Richard Davison: Charlotte Dujardin’s speech stopped me in my tracks *H&H VIP*

  • The decision to retire Valegro from competition — while he is relatively young and on top of the world — commands even more admiration to be heaped on to Carl Hester and the horse’s other connections.

    At 14, Valegro is relatively young for an international grand prix dressage horse. Other back-to-back individual gold medal-winning horses, such as Rembrandt and Salinero, have gone on to be campaigned for a third Olympics and the next few years would certainly have seen Valegro capturing more medals and victories.

    But as Carl says: “Valegro has already won every title there is to win, and he holds every world record,” and I think Carl’s decision is wholly honourable and admirable.

    In making Valegro available for select public appearances, where he will continue to inspire thousands and be a global ambassador for dressage and equestrianism, his impact and legacy will be immeasurable.

    Valegro has done more than writing his name in the history books. He has brought wonderment and inspiration to millions of equine enthusiasts across the world including spectators, judges, officials and riders from all disciplines. He has brought home victories and titles that we could previously only dream about, and created pride for our nation. He has helped put medals around our riders’ necks and, for those connected with him, he has changed their careers and shaped their lives forever.

    Being involved with the Olympia organisational team, I can guarantee that the retirement ceremony in December will be a must-attend, unique and emotionally charged affair.

    Stopped in my tracks

    A few weeks ago I called in to Judy Harvey’s yard in Buckinghamshire and, while in the tack room waiting for the kettle to boil, I perused photos of her past and present students amid the rosettes. There were a couple I needed help identifying, including a few of Charlotte Dujardin in her early days’ training with Judy.

    I reflected how she has since transformed herself into the ultimate equestrian athlete. Charlotte has always had a good seat on a horse and no doubt that’s thanks to Jane, her mother, who launched Charlotte’s showing career as a child.

    But to those of us who know her, when it comes to her current diet, lifestyle and fitness, Charlotte’s self-discipline is unrelenting. Valegro’s supersonic climb to success meant Charlotte was catapulted into stardom with relatively little preparation.

    She used to be very shy in public and was uncomfortable with the media. At the recent national championships, while the final prize-giving ceremony was still in mid-flow, I thought I’d make a dash for my car and beat the exodus.

    But as I was walking behind the back of the grandstand, I heard Charlotte being interviewed over the public address system about her freestyle. What she went on to say afterwards stopped me in my tracks. She gave an impromptu speech, expressing her deep gratitude to Carl.

    Charlotte spoke movingly and from her heart, and driving home I thought back to the pictures of her early days in Judy’s tack room and also of Charlotte’s whirlwind journey to stardom. What a lovely, complete young woman she has turned into.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 29 September 2016