Carl Hester: Equine legends and future stars *H&H VIP*

  • I’m writing this just before going to France for the first Nations Cup of the season at Compiègne, France. There’s over 40 years’ difference between the youngest and oldest on the team — surely this must be a record?

    As well as Gareth Hughes and Richard Davison, I’m on the team with Lottie Fry — what an achievement it is for her to be representing her country on a senior team at the age of 22.

    Her team ride is Dark Legend, her under-25 European gold medal winner, and waiting in the wings is the amazing stallion Everdale. Some people might remember Everdale from the demonstration at Bolesworth last year; at that stage he wasn’t able to string the movements together, but he’s matured and is contesting the three-star grand prix in Compiègne.

    For Lottie, learning to train these horses at the van Olsts’ yard in the Netherlands is what will help her become a true horsewoman. I have a feeling the future is going to be very exciting for her.

    So far it’s been a quiet season for Hawtins Delicato as we’ve been chipping away at homework until now. It takes five or six years to get to grand prix, then you have the following years to improve your work. Del’s still young for grand prix at the age of 11 and I’ve tried to focus on his fitness rather than endless schooling.

    Like all of us in the dressage community, I aspire to nailing it in the arena like we can at home.

    A royal honour

    One of the greatest treats at Royal Windsor Horse Show was introducing Valegro to The Queen. The whole yard found it very hard to keep quiet about it, but not a word could be said beforehand. It wasn’t going to be a public display, although a few suspicions were raised on Valegro’s arrival at the show. The fact that we were asked to bring him reminds us what a true superstar he is and how far his fame has spread.

    We were asked to wait on one of the avenues of trees with The Queen’s security detail and show organiser Simon Brooks-Ward, who’s an old hand at this, and this proved to be a rather nerve-wracking countdown.

    A Range Rover swept onto the avenue and gracefully came to a stop, then The Queen herself emerged from the driver’s seat. She put us all at ease immediately, being so knowledgeable and interested. She wanted to hear all about Valegro’s lifestyle, including his little habits while out hacking with Trish Gardiner.

    All of this made me realise how important it is to have equine stars as well as rider stars. I hope in years to come, when people look back into history, that Valegro will be remembered as a legend like Milton of showjumping fame.

    Valegro performed some moves for The Queen, who particularly wanted to see him piaffe, and this move that he is so famous for has been immortalised in a bronze statue, due to be installed in Newent, Gloucestershire, early next year.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 23 May 2019

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