The double Olympic champion Charlotte Dujardin has debuted a new horse, Gio, in competition — winning two elementary level tests with high scores on Sunday (26 February) at Hunters EC in Gloucestershire. It was the horse’s first ever show.
Charlotte spotted “Pumpkin”, as he is now known at home, when she was teaching a clinic in California in the autumn of 2016. Her pupil Amelie Kovac was riding the then five-year-old by Apache x Tango, and he caught Charlotte’s eye.
“He wasn’t even meant to be on the clinic; someone dropped out and Amelie — who was local — came in on him at the end of the day as a replacement,” Charlotte told H&H. “As soon as he came in I thought, ‘Oh my god I love that horse’. Then I saw him trot and canter and I thought, ‘Oh my god, I really love that horse’.
“He had this amazing expression on his face, a really cheeky look, and he was small and cute. I had to ride in a demo the next day and I asked Amelie if I could ride him. Nobody apart from her had sat on him, but he was hot and sensitive — and really good with the crowd of about 1,000 people.”
Charlotte asked if he was for sale, and Amelie was initially reluctant. But when Charlotte explained that she was interested in him for herself, Amelie agreed to sell him. He arrived around Halloween time, hence his stable name.
“He arrived and I couldn’t believe how small he was; probably just under 16hh,” said Charlotte. “But he doesn’t ride small as he has so much power. He’s clever and so quick to learn that he’s doing four-time and three-time changes at home already even though he’s only rising six. He shows huge potential and I’m so excited about him.”
Groom Alan Davies had a rare holiday day on Sunday, so Charlotte and fellow stable jockey Sadie Smith headed off to the show for a “girls’ day out”.
In the elementary 44, the pair won overall with 74.4%, and repeated the feat in the second class, the qualifier, gaining 77.94% — almost 10% clear of her nearest rival. Elementary tests require leg-yield, rein-back, medium paces and simple changes of leg in canter.
“I even plaited him myself,” said Charlotte. “I can’t actually remember the last time I plaited as Alan doesn’t let me usually. It was lovely not to rush; I got to show, brushed Pumpkin and just played with my pony and got him ready, which I don’t normally have the time to do.”
Charlotte has sold a half share in Pumpkin to her “cool as a cucumber” friend Renee Hart, who lives in New Zealand and owns the breeding stallions Swarovski and Worldly. She has high hopes for the little horse’s future.
“I want to get him to grand prix; I think he’s going to be a super special grand prix horse — a little powerhouse. He does everything really easily, which reminds me of Fernandez, but with more power. Pumpkin is like a little toy,” she added.
The attractive Dutch warmblood (KWPN) chestnut gelding — formerly named Toretto — is stabled at Carl Hester’s yard alongside Charlotte’s other horses and Valegro.
Pumpkin joins other up-and-coming rides that Charlotte is excited about, including Florentina VI, En Vouge, River Rise Nisa, Brioso II, Mount St John VIP and Hawtins Delicato.