New Olympic Freestyle Wrapped Up, Carl Hester Shows Off Fitter, Trimmer Uthopia
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
NEWENT, England, July 24–The finishing touches were made Tuesday to the freestyle that Carl Hester hopes his fitter, trimmer Uthopia will join two other British riders and horses in the Olympic Freestyle that will be the finale of equestrian competition at the Games where dressage starts next week.
The freestyle for both Uthopia and stable mate Valegro that Charlotte Dujardin rides is, in his words, “a masterpiece… music for the last centerline” most likely for both horses as they are for sale as soon as Olympic competition is over on Aug. 9.
That he has produced and owns stakes in two of the three horses that make up the British team–Laura Bechtolsheimer and Mistral Hojris is the third team combination–is remarkable and perhaps historic, especially for a nation that has never won a medal of any color in the 100 years that dressage has been an Olympic sport. Great Britain and Germany are the top contenders for gold. The odds makers rate Britain the favorite with Germany and the Netherlands tied for second in team competition while Holland’s Adelinde Cornelissen and Parzival are favored individually followed by Charlotte, Carl and Laura in that order, then Germany’s Helen Langehanenberg and Damon Hill NRW.
Carl’s predictions, “if all goes well,” is a battle between Germany and Great Britain for team gold and Parzival, Valegro and Damon Hill the top three individually.
“I’m not concerned about myself for the individual,” he said, “an individual medal is not what I need before I die. A team gold would be nice before I die, but I had one last year (at the European Championships).”
“This will be their last show. We may never again see a situation like this.
“My main concern is the kür and to give Charlotte a chance for individual gold. I’m concerned about the draw that could mean I’m not there for her.”
Uthopia has reached the peak of fitness and lost 60 kilograms (132 lb.) in the first three weeks of workouts on an aquatred–a water treadmill–and his condition helps dispel rumors about the 11-year-old KWPN stallion (Metall x Odelia x Inspekteur). Carl and Uthopia have competed only once this year, in Austria in early June, then withdrew from the Hartpury, England, CDI where Charlotte and Valegro performed their new patriotic freestyle.
The effect of the greater fitness and weight loss has been “amazing,” Carl said, “he feels like a different horse, just incredible.”
Because Charlotte and the 10-year-old KWPN gelding (Negro x Maifleur x Gerschwin) and Carl and Uthopia are ranked fourth and fifth in the world, respectively, he explained, they will usually be drawn close together in the order of go that makes it diffiult to warm up his student.
As they near the start of the dressage Nations Cup a week from Thursday, Aug. 2, Carl sees the end of the odyssey with both horses.
“I am relieved it’s over,” he told dressage-news.com at his farm in rural Gloucestershire about two hours north of London.
“For me, this is the hardest year of my life. I feel very emotional about the whole thing. I’ve had the horses since they were babies. I’m emotional they have to be sold.
“So much rests on these two horses for our team. It kind of gets me sick.
“I’m ill with worry, controlling our two amazing horses. Everyone keeps thinking about gold, but we’ve never had any medal. So anything to hang around my neck as long as it’s not a noose will be an absolute dream.
“On the other hand, I’m relishing the challenge of writing a little bit of history for British dressage. It could be talked about for the next 50 years.
“From that point of view I feel very priveleged to be a part of this amazing story.
“But, Oh, my God, I have aged mentally and phsyically!”
Immediately after the Games, he is going to Sark, where he grew up to show off his medal that would be a first for the Channel Islands. He plans on taking 40 friends “as a thank you from me for everything” so “if we don’t win a medal we could be going on a commiseration holiday.” Then he plans to go to Spain for four days to sleep.
The job for British dressage is not finished until late in the year as he has a schedule of exhibitions. But the aim is to stop doing clinics and for a year to just ride and train.
The mortgage on his farm needs to be paid off, whch he hopes will come about through the sale of the horses.
As to the freestyle, the score for Uthopia “I won’t say is gorgeous and fabulous, but it is full of delicious bits and pieces, so many cool pieces.”
He’s known for not making freestyles the center of his training, but working with composer Tom Hunt has made him “quite excited for once… as long as the horse keeps going forward.”
His advice to Charlotte when she was working on her freestyle, “This is not the World Cup Final, this is the London Final.”
The music for both has a lot of patriotism.