On an electrifying night at the London International Horse Show, Carl Hester won the fifth leg of the FEI World Cup™ Dressage 2016/2017 Western European League with Nip Tuck. This was a back-to-back double on home ground for the 49-year-old British star and his 12-year-old gelding, but the man who has been largely responsible for placing British dressage firmly on centre stage in recent years had to battle for the limelight, as his victory was quickly followed by an emotional farewell performance by his stable-star, Valegro.
The Grand Hall at Olympia was packed to capacity as reigning FEI World Cup™ champions, Hans Peter Minderhoud and Glock’s Flirt, filled runner-up spot ahead of Dutch compatriot and 2010 champion Edward Gal in third with Glock’s Voice. A fourth-place finish for Judy Reynolds has promoted the 35-year-old Irish phenomenon to the top of the Western European League going into the next leg of the series in Amsterdam (NED) in February.
Reynolds and Vancouver K led the way after the judging break with a score of 78.269, but Hester moved the target on to 84.669 with another of his text-book rides. “This was the biggest atmosphere I’ve ever experienced at Olympia. Barney (Nip Tuck) was a little on edge, but I’m really pleased that in that atmosphere he kept with me!” he said after posting what would prove to be the winning score.
Hester, whose own career is filled with major highlights, is the man who created the fairytale partnership between Charlotte Dujardin and the amazing gelding Valegro who, together, have become icons in the sport over the last five years. Breaking world records was all in a day’s work for this sensational duo, but just a few short months after adding to their haul of Olympic gold in Rio, the 14-year-old horse was tonight officially retired from the sport after presenting one last stunning performance of their winning London 2012 Olympic Games Freestyle test.
Hester, who trained and mentored the pair, said “it has been a such a joyous occasion – I know everyone wanted it to be sad but how could anyone be sad to see Valegro go out so fit and well and happy – it’s been a happy sad day!”
Dujardin described Valegro as “just the perfect horse, with the biggest heart in the world, he always gave me his very best!”, while fellow-Olympian, Richard Davison, put it all in perspective when he said tonight that it was “the alchemy” between Hester, Dujardin and this very special horse that has been key to this extraordinary success story.
Photos: Jon Stroud Media