Alan Davies On Life With Valegro

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Editor’s note: With the retirement of Valegro at the London Olympia International Horse Show this week, dressage-news.com asked Alan Davies, the groom of the 14-year-old KWPN gelding, and Carl Hester, part-owner of the horse, coach and mentor of rider Charlotte Dujardin, to share some memories

Valegro led by Alan Davies arriving at the Thomas & Mack Center for the World Cup Final after flying from Europe. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Valegro led by Alan Davies arriving at the Thomas & Mack Center for the World Cup Final after flying from Europe. The trip to Las Vegas was the furthest Valegro had traveled from home in Gloucestershire, England at that time, but the flight to Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics this summer was further by about 500 miles (800km). © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By Alan Davies

I first met Blueberry in 2011 when Carl asked me to take him to Vidauban in the south of France for his first international Grand Prix show. Right from the start he made my job quite easy as he took to traveling abroad really well and never gave me any worries. He won four classes in the two weeks that we were away and started then to be a big talking point and capturing everyone’s attention

I was supposed to just do a couple of shows but Carl decided he wanted me to stay and take on the management of Blueberry and Uthopia. It was a “no brainer” for me as I had already started to bond with these two amazingly talented horses. So I decided to stay on full time and that year became a busy one, traveling a lot in the run up to the Europeans in Rotterdam. Blueberry and I spent a lot of time on the road and I think that was when our bond was cemented.

We are quite similar souls, neither of us like any fuss or hassle when we are in the stables; we both love food and have to be careful what we eat! We seem to have a calming influence on each other and we both know how the other one is feeling!

I often get asked about favourite and special moments, which is difficult to answer as there have been so many!

I always remember the moment he started breaking records in Hagen (Germany) in 2012 with great pride and joy!

Alan Davies making sure everything is perfect for Valegro to go into the competition arena at Hagen, Germany while Carl Hester gives last minute tips to Charlotte Dujardin. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Alan Davies making sure everything is perfect for Valegro to go into the competition arena at Hagen, Germany while Carl Hester gives last minute tips to Charlotte Dujardin. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

It was in the run up to the London Olympics and it was really unexpected and he took all the furore with such grace.

Valegro ridden by Charlotte Dujardin enjoying success at Hagen, Germany. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Valegro ridden by Charlotte Dujardin enjoying success at Hagen, Germany. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

And in Lyon for the World Cup when he did his new music for the first time in public was a very special moment. There was a lot of pressure on him and he rose to the occasion with an incredible test!

The most difficult time was Aachen (Germany) in 2014 when he made some mistakes and shocked the world and didn’t win.

I was left with him in the stables while everyone else went for the prize giving and he looked to me for comfort; he knew something was not right. I took him for grass and kept telling him he was still number one in my eyes!

Charlotte and Valegro leaving arena after the CDIO5* Grand Prix at Aachen, Germany on July 17, 2014. The pair placed sixth on a score of 76.900 per cent and ended a run of 22 straight victories beginning in January 2012 after placing second behind Steffen Peters and Ravel in Florida. Three days later, July 20. Charlotte and Valegro were back on top winning the Freestyle starting another string of 18 victories until second place in the Grand Prix Special at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 12, 2016. © 2014 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Charlotte and Valegro leaving arena after the CDIO5* Grand Prix at Aachen, Germany on July 17, 2014. The pair placed sixth on a score of 76.900 per cent and ended a run of 22 straight victories beginning in January 2012 after placing second behind Steffen Peters and Ravel in Florida. Three days later, July 20. Charlotte and Valegro were back on top winning the Freestyle starting another string of 18 victories until second place in the Grand Prix Special at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 12, 2016. © 2014 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Luckily he soon was back on winning form!

Back on top! Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro winning the CDIO5* Grand Prix Freestyle at Aachen, Germany three days after a rare placing of sixth in the Grand Prix. © 2014 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Back on top! Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro winning the CDIO5* Grand Prix Freestyle at Aachen, Germany three days after a rare placing of sixth in the Grand Prix. © 2014 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Alan Davies was there for Valegro as the horse was ridden out of the Deutsche Bank stadium after the winning Grand Prix Freestyle. © 2014 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Alan Davies was there for Valegro as the horse was ridden out of the Deutsche Bank stadium after the winning Grand Prix Freestyle. © 2014 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

He is such a kind, generous horse and not demanding, except for food; so he is a joy to travel with. His main love is dunking his hay so I always make sure he can do that! I feel very honored that he has trusted me to take him on planes and trains and boats and on many long trips. It will be quite strange not having him with me when I go off traveling, I think he’s going to miss it as well!

Meeting Blueberry has changed my life totally! He and I have become quite famous and people just love to hear the stories of Blueberrys life.

Valegro looks away while Charlotte Dujardin and Alan Davies hug after winning Freestyle gold at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy in 2014. © 2014 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Valegro looks away while Charlotte Dujardin and Alan Davies hug after winning Freestyle gold at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy in 2014. © 2014 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

This has also prompted the change in people’s opinions to the role of the grooms; they are seeing now more than ever what an important job we grooms have. I’m lucky to even have sponsors now with Kingsland supplying me with amazing clothes and Eqclusive shopping me with brushes. I hope I can help promote the role of grooms and encourage more people to become professional grooms! And it’s all thanks to The Amazing Bluebery !!!

Alan Davies in Kingsland gear as he prepares Valegro for competition in England. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Alan Davies in Kingsland gear as he prepares Valegro for competition in England. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com