Carl Hester strengthens Britain’s Olympic medal hopes: ‘He’s one of the most talented horses I’ve had’

  • Carl Hester has strengthened Britain’s Tokyo Olympics medal hopes with a +75% score aboard his Tokyo ride En Vogue on the opening grand prix day of the Olympic dressage (24 July).

    Carl, 53, and the 12-year-old gelding, who he co-owns with Sandra Biddlecombe, Charlotte Dujardin and Lady Anne Evans, were the second British pair to compete, following Lottie Fry and Everdale’s group A-topping performance.

    The expressive gelding (Jazz x Contango) was second to go in the highly competitive group C. A blip in the two-time changes, plus a discrepancy in judges’ marks on a couple of movements, were the only noticeable glitches in an otherwise stunning test. The pair were rewarded with nines for their piaffe, half-pass canter pirouette and one-time changes, to finish on a score of 75.12% and provisionally top their group.

    “I think the most exciting thing is he is one of the most talented horses I’ve had. I can feel he’s better than most of the horses I’ve had, I’ve just haven’t got to the very end [of what he can do],” said Carl.

    “I mean at his age and his experience – two internationals and he’s here. Charlotte, the same [with Gio]. Two internationals and they’re appearing at an Olympics. It’s pretty amazing whatever these horses do, to be honest. We have high expectations of course because they’re good horses.”

    Reflecting on the test, Carl added: “It could have gone either this way or that way, and it went that way, which is for me a good sign. I mean he’s never done [anything like] this before – this is enormous for him. He’s nervous, he’s hot and all of those things and he was very on edge warming up. And you know what? He actually was perfect. He walked, he halted. The fairly obvious mistakes were my two tempis and my extended canter.”

    Carl added his canter work is usually his ‘go to’ marks with En Vogue, and puts the blip down to “rider error”.

    “I just touched him too strong with my leg and you can see how sensitive he is,” he said, adding the new format of the grand prix score not counting for the team medals is hopefully a positive for the Brits.

    “He’s done some amazing [grand prix] specials, nearly 80%, so you know that’s really given me confidence. I feel that I can go in there and not worry will he turn around? Will he run backwards? Will he not walk? Will he not halt? Those are just such basic things that you need.”

    Carl added he was most pleased with the walk and the halt (“the easy bits”), adding: “He can do the difficult things, if his mind is relaxed. So, I was just pleased with his whole overall demeanour.”

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