This year, Bolesworth International will be adding international dressage to the event and welcoming two of the country’s elite dressage riders: Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin, who talk dressage, wonder horses and Olympic gold
One of Britain's most successful dressage riders, Carl Hester MBE is an Olympic gold medallist, European and World Championship medallist and all-round nice guy.
Explain the discipline of dressage for us?
It's very much about being in tune with your horse, working as a team, training for suppleness and cadence, and developing a partnership where horse and rider are working as one. During competitions and tests, horse and rider are asked to perform a set series of moves around the arena with the judges marking those moves for accuracy, movement, balance, suppleness and harmony, to name just a few.
What are the secrets to success?
Without doubt hard work, planning, being open-minded and training with the best people you can are all keys to success. You then need to find the talented horses and have a little bit of luck as well.
What advice would you give to someone with dreams of dressage?
Get a good trainer, stay focused and never give up learning. With horses, one day you can be on top of the world and the next you can be on the deck.
What should spectators be looking for?
I would hope they look for harmony between horse and rider with as little tension as possible. Everything should be calm and together but obviously a winning test will also have expression and that ‘wow’ factor.
You ride and teach, what are the best bits about each?
Finding a horse in the first few years of his life and training him to Grand Prix level will always be something to look back on and be proud of. When it comes to training, I have always enjoyed helping riders, and watching their skills and knowledge grow with their horse. Then following their progress in the competition arena is great.
If there is ever a spare moment, what do you enjoy doing to relax and recharge? Socialising with friends is very important, whether going out for a meal or eating at each other’s homes. I also try and do extra fitness work, but I am either on it and doing well or can slip off the wagon!
A few of your favourite things...
My dogs – they are very important to me and I love having them around. And my home and yard – I am very proud of the set-up we have and the facilities we enjoy every day.
What are the most memorable moments of your career?
It has to be at the European Championships where I won my first individual medals, and then of course London 2012 – an event to remember forever.
What are you looking forward to at Bolesworth this year?
It is brilliant that Bolesworth has introduced international dressage at the 2017 event. The crowds are always so supportive and there is always plenty to watch as well as the shopping and hospitality. What more could you ask for?
Charlotte Dujardin CBE and her horse Valegro shot to fame after representing Great Britain at the London Olympics. She is Rio 2016 Olympic Games, European and World Champion, and holds all three world records in the sport of dressage.
What attracted you to dressage?
My family was always passionate about horses and ponies, so it was natural that both my sister and I would start riding. My first love was showing and I went on to win at the Horse of the Year Show. That really opened my eyes to what it was like to head the line-up at a major event. I quickly learned that, to get the best out of any horse or pony, you had to be a team, learning together and for this dressage was the obvious choice.
How achievable is it for ambitious young riders today?
Both Carl and I have achieved our success through hard work and always striving to increase our knowledge. Neither of us were given anything, but we have certainly made the most of the opportunities, so yes I would encourage young riders to dream big and aim for the top and surround yourself with good trainers. You never stop learning.
Tell us about your magical Olympic journey.
My major competition success is without doubt thanks to the huge faith Carl had in me and, of course, the wonder horse that is Valegro – or Blueberry, as we call him at home. The Olympics was such a big achievement for me, and winning gold medals is just the most magical feeling in the world.
After London 2012 I did start to feel the pressure of everyone wanting my time, and there was so much media interest in the success. It took me a while to process what was happening but thankfully everything fell into place and I definitely came out of it a stronger person looking to the future.
Your relationship with Valegro?
He is an incredible horse and he has given me so much. He just deserves the very best and has done so much – not just for me and Carl, but the dressage world as a whole. He has helped bring the sport to the masses who want to know more about his special personality and, of course, his huge talent for performing at the highest level across the globe. Dressage is now on a whole new level and is recognised by so many more people outside the sport than it has ever been.
If there is ever a spare moment, what do you enjoy doing to relax and recharge?
Spare moments are few and far between, but my fiancé Dean and I do try and make time for a quick getaway or a nice meal out when we can. I also love taking my dogs for long walks in the Malvern Hills.
What are you looking forward to at Bolesworth this year? What makes it special?
Bolesworth International is just spectacular and a very special show. For dressage to become a bigger part of the event is great news and the main arena is superb to ride and compete in with the castle as a backdrop.