Carl Hester on State of British Top Sport Dressage, Prospects for Tryon World Games and Tokyo Olympics–Part 1 of 2
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Feb. 20, 2018
By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
Before the London Olympics that became historic when Great Britain won gold, Carl Hester talked of retirement from competition, but admits he can’t give up trying to help his country experience success again eight years on in Tokyo in 2020.
“I can’t now drop what’s been successful for us as a team,” he said recently in assessing the state of British high performance dressage after eight years of making every medals podium at two Olympics, two World Equestrian Games and four European Championships.
“I can’t watch it disappear. To keep the sport alive we still need to be successful. I’m enjoying being part of that.”
At the age of 50, Carl has an enviable resume–all five Olympics since Barcelona in 1992, World Games in 2010 in Lexington and 2014 in Normandy, eight European Championships from 1991 through 2017 and two World Cup Finals with the 2017 Omaha event that fit his idea of having fun as well as performing in top sport.
Renowned as one of the world’s top trainers whose incisive observations are punctuated with British humor, Carl is scheduled to host a master class at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival grounds in Wellington, Florida the evening of Feb. 28. He’ll coach six riders at different levels in the three-hour clinic. General admission is $30 per person, and $10 for parking. The VIP cost is $300. Tickets are available at www.globaldressagefestival.com.
Carl, who works with American Katherine Bateson-Chandler in Florida in winter, gave his assessment of Britain’s high performance prospects.
His opinions in an interview with dressage-news.com were as enthusiastic as those ahead of the 2012 London Games, though he didn’t make any predictions about the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina just six months away.
Mount St. John Freestyle ridden by Charlotte Dujardin that he describes as a “spine tingling” worthy successor to Valegro that has captured a bag full of British national titles through small tour but the nine-year-old Hanoverian mare has yet to appear in an international competition arena.
Hawtins Delicato that he intends to compete but Charlotte has racked up an impressive small tour record of five wins in six starts at British CDIs.
And Nip Tuck, Carl’s Olympic team silver medal and 2017 World Cup bronze medal mount that he has not competed since last summer’s European Championships.
“Freestyle,” Carl said of the mare owned by Emma Blundell’s Mount St. John stud in England and who was in Wellington at the same time, “is a very successful successor to Valegro. I’m lucky to see her regularly, daily, in training so I know what could be coming.
“Freestyle has proven herself at every level; she is virtually unbeaten. She has followed the same path as Valegro, as he was as a young horse and all those classes on the way up. She has got the fighting spirit. She’s also got that hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck thing when you watch her–that ‘something’ extra. She’s been in big situations and is unfazed by everything.
“Freestyle is a spine-tingling horse. Each morning I go out and it’s like, ‘I can’t wait to watch it today.’ It’s like watching the emergence of another superstar for Charlotte. Every time I see Emma I say, ‘your horse is a freaking superstar.’
”Freestyle is one of those rare fighters, ears forward and Charlotte always says when she comes out, ‘we could have done the Grand Prix,’ because the horse is so willingly forward.
“We do a Grand Prix at home weekly now. We run through it at the end of each week, just to get the lines in, get everything sorted. Charlotte wants to get match practice. I sit and judge it. I’m very honest with her.
“Even at home the horse is getting 75/77 per cent from me. I know there’s an 80 in there.
“They still have to go out there and do it. Another month and we’re out there doing it.”
Hawtins Delicato, Carl said, is also ready for Grand Prix and “looking like a hot prospect, a top horse as well.”
“I would like to ride Delicato because I think he’s the best horse I’ve had, potentially.”
Nip Tuck, though, is reliable and is proven at Big Tour.
Fiona Bigwood, who rode Orthilia on the medal-winning 2016 Olympic and 2015 European Championship teams, has a new horse that Carl said, “looks very exciting.” So, too does Gareth Hughes and there are other team riders such as Spencer Wilton on Super Nova II that make up what he calls a “wider pool” of British talent.
“We all have to go in the ring,” he said. “That’s where we’re at.
“We have to start all over again…”
While in Wellington, he went to an American horse owners’ meeting that for him was like deja vu where he heard a report from Will Connell, who headed up the British teams programs before being hired away by the United States Equestrian Federation.
“I can see the shades of success for your team,” he said. “It’s going to be your time.”
As well as the retirement of Valegro, Britain’s equestrian management has undergone top to bottom changes.
“We have to start all over again from that point of view,” he said.
“We haven’t yet had a chance to work as a team. I think it’s quite important that we get some (Nations Cups) CDIOs under our belts as a team. We have to work out how we’re going to jell; how I structure the plan for our horses, especially for the WEG. They’re going to be young to go to a Games like that.”
Part 2: Carl Hester on the Price of Horses, Importance of Training, the Spirit of Success