Carl Hester takes provisional top spot in early stages of dressage freestyle at Tokyo Olympics

  • Britain’s Carl Hester topped the opening group of riders gunning for individual dressage medals at the Tokyo Olympics with a +81% score today (28 July).

    This was the lightly competed En Vogue’s first ever international freestyle and the routine was jam-packed with content, earning a score of 81.82% (81.818%) to take the provisional lead.

    The pair entered in passage and pulled off a hugely technical first centre line, featuring a piaffe pirouette, transition up to canter and a canter pirouette all before reaching C.

    The 12-year-old gelding (Jazz x Contago), who is owned by Carl, Charlotte Dujardin, Sandra Biddlecombe and Anne Evans, looks to have grown in confidence across the week, with his scores climbing with each performance in Tokyo’s Equestrian Park at Baji Koen.

    “I have never done a music [freestyle] on him and we all know he is very sound sensitive, so he did a good job because the music when it comes on in there is incredibly loud,” said Carl, adding En Vogue is going to be a “brilliant horse for the future”.

    “The fact that he got better as I went along was good. All you want for a horse to remember at the end of the show is, ‘I had a good experience’. I just thought after yesterday’s ride, ‘please don’t let it go wrong’. But it didn’t. He tried hard, I rode him a lot slower tonight because I thought, ‘calm it all down make sure he finishes [and] relaxes’, and he walked out of the ring fine, so that’s good.

    “I’m not trying to win [an individual medal]. I’m trying to build on him, so that in a couple of years time… I think he’s a top horse, so that’s what I’m waiting for.”

    The Tom Hunt original soundtrack featured a strong beat, which beautifully complemented En Vogue’s way of going, and the choreography used every ounce of space and time in the arena to showcase the horse’s strengths.

    The one- and two-time changes on a curving line were tricky moves, with a mistake in the first set of one-time changes.

    This horse’s canter pirouettes are a real highlight, with judges and viewers treated to more flawless executions of these tonight.

    There was a real symmetry to the music, which built throughout, before coming full circle and ending with the same melody to which the pair started. This too was matched with the difficulty of the movements Carl started and ended with, with the pair finishing with a bang in the form of a highly technical passage half-pass zig-zag into a halt.

    Carl added he “absolutely loved” the soundtrack.

    “Remember I got this five days ago. I made my programme a long time ago, but I got the music five days ago as he’s had a lot to do, Tom, because of course everybody uses him now,” he said.

    “So I haven’t had a chance to ride through the programme – I didn’t want to ride through the programme because I thought yesterday [team medal final] was the important day. I wanted to keep him calm for the team, and then to have a go in the individual and see what happens.”

    The team bronze-winning combination were rewarded with a technical mark of 77.75%, artistic mark of 85.88% (88.886%), giving them their overall total of 81.812%.

    US rider Steffen Peters and Suppenkasper took provisional second place in the first group of riders with a score of 80.97% (80.968%) and Denmark’s Nanna Merrald third on 80.89 (80.893%).

    You might also be interested in:

    Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits. 

    You may like...