Elvis. Marilyn. Ali. Valegro.

28 Aug




The Grand Prix Special is over. The cake is baked. Only the icing—the Freestyle—still to come.


Enough of the cooking metaphor. But Valegro really was on fire in his test, rider-partner Charlotte Dujardin did not ‘have the knife between the teeth’ as Dutch friends like to say—Charlotte WAS the knife. (Hm, cooking metaphor still firmly in place).


They came in, 9’s popping up everywhere. For a few movements, it seemed possible we would see a technical test in the 90 range.

Then Valegro pooped just as he was about to perform first piaffe, and the test came crashing down to the high 80s we have come to expect of this pair.


There were many fantastic rides.

Each rider of course has to set the goal, the psychological parameters: making the top 30 for the Special; placing top 15 for the upcoming Freestyle; placing top 3 for a medal.


And of course, for this pair—being the best and pushing the boundaries.

No sooner does a champion get made, the detractors set on to say the performance, the athletic endeavor, is really less; that the support is over the top.

But this is a horse that does, as trainer- and co-owner ** –and all around dressage rock star Carl Hester likes to say, “ seem to have read the book already.”

And this is a rider who keeps pushing herself to be better, to live up to the horse’s athleticism and precision.


The reports on the Special are already all over the place, not to mention videos, and for some livestream and so on,. so shall just pick favorite moments from the day’s performances, in no particular order.


Diederik van Silfhout, 26 years old, Dutch Young Rider champion, Rabobank Talent star, son of Grand Prix trainer Alex van Silfhout, and his partner, the 8 year old, green and immature  but also focused, supple and elegant KWPN stallion, Arlando (Paddox x Mytens xx).

Paddox is by the wonderful Ferro, so one can say both horse and rider come by their success legitimately (and Mytens xx is a wonderful Thoroughbred sport horse sire).


Only called up for team a few weeks ago, this 2nd reserve pair outdid themselves at this level and show that the Dutch have a rosy horizon.





U.S. rider Laura Graves (also 26 years old)  and her 12 year old KWPN gelding, Verdades (Florett As x Liwilarda). This pair is just on The Great Adventure—it’s like a video game!

They barely scrape into the US Selection Trials (and then only because of withdrawals), make the team shortlist, placing 2nd overall behind superstar Steffen Peters, and then go on to super performances in Europe, rolling along and gaining confidence (“success breeds confidence; confidence breeds success” said Yoda or someone) and then laid down beautiful performances here at WEG, rides full of harmony and expression.



Cannot wait to see what surprises await in the Freestyle tomorrow.

They will include, I am sure, this rider and horse–I suspect there is something left in the tank for tomorrow!



**  And shout out to Carl Hester’s co-owners:


to Roly Luard for the incomparable support of Valegro and keeping together the team;

and  to Jane de la Mare for Nip Tuck, just such a lovely example of believing in a horse!








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