‘Brilliant in parts, disappointing in others’: Carl Hester reflects on En Vogue’s Hagen European Dressage Championships performance

  • Carl Hester completed his test aboard his Tokyo Olympics ride, En Vogue, at the European Dressage Championships today (8 September), posting a score of 74.84%. Riding as the third of four British team members, this score puts us in silver medal position behind Germany, who have climbed into the lead following Isabell Werth’s test with Weihegold Old.

    “The test was brilliant in parts and disappointing in others,” explained Carl. “En Vogue is capable of the very big scores, so we did think it was worth having a really good shot at it – but it doesn’t always work like that, and it didn’t work like that today.”

    Individually this score puts Carl and En Vogue, a 12-year-old owned by Charlotte Dujardin and Lady Anne Evans into provisional eighth place at the European Dressage Championships.

    “He’s one month back from the Games, where he did three amazing tests with no experience. You can see some of the things he does are so brilliant that he makes himself a bit nervous. For instance, his piaffe – the first one here was like a 10, but he gets stuck because he’s so active, and I can’t calm him down yet,” Carl said. “But in between all the things he does, he feels amazing.

    “I didn’t deserve any more points so the score is absolutely fine, as I had too many mistakes but I’m disappointed that I made mistakes, because they weren’t actually huge mistakes. He made one before the pirouette and then did a wonderful pirouette for an eight or nine, and then there was one before the one-time changes and then the ones were worth a nine, but you can’t have a nine because you made a mistake right back in the corner – it’s just irritating.”

    However, Carl explained that given En Vogue’s lack of experience, he couldn’t be too rueful.

    “If I look at his experience and how far he’s come in one year – he’d never have gone in there a year ago. And when he came to compete here in April, I had my hands full trying to ride him out there as he was really wired. He hasn’t done crowds yet as we haven’t had any, but that wasn’t the issue today – I just didn’t get the ride I wanted and that happens sometimes.”

    Carl is still very positive about the career ahead of En Vogue and the highlights in his test today.

    “His canter work generally gets him a lot of points – his zigzag was really good today and I don’t always get that – today was the first time I’ve ridden a good, high mark zigzag. He’s certainly one of the best horses I’ve ever ridden and I feel potentially he’s going to be incredible.”

    Given that the horses that competed in Tokyo have only been home for a matter of weeks, it is remarkable that quite a few of them are competing at the European Dressage Championships.

    “We turned the horses out for a week when we got home from Tokyo and I said let’s ride them in a week and just see if they feel dead or if they feel lively,” explained Carl. “But when we got back on, they were both [En Vogue and Charlotte Dujardin’s Tokyo ride, Gio] amazing. Most people I’ve spoken to who have come back from Tokyo have said their horses feel great, and a lot of that I think is to do with the fact the return flight was reduced by a number of hours compared to when we flew out as Peden, who flew the horses, received special permission to fly over Russia, which we didn’t have on the way out there.”

    At the end of the third rotation of riders, Denmark sit in bronze medal position behind Germany and Great Britain, while Sweden are in fourth and The Netherlands are in fifth.

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