It was an amazing night at the London International Horse Show as Carl Hester won the fifth leg of the FEI World Cup Dressage 2016/2017 Western European League with Nip Tuck. However, Carl 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.
Last night Olympia was packed as reigning FEI World Cup champions, Hans Peter Minderhoud and Glock’s Flirt, took the 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.
Judy Reynolds and Vancouver K led the way after the judging break on a score of 78.269, but then Carl Hester received 84.669 with another great ride. “This was the biggest atmosphere I’ve ever experienced at Olympia," said Carl Hester. "Barney (Nip Tuck) was a little on edge, but I’m really pleased that in that atmosphere he kept with me!”
Carl Hester, whose career has been filled with many highlights, also created the sensational partnership between Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro who together, have become dressage icons over the last five years. Breaking world records was all in a day’s work for this sensational duo, but just a few months after adding to their haul of Olympic gold in Rio, the 14-year-old horse was tonight officially retired from the sport after performing one last stunning performance of their winning London 2012 Olympic Games Freestyle test.
Having trained and mentored the duo, Carl Hester 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!”
Charlotte 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 said last night that it was “the alchemy” between Carl Hester, Charlotte Dujardin and this very special horse, that has been key to this extraordinary success story.