Carl Hester unveils plans for Nip Tuck, Charlotte and Valegro
Valegro will be ridden by Charlotte Dujardin in three shows beginning in April as preparation for competing on the British team at this summer’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, according to a tentative plan by Carl Hester.
In addition to Charlotte and Valegro in which he is a part-owner as well as coach, Carl will ride Nip Tuck in Rio and could end up coaching the entire British team with Fiona Bigwood on Atterupgaards Orthilia the likely third combination and another of his students the possible fourth pair.
“Valegro is amazing,” Carl said of the 14-year-old KWPN gelding looking to win their second Olympic individual gold medal and join Anky van Grunsven on Salinero in 2004 and 2008 and Nicole Uphoff on Rembrandt in 1988 and 1992 as the only previous pairs to do so in the 104 years of modern Olympics.
“He looks nine years old. He was in really light work with no schooling at all for six weeks after the Europeans last summer.
“This is the best time of the year for him, clipped out, fresh and happy… looking great, ready to go.”
Carl said no decision had yet been made on the competitions to prepare for the Games, but Valegro travels well. However, he said the final show in the schedule would be Rotterdam June 22-26, a premier Nations Cup event.
Charlotte will not ride Valegro in Gothenburg, Sweden in March to defend her World Cup titles won in 2014 and 2015 but instead compete Uthopia that she has ridden in two qualifiers this winter season as required by the rules.
“It will be a nice change,not having the pressure of being expected to win all the time. It’s a nicer situation for Charlotte.”
Charlotte and Valegro ended 2015 as No. 1 in the world for the fourth straight year beginning with their 2012 Olympic triumph but dropped to second in January after 27 months straight at the top of the rankings. The pair hold the world record scores for all three Big Tour levels, Grand Prix, Special and Freestyle.
Before the 2012 Olympics in London where Britain won its first ever dressage medals–team gold as well as individual gold and individual bronze for Laura Bechtolsheimer (now Tomlinson) on Mistral Højris, Charlotte and Valegro competed in Florida in January, Germany in April and at home in Hartpury in July.
In 2014, the pair competed at Amsterdam in January and the World Cup Final in Lyon, France in April and the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, Germany in July ahead of the World Games where the duo also won individual gold.
The horse and rider have not competed since last summer’s European Championships in Aachen that also marked 17 straight victories going back to mid-2014.
Carl said a new Freestyle is being prepared for Valegro at the Olympics that will be performed for the first time in national dressage at the Royal Windsor Horse Show in May, though he said he is “running out of ideas for musical performances.”
The most difficult so far was the current Freestyle, but he said, “I don’t quite know how to top that. I need some serious brain food inside me.”
Although Carl and Charlotte have talked of the Olympics being the last championship for Valegro followed by a farewell performance at the London Olympia Christmas show, he held out the possibility of a still competition fit Valegro at another World Cup. The 2017 World Cup Final will be in the American Midwestern city of Omaha, Nebraska.
As for Nip Tuck, the KWPN gelding that he rode for the Great Britain medal-winning teams at the 2014 World Games and the 2015 European Championships and is now 12 years old, “He has gone beyond all of our dreams and expectations” and has responded to training to move up for the Olympics.
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“Our relationship is so solid I trust him so much,” Carl said, “I think he’s going to be a great reliable team horse.”
In response to questions, Carl speculated that in addition to Charlotte on Valegro, Fiona Bigwood on Orthilia and himself on Nip Tuck, a “huge amount” of other riders capable of attaining scores between 70 and 75 per cent at Grand Prix could be team prospects.
As he looks to turning 50 years old next year, Carl said he thinks about the “future all the time” but with “an amazing bunch of horses that I love training and still working really well there’s no need to change at the moment.”
However, he said, “values change… it’s not all about competing all the time
“I’m not giving up riding, but I think what I’d like is not to ride on teams all the time. It’s a big ask to ride and train, but I’ve got to help with training.”
Britain has not had a team coach for several years, partly because riders have their personal trainers and that having a coach not resident in the country has not worked well in the past.
“Maybe it’s the label that frightens people,” Carl said. “At the moment I’m a team mate, friend and a trainer to my people.”