It takes more than a team.

18 Dec


Earlier this evening, at London’s Olympia CDI-W, Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro re-united all three world records of dressage.

It seems like only yesterday–or maybe a decade or so ago– that Edward Gal and his partner, the great Dutch stallion Totilas,  achieved rock-star status and their own nickname of ‘Ed-and-Toto’ as they climbed to the stratosphere of the sport, earning marks never seen before. Their performances made grown men cry–and deservedly so. The emotion, the power and the almost eerie inner serenity of their  partnership brought new appreciation of what one might dream or and even expect from a dressage performance. In the end, Ed and Toto held all 3 world records and were poised to accomplish we will never know what, as the horse was sold at 10 years of age, not yet having reached his maturity as a top sport athlete.

Toti and Ed(Margaret Duncan)

(Margaret Duncan photo)

And now, we have Charlotte and Blueberry, as Valegro is called at home.

First came the Grand Prix Special,  the most difficult and technical of the three GP tests.  April 29, 2012, at Hagen,  they added the GPS, 88.02,  breaking Ed and Toto’s 86.46 at Aachen in 2010.

Grand Prix. Then this year, August 22, 2013, at the European Championships, their 85.942 moved  their own 84.45 to second best and Ed and Toto’s  84.08 from 2009 Europeans relegated to 3rd.

Freestyle. And on December 17, 2013, at Olympia, they added the Freestyle. 93.97, finally beating Edward Gal and Totilas’ 92.30

Second to them in this freestyle was Edward Gal with his new partner, Undercover. Should Undercover (known as Frits in his barn) gain a bit more serenity of his own, it is possible that the final piece of the puzzle will find its rightful place for this exciting top sport partnership and Gal might find a way to reclaim some of the records.

At this high, high level of top sport, there are only superlatives.

Charlotte’s strong,impeccable core and really supple hips which allow her to match Valegro’s unbelievably powerful rear end stride for stride; the connection that cycles through the partnership, making it look as though she really can ‘suggest’ with a balance shift here, a soft calf there, an extra ounce or two in the rein for just the moment to catch Valegro’s attention–and on they bound, flowing into the next movement.

Valegro turned 11 this year, and his new topline shows greater muscling for the strength moves, his ever  stronger hind legs are able to provide all the power and expression, and  his balance and rhythm have never been more evident.

Thank you, Team Hester for providing us with these exquisite moments.

Thank you to Valegro and Charlotte Dujardin, of course, two top sport athletes whose partnership is self-evident every time they take a step,in or out of the arena.

Thank you to co-owner of Valegro Roly Luard, for the long-term sponsorship and even greater passion that has allowed Team Hester to grow as it has.

Thank you also to Valegro’s other co-owner as well as teacher- trainer, the incomparable Carl Hester, most definitely dressage’s Man of the Moment; a moment which will hopefully last for the rest of the time Carl spends with horses.

Dressage is supposed to be about presenting the result of communicating with the horse: the rider asks for a movement, the horse responds. Go and Whoa.

On top of that primitive two word communication, entire dialogues are constructed, using ever more complex yet subtle cues, until the  perfect partnership is (nearly) achieved.

Carl’s knowledge and experience has been on display over the years with countless horses, and has netted him over  66 National Titles, 8 National Championships,  an Olympic Team Gold at London, and the grateful thanks of  countless horse lovers, for making us believe it is possible to set out with one good horse, one willing and able rider, and produce something this remarkable and precious and rare.


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