Carl Hester: ‘was Valegro made on another planet?’ [H&H VIP]

  • The greatest show on earth. If you’ve never been to Las Vegas I recommend it, but for a few days only.

    The place lives up to its reputation as Sin City; gambling, drinking and smoking are not only not frowned upon but almost obligatory.

    It was a week of drama. First, my flight made it into the Mirror online news. After nearly 11 hours we came in to land in Vegas as a sandstorm blew up. As the plane was buffeted sideways — not being the best of flyers anyway — my nails were buried deep in the headrest in front of me.

    The pilot then aborted the attempt and flew on to Ontario (California, not Canada) where we waited to see if the storm had abated, before heading to LAX [Los Angeles], arriving at midnight.

    Luckily, I met up at the luggage carousel with Nina Barbour, of Bolesworth fame, and her two intrepid friends Emma and Ellie. Thank God! The decision was made that the only option was to drive the five hours to Vegas armed with Red Bull and iced cappuccino.

    So with Emma Blundell of Mount St John stud, Valegro’s co-owner Roly Luard and Spain’s Bobby Bobadilla, we loaded up a “Ute” and set off from LA at 2am, in what we hoped was the right direction.

    Some of the horses were a little worse for wear after their journey from Schiphol [Amsterdam]. Valegro was quite off-colour with puffy legs from the heat and had hit that brick wall of jet lag.

    But then he came out to score 85% in the grand prix — he makes me wonder if he were made on earth or another planet?

    The crowd in Vegas is like no other: they whoop when you piaffe and there’s no putting a hand up for “quiet please”. This is show time.

    Saturday’s final was brilliantly atmospheric. Although Valegro seems to have it in the bag, we never think like that. My admiration for the way Charlotte rides under such intense pressure cannot be underestimated. For me, it has become easier to watch her performances; I think back to Rotterdam in 2011 when I hid behind a pillar, in tears. Now, it is just a question of being able to relax and watch as Valegro creates history.

    To win a World Cup final by 10% seems remarkable in these days of excellent dressage. The only downside of the competition was the elimination of Steffen Peters under the blood rule. He was extremely gracious and took full responsibility, even though it seems the spur mark happened when Legolas was spooked by the crowd’s reaction.

    Rise of British Dressage

    With the Rio Olympics looming, it’s exciting, refreshing and almost unbelievable that we have so many combinations breaking the 70% barrier needed to join the World Class Performance programme. Alice Oppenheimer in Vidauban, Hayley Watson-Greaves at her first international grand prix, Nikki Crisp at Addington, Lara Griffith and Fiona Bigwood with the talented and exciting Atterupgaards Orthilia. And that’s without the current team members’ horses!

    Kim Moloney, British Dressage’s (BD) central region development officer, is leaving to run Chiltern Equine Clinic. Under her guidance, central has become BD’s largest region. Four hundred riders attended Kim’s camp, and last year her British Young Rider Dressage Scheme and seniors won their inter-regional titles at the home international.

    Kim has been passionate about development and can be pretty persuasive. Whoever takes over her role will have big shoes to fill.

    Ref: H&H 28 April, 2015