Carl Hester to Ride Uthopia at British Championships in 1st Show Since Olympic Gold Medal
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By KENNETH J.BRADDICK
Carl Hester will ride Uthopia at the British Championships next week in their first competition since winning gold as a member of the team that a month ago ended his nation’s century-long Olympic dressage medal drought.
Olympic team mates Charlotte Dujardin and Tatler, a 12-year-old Anglo European gelding she has competed in only once CDI, and Laura Behtolsheimer and Andretti H, a 17-year-old Hanoverian gelding she has competed at the top levels of the sport for more than four years, are also entered in the Grand Prix at Stoneleigh Park scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 15.
The national championships will be, Carl joked in an interiew with dressage-news.com, an opportunity for him to not be beaten by Charlotte who rode Valegro to victory in all three Olympic Grand Prix that won the pair individual gold as well as team honors.
Carl put the fine tuning of Uthopia, an 11-year-old KWPN stallion (Metall x Odelia x Inspekteur), on the backburner to ensure that Charlotte and Valegro were fully prepared for the Olympics.
“My buildup wasn’t what I wanted it to be,” he said, referring to a single competition all year prior to the Olympics. “I want to get back in the frame. I rode the Grand Prix at home but that’s not the same as a competition.
“But it worked. I was really pleased with my first two tests (at the Oympics). By time I did it, I was happy wth what I’d done.”
The pressure of the Olympics on him as an owner of both Uthopia and Valegro, trainer of Charlotte and one of the three riders on the team was “exhausting… very intense… hard, really hard… that I don’t think any of us knew what it entailed.
“You know what can go wrong. Here, though, it was the expectations. Having never ridden with such expectations, it was a totally different experience.
“I don’t know what a nervous breakdown feels like but I think I experienced it the week before the Games.
“What we did and where it was, in London, I felt it was a little bit of destiny. To be a part of the change in dressage with two of our riders in their twenties, it has been fantastic for the sport.
“I look back with great joy. It has been fantastic to see the change in the sport. It could not have been a better fairy tale.
“That was the intention. At end of the day I don’t have any regrets.”
Both Uthopia and Valegro, a 10-year-old KWPN gelding (Negro x Maifleur x Gerschwin) are for sale, but there have been no developments.
Since the Olympics, he has straightened out ownership paperwork, a not unusual occurrence in an Olympic year. The horse passport is required to be for the nation it represents by the end of the year prior to the Olympics, but the financial equity may be different needing reconciliation after the Games.
He is finalizing preparations of Dances with Wolves, a 10-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Donnerschwee x Waldfee x Walldorf), for the Grand Prix.
He plans “a year out” of championship competitions in 2013–aside from the annual World Cup, the Europeans are the only chamionships on the calendar for 2013–but will concentrate on the World Equestrian Games in Normandy as they grow closer to the September, 2014, event.
Clearly, Carl is enormously proud of the success of Charlotte and Valegro.
“It was fascinating watching their development this year,” he said. “At home every week it was, ‘Wow.’ You could see the upward spiral from Olympia (in London in December, 2011). I was convinced from that moment on Valegro was the best horse in the world.
“It’s so unbelievable, the horse has never let us down. Everything we’ve asked of the horse it has done it well. It’s an old head on young shoulders. Every year of his life he has come up with the goods.
“Thats why I was able to relax when we got to the Olympics.”
He described Charlotte as “a phenomenon.”
“I’m glad that her success has been inspiration to so many people,” he said, “that’s what brings people into the sport.
“It’s far more inspiring than someone like me who has been banging around the sport for 25 years.
“To see her as number one in the world rankings I’m in awe. It still gives me a huge kick.”
Carl’s success has not changed his approach to training and development of horses.
“We start with young horses,” he said. “We do what we like. We train them.
“When someone buys a mega exspensive horse what’s the pleasure in that? The way we do it is without the pressures of having to do it a certain way because someone has paid so much money for the horse, or why didn’t you do something.”
The saddest part of what he does is breaking up a partnership, as might happen with Charlotte if Valegro is sold. But he said the horses will not be sold to a terrible home.
What he hopes for is that after his horses have had great careers with great riders he will get them back to go into a field full of retired horses.