Charlotte Dujardin’s surprise Christmas present from fiancé Dean Golding caused quite the stir at Olympia on Wednesday evening (14 December). She was presented with a rocking horse in the image of her Olympic champion, Valegro.
Crowds gathered in the tradestand village while a nervous Dean, 35, waited for Charlotte to make an appearance at Stevenson Brothers’ stand. Charlotte’s best friend Ian Cast lured her there under the false pretence of doing a spot of shopping (video below).
“I knew I was having a rocking horse!” Charlotte told the crowd as she arrived on the stand.
“This is what we’ve been working on for a year,” Dean told Charlotte, as he lifted off the cover to reveal the waist-high version of ‘Blueberry’. The 14-year-old Negro gelding retired from competition, in an emotional ceremony before a sell-out crowd, a few hours later.
The miniature Valegro – whose mane and tail are made of real horsehair – is a perfect replica of the medal-winning superstar. He is adorned with a tiny, handmade Equipe saddle and bridle, plus a Team GB saddlecloth and his trademark white bandages.
Not satisfied by merely presenting her with her new toy, Marc Stevenson ran down the stirrups and encouraged Charlotte to take the mini Valegro for a spin.
“My bum is not getting in there!” Charlotte laughed. After some encouragement from the crowd she gracefully, and somewhat hesitantly, climbed aboard. Sitting comfortably, she patted him on the neck and giggled, “He’s a little bit stiff today!”
‘It’s something I’ve always wanted’
Speaking to H&H afterwards, Charlotte revealed that she “knew Dean was up to something” after he kept teasing her about her upcoming Christmas present.
“I had an inkling,” she admitted, “he’s said to me for over a year, ‘Wait until you see your Christmas present’”.
“I’m like, well where is this Christmas present – how come it’s taking so long?” she joked with a grin.
“It’s absolutely amazing, I can’t believe what Dean has done; it’s something I’ve always wanted. To know that all my sponsors have gone through so much to make it happen, it means even more.”
Valegro’s breeders Maartje and Joop Hanse were also on hand to see Charlotte presented with her surprise. They posed with the rocking horse themselves (pictured below) before heading to watch the evening’s performance.
How to make a mini Valegro
Stevenson Brothers, started by twins Marc and Tony in a tiny workshop in 1982, are world-renowned rocking horse makers. They have produced models for a number of celebrities including The Queen and her granddaughter, Zara Tindall. Zara was presented with her own miniature Toytown in 2007, which was later auctioned for charity.
Keith, one of the craftsmen who worked on the wooden Valegro, explains that each rocking horse takes at least three months to complete. They are formed of multiple blocks of wood that are assembled into a larger block and then carved into shape.
“A singular piece of wood would split,” Keith said, “but these rocking horses can take a 14-stone adult.”
“It’s an honour to make a rocking horse for Charlotte, and Dean has been marvellous keeping it a secret. He first approached us last Christmas and it’s finally come to fruition.”
The beautiful model features a pair of Valegro’s golden shoes at the front, while the lower beams are inscribed with the dates of the pair’s record-breaking performances.
Fancy a rocking horse of your own? Each Stevenson Brothers rocking horse is made to order, with prices starting at around £2,000. Visit www.stevensonbros.com for more information.