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Legends of the sport: Mistral Højris — ‘Competing was something he was always doing for me — he had to learn to be a showman’ *H&H Plus*

Naturally blessed with athleticism and presence, the striking Michellino gelding overcame stage fright with the help of Laura Tomlinson to join the top flight and take his place in British dressage history. Polly Bryan charts his story

When a 19-year-old Laura Bechtolsheimer (now Tomlinson) first sat on an imposing nine-year-old chestnut gelding in Denmark, she instantly knew he was special. What she couldn’t have known, back then, was the impact that Mistral Højris would have, not just on her own career, but on British dressage as a whole.

The sport has seen remarkable transformation over the past 12 years, its British riders rising from middle ranking also-rans to the very best in the world. The great Valegro is widely credited as the catalyst for this success, but in fact it was Laura and Mistral Højris – known as Alf – who played a major part in setting the wheels in motion.

Between 2008 and 2012, Laura and Alf won four championship team medals and five individual medals, their greatest triumph coming at the London Olympics as they helped Britain to a euphoric gold, then went on to claim individual bronze with a scintillating freestyle. But despite Alf’s early promise, there were plenty of moments during the first few years of his and Laura’s partnership when many wondered whether Alf would ever come up with the goods.

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