Carl Hester: Valegro is staying [H&H VIP]

  • For those of you who have been wondering since it was reported in the press that Valegro is no longer for sale, let me tell you what we’ve decided.

    Roly Luard has been a loyal and supportive owner of Valegro, and before that of Escapado. Roly and I feel that Valegro, who has been with me since he was 2, should be nowhere else other than in our care, with his rider, trainer, owners and staff.

    We are, however, looking for people to come and invest with us, to be part of and enjoy the amazing story that is Valegro, in the same way as serious investors in the racing game. Sometimes, you have to give up the chance of a lifetime for a horse of a lifetime.

    While Roly attended the annual British Equestrian Writers’ Association lunch to receive Valegro’s horse of the year award for the 2nd year running — which was lovely — the boy himself was happily at home munching his hay. The following day we got a great photo of him telling Clyde the cat all about it (see top).

    Getting it right at last

    Although “middle of the road” horses generally score in the 4 to 8 bracket, how wonderful it was at Olympia to see at the very top use of the full range of marks from 3 to 10.

    Due to a very unusual error in the passage to collected canter movement — which was quickly rectified but by that time too late — Charlotte and Valegro had the distinction of scoring what I am sure was their first ever3 in the grand prix at Olympia.

    But the luxury was that they could go straight into the 2-time changes and score 9s. Note: it’s not about the mistake, but how you recover from it.

    Olympia was the final show for Valegro’s Olympic music. For those who feel that it was already out of date, bear in mind it was only in use for 18 months. Olympia was the 5th time it was shown. And just look at the difference — they finally got it right!

    A strong music programme is an extensive addition to the competitive arsenal, but it just shows how many times you need to ride it to perfect it. You can practise as much as you like at home, but you can’t replicate atmosphere. Match practice makes perfect.

    For Charlotte and me a year on, this routine has been about perfecting those details that made the record score possible from the rider, trainer and the horse’s point of view. I hope everyone enjoyed it. It was very emotional for us.

    Composer Tom Hunt now has the job of producing an equally spine-tingling piece for next year.

    Looking at the other participants, what a difference a year makes. Half Moon Delphi, Marc Boblet’s Noble Dream — these young grand prix horses were scoring in the 60s last year, but here they’ve added 5%.

    It shows that getting to grand prix is not the end but just the start of 5 to 8 years’ worth of good competitive career. How exciting for British dressage that Delphi is moving up the score ladder.

    And Holland’s Danielle Heijkoop looks to be “doing a Charlotte” as one of the up-and-coming young riders pushing to top end status.

    ‘It captures magic’

    Olympia is the one show that just seems to capture magic. The world freestyle record score was won there by Edward Gal and Totilas and lost as Charlotte and Valegro made theirs. I wonder will that be the case for Charlotte in the future?

    It’s such a popular show; with friendly staff and slick organisation, it’s attracting the best riders. Most of all, Olympia creates the perfect mix for dressage to be seen and admired by a non-horsey public, as well as diehard enthusiasts.

    This was the first World Cup qualifier Reem Acra has attended herself after sponsoring the series for 4 years — how’s that for a useless piece of information?

    The £120,000 dress (yes, that much) that Charlotte wore to receive her FEI best athlete award was gifted to her by the New York fashion designer afterwards.

    So that solves Charlotte’s present for Christmas; a bag to match. But if she’s thinking Prada, she’s mistaken — I’m off to TK Maxx.