Charlotte Dujardin on Nerves at the Top

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Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

HAGEN, Germany, April 27–Charlotte Dujardin loved riding as a kid but found horse show ompetitions “ghastly,” her nerves so bad she went to a psychologist for help.

Did it ever help!

How much?

Take the biggest of the big shows where grown men and woman at the pak of their careers have been humbled–the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, Germany, Horses & Dreams in Hagen, Germany, as the first major outdoor competition of this Olympic year, or the Olympics themselves at historic Greenwich Park in London with the hopes of a nation riding on her every step to finally end an Olympic Games record of Great Britain never winning a medal.

Is she nervous, scared?

“When I was younger I suffered with nerves,” she admitted. “At horse shows I hated every minute of it. It was ghastly.”

If she was going to enjoy showing she would have to change.

So she sought help from a British sports psychologist.

Now?

“I always look at it as the same old centerline, just another arena,” she said.

Or as she more directly and more famously said, “‘same old shit, different arena.”

Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro in Horses &Dreams meets Great Britain CDI4*. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

With Valegro, the 10-year-old KWPN gelding owned by her boss and coach, Carl Hester, she finds herself at a level that only a few dressage riders have ever found themselves in at the ripe old age of 26, especially in a sport that places a premium on tradition and classical style.

The fifth-ranked combination in the world. Only the ninth show for the pair since they began their CDI Grand Prix career in March of 2011, and the second this year. The other was the World Dressage Masters in Florida in January where they finished second in the freestyle, only a whisker behind Steffen Peters and Ravel. A downside to Florida was an awards ceremony that was scary for Valegro that he is now being re-trained to get it out of his system.

Valegro and Charlotte have only the CDI5* in Munich as the only other competition on their calendar at this stage of their preparation for the Olympics in London where the dressage competition begins the first week of August, just three months away.

Barring anything unforeseen, the pair could join Carl and Uthopia and Laura Bechtolsheimer and Mistral Hojris, the standard bearer of British dressage at an elite level since the 2009 European Championships despite her youth, as winners any colored medal for the first time for a British dressage team since the creation of the modern Olympics.

Carl Hester (gold vest) coaching Charlotte Dujardin on Valegro. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

To get to the medals podium podium, nerves may play more of a part than ever before.

Unlike previous Olympics where the team results were determined by the Grand Prix, this year the medals will be based on the scores from both the Grand Prix and the specially created Olympic Grand Prix Special.

The extra competition and the gap of days between the two could, experts say, play havoc with emotions, strategies and physical wellbeing of both horses and riders.

No-nerves Charlotte Dujardin with one of the top horses in the world could fit well with seasoned team mates Laura Bechtolsheimer and Carl Hester.