Carl Hester: Is there even more to come? [H&H VIP]

  • The atmosphere at Olympia was like a party, with superb and much appreciated support from the crowd for all the riders — we loved the standing ovations.

    The thing to understand is that we riders don’t go to shows thinking about setting world records. When people ask how it happens, how Charlotte and Valegro can go out as they did at Olympia, bettering their previous world records in both grand prix and freestyle, and whether there is more to come, the answer is yes. We think there is more and we believe it. The key is partnership.

    Charlotte and Valegro have been together for eight years now. They have developed into a long-term partnership that carries a huge trust and knowledge of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. And the performances they give are simply full of confidence and brilliance.

    The confidence Valegro gives Charlotte is because 90% of his quality comes from the fact that he is a worker both inside and outside the arena. You know with him that what you can get at home, you can also get in the arena.

    Never say never

    If Nip Tuck has taught me one thing in my life, it is never to say never.

    This 18hh gentle giant who was terrified of a sweet wrapper — let alone five judge’s tables and 8,000 people at Olympia — has surpassed all my and his owner Jane’s expectations.

    I haven’t enjoyed producing and riding any horse quite as much as this one in my whole life. The satisfaction of a horse going at his very best can give you the feeling of winning, even if you don’t get a first rosette.

    In these golden days of dressage with Valegro in the sport, it is important to remember that he is one in a million and that not every horse will have the mental and physical ability to replicate what he can, so be happy with your horse’s best.

    Spreading the word

    With Charlotte’s BT Sport Action woman award and fourth place at Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY), it is fantastic to see British Dressage’s (BD) response to current success. Led by Winnie Murphy, the team in the office at BD are doing a superb job of capitalising on this, particularly with so much more social media activity. They’re really getting dressage out into the mix.

    This is fantastic news, but there is something we’re going to have to work hard on: while “dancing horses” can explain dressage in the simplest terms, for it to remain a serious sport we need to get over the reality of hard work that goes into producing these horses, the training and partnership, and for it to be seen as a sport, not just a skill.

    That doesn’t take away, however, from the fact that I never thought I’d see a dressage rider in the top 10 for the BBC SPOTY award — let alone being voted into fourth and bringing the world of dressage to many thousands more people.

    What’s cooking Mariette?

    Mariette Withages, former head of the FEI dressage committee and — until she retired earlier this year — one of our top international judges, came to Olympia to launch her book There is a Horse in my Kitchen. I had never seen Mariette in her guise of Masterchef of worldwide dressage!

    With Christmas approaching and all of us looking forward to a mouthwatering couple of weeks, this is your chance to read about the history not only of dressage, but of all kinds of connections between horses and cooking.

    Knowing that I love cooking, Mariette had challenged me to a culinary session. Luckily I will get lots of practice over the festive period, as no doubt I will be marked on my performance. I will of course be aiming for a 10, and will therefore be plying Mariette with plenty of her Barbotage cocktails during the great dressage cook-off. Sabotage? Maybe…

    Happy 2015

    It has been another amazing year for British dressage, so I wish you a very happy Christmas and New Year, with the hope that British equestrian success continues to run into 2015. Cheers!

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 25 December 2014