Saying farewell to a true champion
On December 14, 2016, I was so privileged to be invited to attend the Olympia show in London. Olympia is a very prestigious show within the dressage world and is one of the FEI World Cup instalments. It’s an annual international event that takes place just before Christmas. It’s always a magical evening which provides the perfect way to end the year.
The dressage part of the show features the top riders from around Europe competing in several disciplines. They only allow the 2 top riders from every country to participate. This Olympia show was particularly special because Charlotte Dujardin, the Olympic Gold medal winner from the past two Olympics and the current world record holder in all three dressage tests, came to retire her horse, Valegro.
A fitting end to a spectacular career
One of the highlights of the event was being able to see Charlotte ride Valegro in a performance of the freestyle test that won them Olympic gold in 2012. Then, after the regular dressage competition, Valegro was officially retired to a standing ovation from the crowd. It was a very special and emotional night. What a horse and what a rider! They were literally in a league of their own when they rode their freestyle compared with the other riders who came to compete in the show. There were many tears in the home crowd as they are both so loved in the UK and around the world. They have given so much to the sport and it was great to witness history as they marked the end of their career together in style.
The evening was a special one for me as well, as I got to see one of my all-time role models really show how it’s done. Charlotte rides so effortlessly and every movement is executed with ease, fluidity and precision. Valegro is a spectacular mover and yet fluid, in complete rhythm and everything seems so easy for him. He seems to love performing in front of large crowds. I admire the teamwork and cooperation they have with each other, where it really seems like the horse and rider are completely in sync with one another. I aspire to reach that level of harmony with my horses one day. What role models – both rider and horse! I am grateful to both of them for what they have done for dressage and to inspire us riders to reach new heights.