Charlotte Dujardin delighted the crowds on her return to international competition at Royal Windsor Horse Show, following the birth of her daughter in March.

The Defender CDI4* FEI Dressage Grand Prix was the standalone class for the first day of the show’s 80th year in running (11 May). Returning after a three-year hiatus, the Defender Dressage opened this week’s five days of competition, which will include showjumping, dressage, showing, driving and endurance.

Twelve combinations contested the Grand Prix, including three of the four British FEI World Championship squad, who claimed team silver in Herning last summer.

A first test from Windsor debutant Lewis Carrier scored an impressive 70.435% with Diego V to keep him well up the ranking and secure eventual fourth place. The Wiltshire-based 26-year-old, who currently trains with Carl Hester, rode a KWPN warmblood he has produced himself from a four-year-old. Following him into the ring, Louise Anne Bell and Into The Blue couldn’t quite match Carrier’s score to finish on 68.761%.

Charlotte was third to go and formed an early lead with 77.261%. The multi-medalled Olympian pulled off a stylish test aboard Coral Ingham and Carl Hester’s gelding, Imhotep. The ride was Dujardin’s debut return to international competition following the birth of her daughter, Isabella, in March this year.

Her FEI World Championship teammate, Gareth Hughes, was next up with Classic Briolinca. The 17-year-old mare by Trento B impressed the judges with highlights in the passage and piaffe, but could not quite match the score laid down by Charlotte.

British-based German rider, Kathleen Kröncke, with the 16-year-old San Royal 3, were the last combination to enter the ring before the break. The pair who triumphed in the 2022 British Dressage Championships did not quite repeat their success and went into provisional fifth with 68.043%.

Charlotte’s lead was unrivalled as the second session progressed. First in after the break, Ireland’s Abigail Lyle who rode Farrell scored 68.413% to move ahead of Kröncke by a fraction of a mark. However, the rest of the field’s chances faded when Britain’s Emile Faurie and mare Bellevue scored 71.826% to slot in behind Dujardin and Hughes, taking third place.

Charlotte was delighted to be back in the ring, and shared her thoughts on her return to top level competition, having only returned to the saddle three weeks ago.

“I haven’t competed for eight months, and Pete [Imhotep] hasn’t done a competition since the FEI World Championships,” she explained. “I have only been back riding for three weeks – so I was worried I would be a bit ring rusty – but he was incredible and was so positive with his energy. There are still areas that we can improve on which is exciting – we are now aiming for the FEI European Championships this summer.

“I have such amazing memories of Royal Windsor Horse Show having competed here in the Showing as a child – it has such a wonderful atmosphere and to be back here is just so special. It is now Isabella’s time to support Mummy and I hope I have done her proud.”

Lead image: Charlotte Dujardin greets her new daughter Isabella, after winning in The Defender CDI4* FEI Dressage Grand Prix at Royal Windsor Horse Show @RoyalWindsorHorseShow/Peter Nixon

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