The crowd cheers and claps, going ecstatic as the Dancin’ Queen from London 2012 enters the arena. An expectant hush falls as thousands of eyes focus as one on the partnership gliding down the centre line. As she halts to salute, her radiant smile shines brighter than the August sun above. Charlotte Dujardin is centre stage.
When the music starts the audience become lost in the sheer beauty and elegance of equine and human moving as one. The telepathy between Charlotte Dujardin and beloved horse Valegro is clear to see as they float and dance in time to specially prepared music, designed to mirror the carnival feel of Rio. Hearts swell with pride to watch the pair make history, and as the last chord completes the crowd erupt into a frenzy, only beaten by the cheer that goes around the stadium when her magnificent 93+% score appears.
As she finishes her performance that gives her an individual Olympic gold to partner her team dressage silver, tears glitter in the corner of her eyes. She’s done it for Britain, she’s done it for herself and her hugely supportive team, but most of all, she has done it with her horse.
No silver spoon
At moments like these it is easy to forget the hard work that goes into creating a champion, and Charlotte is no exception. Born in Enfield, North London, she came from a normal background, with no great privileges and no pot of gold under the bed.
Although horses were part of the equation in her family, they were certainly not handed to her on a plate, and big sacrifices were made to finance the hobby. Initially interested in show jumping, she took dressage lessons to improve her jumping skills. Her trainer spotted her natural skills and asked her why she was bothering with jumping. Her interest in show jumping began to wane and when she had the privilege to ride a Grand Prix dressage horse she was hooked.
From there on it was dressage all the way. An inheritance from her grandmother in 2002 saw her buying her own dressage hopeful. Her mother Jane is known to have said of it; “it wasn’t the best, but fortunately , she could make a donkey do anything.” Having just lost her much loved show pony, Charlotte had been on the verge of giving up competing, but her new horse motivated her to continue.
In 2007 she asked Carl Hester, one of the biggest names in British dressage, for a job. She had been taking lessons with him and he spotted her talent, which led to an offer of employment as a groom. Her role was to work in the yard and help bring on the horses for Carl to ride.
Charlotte worked incredibly hard, mucking out and doing all the laborious stable work. She was also prepared to ride anything and everything, so keen was she to learn. She learnt to adapt to different styles and listen to what her horse was telling her, and she developed a skill for being able to work in harmony with a variety of horses.
Her big break came when she was asked to ride Valegro (known as Blueberry on the yard). As his talent developed she expected Carl to take on the ride himself. But as the partnership grew and blossomed, she was allowed to keep the ride, something Charlotte is eternally grateful for.
Amazingly, Charlotte did not ride at Grand Prix level until 2011, and then went on to be part of the team that won gold in Rotterdam in the European Championships. Only a year later she was securing a historic double Olympic Gold – a meteoric rise to the top.
Following the 2012 Olympics, Charlotte hit a low patch, as the anti-climax of the Games was coupled with the fear of losing her now valuable horse. His joint owners, Carl Hester and Roly Luard discussed selling him, and for 18 months Charlotte was on tenterhooks.
Her euphoria was complete when the pair decided that a horse like Valegro only came around once in a life time, and they made the tough financial decision to keep him.
Charlotte and Valegro saw their chance to defend their Olympic Gold and headed to Rio. Unfortunately team gold eluded them this time, but another classy performance in the freestyle individual made sure this duo
It is hard to believe Charlotte has achieved so much in the short years since she has joined the sport at its top levels. And even harder to imagine how she will top her successes to date! The most succesful British dressage rider in the history of he sport, she has won all the major title and world records to be had.
All we can say is here at Learn2horse we are looking forward to following her career with interest; we are sure it will be full of further peaks to come as she carries on dancing with her horses.