‘A unique experience’: Carl and Charlotte confirmed to compete at Olympia

Dressage riders Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester have confirmed they will be bringing their top rides Mount St John Freestyle and Hawtins Delicato to compete at this year’s London International Horse Show, Olympia (16 to 22 December).

The combinations will be going head-to-head in the World Cup grand prix and World Cup freestyle to music, sponsored by Horse & Hound, on the first two days of the show.

The 10-year-old Mount St John Freestyle is one of Britain’s top medal prospects for next year’s Tokyo Olympics, having secured two bronze medals at the FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG), Tryon, in 2018.

Charlotte has previously starred at the show with the great Valegro but it will be the first time she has ridden the dark bay mare at Olympia.

“I am absolutely thrilled to be returning to Olympia for 2019,” she said. “Being able to compete on Mount St John Freestyle at the show for the first time is incredibly exciting and will also provide a valuable stepping stone ahead of the 2020 Olympics. The audience at Olympia is incredible and will prepare us for the crowds in Tokyo.”

Last year, Charlotte rode Hawtins Delicato at Olympia, where they finished second in the grand prix, but this time she is handing back the reins of the 11-year-old gelding to his usual partner Carl.

The combination were also on the bronze medal-winning team at Tryon as well as Nations Cup team gold in Compiègne, France, this year.

“Olympia is the show I look forward to every year,” said Carl. “Performing under the roof of Olympia’s grand hall is always such a unique experience and the crowds are so encouraging.”

This year will be the second year of running a shorer grand prix test, which aims to make the competition more accessible to the audience.

Organisers have said they will be retaining the most popular elements from last year’s trial, including live interviews with the competitors in the arena as they watch their scores come in after their test.

There have also been updates to the test itself, with attention paid to “maintaining the flow of the movements” while demanding “the highest level of technical ability, athleticism and precision”.

Richard Davison, who has been working as dressage consultant to the Olympia organising committee, said they had been “working hard” to develop a concept which maintains the grand prix’s status as the “ultimate technical test” while also widening its appeal to new audiences.

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“The aim is to strike a balance for both competitors and fans and this pilot marks a significant step in achieving our goals,” he said.

Show director Simon Brooks-Ward said the show was always looking at new ways to make the action as “entertaining, dynamic and educational for our audience as possible”.

“We are confident that the second year of the dressage grand prix pilot will be met enthusiastically by our audience,” he said. “Not only do we have the competition, but we are also introducing ‘Dressage Unwrapped’ — hosted by Carl Hester, Richard Davison and Gareth Hughes — which gives a 90-minute deep dive into dressage and what it means to compete at an international level.

“The whole evening is set to be a feast for dressage enthusiasts.”

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