The world’s best dressage riders were out in force on the opening night of Olympia, the London International Horse Show, where Carl Hester was crowned winner of the fifth leg of the Western League FEI World Cup series aboard his Rio team silver medal horse, Nip Tuck. This puts Carl into sixth place on the Western League standings with a total of 37 points. The current leader is Judy Reynolds (IRE) on 45, just ahead of Kristy Oatley of Australia on 44. There are four more competitions in the Western League series, before the World Final in Omaha, USA, starting on March 27 next year.
In addition to the top-class competition, Britain’s favourite horse, Valegro, graced the arena with Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester, ahead of his retirement tomorrow, and Emile Faurie also gave a marvellous masterclass.
Spaniard Santi Serra opened the show with his unique display featuring dogs and horses, paving the way for a spectacular performance from the Pride of Portugal Lusitanos and riders.
Carl Hester’s win in the FEI World Cup GP saw a controlled and confident test from the giant Nip Tuck who, despite being 12, is still notoriously spooky. The pair produced particularly impressive piaffe and passage and claimed a unanimous win from the five judges.
“I am very happy with him tonight,” said the Gloucestershire rider. “This time last year it took another 24 hours to get to this point.
“We can improve on the score, and yes, I need to be more attacking in the ride to gain the higher marks, but tonight was a stepping-stone to that and, considering how spooky he can be, he is becoming a very reliable horse.”
Dutch Olympic team riders Hans Peter Minderhoud and Edward Gal, regular visitors to the London Show, were second and third.
For Hans Peter and Glock’s Flirt, the reigning FEI Dressage World Cup champions, it was only a second show since their 2015-16 World Cup win in Gothenburg in April.
“I am very satisfied with Flirt, especially as he had all summer off and only came back at Maastricht where he was second. Already he feels improved and hopefully he will be better again tomorrow,” said Hans Peter who has been coming to the London show for the last 10 years. “We always try to do this show and now feel very much at home here. It has a great atmosphere and is good way to end the year.”
It was also only the second outing for the stallion Glock’s Voice since he competed with Edward Gal at the Olympic Games in Rio.
“Yes, he was a little overwhelmed by the atmosphere and a little bit too much of a stallion in the warm-up – which is quite small and was busy with other horses – so he was a bit difficult and falling into the corners and a little against my hand at times, but we can most certainly do better and tomorrow we start again,” said Edward.
The FEI World Cup Dressage Grand Prix Freestyle takes place tomorrow, after which the audience will have tissues at the ready for the retirement ceremony of Charlotte Dujardin’s superstar, the one and only Valegro.
Tonight, Valegro made his first UK public appearance since winning his third Olympic gold medal in Rio, much to the delight of the packed crowd. Fans were treated to a Q&A session with Carl Hester and Charlotte, questions for which were submitted in advance by members of the audience. Charlotte and Valegro also demonstrated a couple of the moves that gave them such phenomenal success in the competition arena.
Lifetime Achievement Award to Valegro’s groom Alan Davies, presented by Chris Hewlett (Chairman of the British Grooms Association)
BHS Fellowship Award to Carl Hester, presented by Lynn Petersen, Tessa Martin-Bird and Julia David from The British Horse Society
British Dressage Award to Valegro and Charlotte Dujardin, presented by Jennie Loriston-Clarke