Carl Hester As Enthusiastic As Ever Making Plans for 2020 Tokyo Olympics–Part 1 of 2

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Charlotte Dujardin on Valegro and Carl Hester on Uthopia celebrating 2012 Olympic team gold medal. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

June 7, 2017

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

With more than three years to the Tokyo Olympics, Carl Hester is already focused on Great Britain being on the medals podium after two golden Games of the superstar combination of Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro.

Carl disclosed Charlotte has decided on Mount St. John Freestyle, an eight-year-old Hanoverian mare, as her main hope while Hawtins Delicato, a British-bred Hanoverian gelding a year younger, as his top choice for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

As both the heart of Britain’s dressage program and ambassador at large for the sport around the globe, Carl no longer talks about retirement as he did before the 2012 Olympics.

At 50 years old at the end of this month, Carl’s résumé lists five Olympics for two gold medals, three World Games with two silver medals, eight European Championships with a gold, four silver and a bronze and two World Cup Finals, the last of which in Omaha two months ago he was reserve champion.

As stellar as are the performances in the saddle, it may be surpassed by his coaching–the amazing partnership career of Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro and at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro where he was the coach of his three team mates while he rode Nip Tuck to take silver.

Great Britain’s silver medal team of Fiona Bigwood, Charlotte Dujardin, Carl Hester and Spencer Wilton at Rio de Janeiro. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

He still regards the London Games as the pinnacle of his career, the first dressage medals for Great Britain in a century of the Olympics and at home–team gold and individual gold and bronze.

For a native of Sark, an island in the English Channel that is closer to France and with a population of about 600, Carl is undoubtedly the biggest celebrity this century–after all, a mail box on the island was painted gold to celebrate the 2012 medal results.

“Anything that came beyond London was a bonus,” he told dressage-news.com in a recent interview, “which it has been. I could feel that in 2009 and again in 2010 when I had Uthopia and Valegro and 2011 fulfilled the dream and 2012 iced the cake. Beyond that it’s been—not a blur—but adding on to the final piece, which was London 2012.

“That was our final destination for all of us. How did we know London would get the Olympics? How did we know we would get three people that were capable of winning a medal? How did we know we were going to get an individual?

“That’s where I thought the proper dream ended and everything else beyond that has been a bonus.”

Now, though, he’s enjoying seeing Michael Eilberg, Spencer Wilton, Gareth Hughes, Hayley Watson-Greaves, Gareth Hughes, Henrietta Anderson and Lara Griffith coming to the fore as well as Laura Tomlinson and Emile Faurie returning to top sport with new horses.

“We’ve added all of these new people since 2012,” he said. “From that point of view that has been the growth because when you can add more people to your team that’s a supplementary bonus, as it were. So everybody else who joins you becomes enthusiastic, which happened.

“What else is there to do? This year is the catalyst of all of those dreams. A lot of things have changed, obviously, with Valegro and Fiona’s horse being sold so we’ll see what the depth is behind us for this year.”

Charlotte and he have their own plan for Tokyo, as they did for London.

Mount St. John Freestyle ridden by Charlotte Dujardin.

The plan this time is for Charlotte to ride Mount St John Freestyle, a 2009 Hanoverian mare (Fidermark x Donnerhall) owned by the British breeder Emma Blundell that at seven years old in the British Dressage championships last year took the Advanced Medium title and was reserve Prix St. Georges champion.

Carl’s choice is Hawtins Delicato, a nine-year-old British Hanoverian gelding (Diamond Hit x Ravenna Elite) that he owns owns with Anne Cory.

Hawtins Delicato

Neither one of the horses has yet competed at a CDI.

But Carl believes they will take them to Tokyo, he said, “presuming they’ll be great horses because they look like great horses now.”

Although Carl is not thinking about retiring from competition, he admits “I can only look as far as Tokyo at my age.”

“I find it quite interesting,” he said, “you get researched and regurgitated; 2011 researched and after 2012 regurgitated. Then things change again and off we went again.

“I feel the same about now–let’s look toward Tokyo. Big countries like the USA and Europe, providing you have success and it’s ethical, you can provide your sport a really good platform.

“We need to continue that… everybody in Great Britain knows what dressage is now, I hope they do in the USA. I don’t know, but I presume they do. If I look at it like that I would say we are two people fairly well known in the sport we will push it again toward Tokyo.”

The European Championships at Gothenburg, Sweden this year come after Great Britain has medaled in all four championships since taking team silver in Windsor in 2009, and being successful as well at both the 2010 and 2014 World Games and the 2012 and 2016 Olympics since. The retirement of Valegro and sale of Orthilia since the 2016 Games changed the equation

“This is the year we let Great Britain develop,” he said. “We mustn’t be disappointed if we don’t win a medal this year because we’re having a changeover year, and losing two big shots.

He doesn’t see it a disaster, with Spencer Wilton and Super Nova II capable of 77 per cent, Nip Tuck that Carl rode at Rio and in the World Cup getting 76/77 and as high as 79 in the Grand Prix.

Carl Hester and Nip Tuck in the World Cup Freestyle. © 2017 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

“I’m not writing this year off,” he said, “but I think it’s time to let other people develop and make a change.”

Tryon, where the World Equestrian Games will be staged in North Carolina in 2018, is to Carl “our comeback year” where Charlotte and he will try to emerge with Freestyle and Hawtins Delicato.

“It’s the same as it’s always been,” said Carl whose international championship career spans more than a quarter century, “it’s like stars aligning, everything coming together at the right time.

“I think we can maintain what we’ve done. I’m not as young as I was but do I feel any different, no. Put it this way, there’s no enthusiasm missing.

“I’m not about to let everything we’ve done for the last eight years disappear just because of an age thing. I’m probably riding better than I’ve ridden in a long time. Nip Tuck rose to the occasion in Omaha, he gave everything you could ever hope for in a horse.

“My nine-year-old is a much better horse than he is. Nip Tuck’s never going to be sold, he’s with us. Maybe I’ll find a British rider I can produce with him and I’ll take my nine-year-old on.

“Charlotte’s got her eight-year-old and with the emerging talents that we have I think we need another year. I’m not thinking about this year. I think the best thing that ever happened to dressage was us winning a gold medal in 2011 and that changed the face of the sport because it opened everything up, made it feel like anything was possible.”

Part 2–Carl Hester Talks About Charlotte Dujardin