Charlotte Dujardin & Mount St. John Freestyle–Photo Report on Amazing Performance With Sad Ending

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Charlotte Dujardin and Mount St. John Freestyle in the final centerline of the European Championship Grand Prix team competition that would have changed the scoreboard inthe background. © 2019 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands, Aug. 21, 2019–Charlotte Dujardin rode Mount St. John Freestyle to what would have been an incredible European Championships second place finish individually and silver medal for Great Britain’s team but for…

Dressage-news.com was at the 2011 European Championships here as we were in Florida earlier the same year where a virtually unknown rider coached by the incomparable Carl Hester competed Valegro to results that were disappointing before the combination became one of the greatest of all time.

As a news site, we try not to inject personal opinions, keep it as straight as possible. We posted an image of the left flank of Freestyle and the bloody mark, apparently caused by a spur. We’re not judges or stewards so cannot say for certain, but we do see an awful lot of Grand Prix rides every year from CDis with dozens of competitors, Olympics, world and regional/continental championships and World Cup Finals. (Steffen Peters on Legolas at the 2015 World Cup Final in Las Vegas, no complaints from rider or owners when eliminated when horse spooked in crowd applause and spur mark drew blood).

Sometimes, s**t happens!

Charlottew Dujardin and Mount St. John Freestyle in the European Championships Grand Prix team copetition. © 2019 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Even with the elimination of what would have been their top combination, Great Britain placed fourth with just three horses and riders–Carl Hester on Hawtins Delicato at 78.323%, Gareth Hughes on Classic Briolinca on 76.351% and team rookie Charlotte Fry on Dark Secret on 74.317%, the first time the British team has achieved such scores for all the pairs.

What happened to Charlotte, 34 years old, a rider who seems capable of producing top horses in Britain that is not known for dressage successes of the level established by Isabell Werth, likely the greatest equestrian in the history of horse sports, seemed inconceivable before it was. Charlotte’s future was sometimes questioned after the retirement from competition of Valegro. But she has built her c.v.–a catch ride on Erlentanz while the owner/rider is laid up with an injury as well as Freestyle’s improving results.

In the pressure cooker of the European Championships with Freestyle the all but for the blood runner-up placing second to Isabell and Bella Rose was, well, mind-blowing.

After all, the pair had led Great Britain to team bronze and captured individual bronze at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina 11 months ago.

Freestyle’s owners, Emma and Jill Blundell, stood by their rider, as did British Dressage. And none questioned the elimination for blood. It was as it should be in a sport that is so careful of the welfare of the horse that it has the most stringent equipment requirements–no second chances for blood, no draw reins or other “special” equipment, no excuses. Certainly, way above jumping, eventing and no comparison with endurance.

One can only wonder about Freestyle, just 10 years old. Tokyo Olympics in 2020, less than a year away?

Freestyle with Charlotte Dujardin aboard at the European Chcampionships. © 2019 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Throughout the day Wednesday, riders from several nations who assumed that this correspondent, a fixture at many events around the world is an American but whose first language is English thus assumed by many to be British, offered commiseration about Charlotte and Freestyle. No one, it seemed, wanted the final result, including the always sporting and caring Swedes who were totally unprepared for their unexpected call for bronze medal podium appearance and required attendance at the mandatory post-competition news conference (they were understandably with effusive apologies late).

And to take nothing away from Isabell and Bella Rose–they seemed to this correspondent to be the clear winner–dressage-news.com wanted to show some highlights of the performance that won’t go into the official records. It wowed the judges and wowed the crowd. And it wowed us.

Charlotte Dujardin and Mount St. John Freestyle in the European Championships for team medals. © 2019 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com