At the CHI Geneva Show at the weekend prizes were awarded by The World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses to honour and celebrate the leading breeders of the world’s top sport horses.
Valegro won the dressage award for the third consecutive year for Dutch breeders Martje and Joop Hanse. In 2001, the Dutch couple, from Burgh Haamstede, sent their mare, Maifleur, to the Ferro son, Negro, and have since used these same bloodlines for several generations.
In fact, Negro’s owner, Gertjan van Olst, has had a close relationship with the Hanses, having subsequently purchased Valegro and prepared him for the KWPN stallion show. “In those days the studbook was of the opinion that Negro was old fashioned, so none of my eight Negro sons, including Valegro, were accepted,” Van Olst remembers well. But British dressage star Carl Hester saw Valegro at the KWPN stallion inspection, decided to buy him, had him gelded, and took him home.
One year later, Valegro was returned to Van Olst with an instruction from Hester to sell him. But destiny intervened when Gertjan’s wife, Anne, rode the gelding herself ahead of him being sold and recognised his remarkable talent. Anne suggested to Hester that he should consider keeping Valegro. Hester agreed, gave the gelding to his rider, Charlotte Dujardin, and one of the world’s greatest ever dressage partnerships was born.
From the very beginning Valegro was a star, winning national championships as a four, five and six-year-old on his way to a triumphant London 2012 Olympic Games. Following the Games it was rumoured that Valegro would be sold, but the two owners, Carl Hester and Roly Luard, subsequently assured the world that Valegro would finish his competition career with Charlotte Dujardin, and also that he had a home for life.
More honours followed: 2014 Reem Acra World Cup dressage final and World Equestrian Games, and a second World Cup win in 2015, following Valegro’s first ever trans-Atlantic flight to Las Vegas.
Although Valegro did not display his usual brilliance during the 2015 European championship in Aachen, his performances were sufficient for Dujardin to once again celebrate gold medal glory.
The dynamic duo has also established a clean sweep of world record scores, for Grand Prix (87.129% – 2014 Lyon World Cup Final), Grand Prix Special and Grand Prix Kür (94.300% – 2014 London Olympia).
Valegro is a fine example of the modern Dutch recipe for dressage success: dressage stallion over jumping-bred mare. His sire, Negro (by Ferro/Variant) competed to Intermediaire level with Anne van Olst, his grandsire, Ferro (Ulft/Farn) represented the Netherlands at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games with Coby van Baalen (NED), winning team silver and sixth place individually, while his dam’s sire, Variant, was a small tour campaigner with Anky van Grunsven (NED).
A compact horse in every way, Valegro is unusually small for a top-level dressage performer, rather than being rectangular shaped with long legs. In fact, he has rather short legs, but great movement. His posture is a vertically arching neck, strong loins and pasterns, a sloping croup, and his attitude and personality have created the ultimate winner.
In recent seasons, Valegro has more than consolidated his position as the undisputed number one dressage horse in the world.
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