Dressage star Charlotte Dujardin reveals how she got through a tough 2014 in a frank interview at The Global Dressage Forum
Most people would count a 76% grand prix as a huge success. Not Charlotte Dujardin.
Her test with Valegro at Aachen in July this year was “a complete disaster from start to finish”, as she explained in a frank interview with host Richard Davison at the Global Dressage Forum (Denmark, 20-21 October).
“Aachen was the toughest point of my career,” said the 29-year-old dressage rider.
“We knew it was going to be tough as we didn’t have Valegro at full fitness because we wanted him to peak in Normandy for the World Games. And we didn’t prepare for 30 degree heat either; it was a big shock.
“We changed my spurs in the warm-up – I didn’t want to, but Carl said I had to. We had a row about it, but I did as I was told. We went into the arena and it was the biggest disaster.
“’Blueberry’ was freaked out and it was almost like he wasn’t there, like he was frightened and I couldn’t help him.
“In all the years I’d ridden him, that horse had never let me down – in Aachen we changed things and we shouldn’t have, but you don’t know unless you try.”
She went on to detail how facing the press has always been the toughest aspect of her job.
“In the early days I could literally feel sweat running down my arms in the press conferences. And at Aachen the hardest thing to deal with was the press – everyone was so quick on social media, saying ‘Oh my god, what’s happened to Valegro?’
“Then I had to do the special, and I’d never been so scared in my life than for that test. If I could have run and hid I would have. I was shaking, and that’s not like me. I thought, ‘Why am I doing this? I can’t do it.’ It literally broke me down.
“Afterwards I felt defeated – I was so used to winning that after being beaten, I didn’t know how to go forwards and I needed a sports psychologist.
“She taught me how to deal with it and turn the negative into a positive. By the time I went to WEG, I felt on top of the world. I went there and held my head high. I went in there and I had fun. I enjoyed every moment of it because I knew how to deal with it if it all went wrong.
“Getting that help definitely made me a stronger person.”
Don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine’s full report from the Global Dressage Forum, on sale Thursday 30 October 2014