scene for the last two riders, Carl and, finally, Dorothee Schneider.
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