The Olympia Grand Hall saw a sell-out crowd, as many of the world’s greatest Dressage riders took to the arena. The FEI World Cup™ Dressage Freestyle to Music wowed the packed crowd, with Carl Hester dominating for the second night running.
The talking point of the Show was the retirement of one of Dressage’s greatest horses, Valegro, with spectators treated to a special performance ahead of an emotional retirement ceremony.
The second day at Olympia, The London International Horse Show could not have ended any more perfectly than with British Dressage’s own Superman, Carl Hester, winning the FEI World Cup™ Dressage Grand Prix Freestyle supported by Horse & Hound.
The win with Nip Tuck, Hester’s second consecutive Olympia FEI World Cup™ qualifying win with his 18 hand high 2016 Olympic team silver partner, came during an emotionally charged evening performance that saw the retirement of Nip Tuck’s stable and Olympic team mate Valegro. The double Olympic gold medallist is part-owned by Hester and ridden by his pupil and former protégé Charlotte Dujardin.
Hester and Nip Tuck’s freestyle (84.669) delighted the capacity crowd many of who have come back to Olympia every year since the prestigious FEI World Cup™ qualifier was initiated here in 2003.
“That was the biggest atmosphere at Olympia that I have ever experienced,” said Hester, who is now aiming for the FEI World Cup™ Final in Omaha in April. “Even yesterday in the Grand Prix it was super-charged and not just because of the numbers. Barney was a little on edge but I was really pleased that even out there, with so many people, he kept with me.”
Hester was also a major part of the evening’s retirement ceremony for Valegro.
“It has been such a joyous occasion,” said Hester. “I know everyone thought it would 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.”
Hester and Nip Tuck not only successfully defended their Olympia title, but comfortably held off the potential challenge from Dutch Olympic riders Hans Peter Minderhoud with Glock’s Flirt (81.880) and Edward Gal with Glock’s Voice (80.467). The two Dutch riders, as last night in the Grand Prix, took second and third place. Hans Peter Minderhoud, the current holder of the FEI World Cup™ title took the runner up position with Glock’s Flirt with who he won the title last year – his first FEI World Cup™ accolade.
“I expected a great class with a big atmosphere so I knew we would have to produce our very best and then I heard Carl’s score,” said Minderhoud.
“I just had to keep to the plan and do the best we could and not over-ride him. He was really with me and really trying so I am super happy, but perhaps it’s time to make my freestyle more difficult.”
Fellow Dutchman Edward Gal and the stallion Glock’s Flirt were third, while Irish rider Judy Reynolds and Vancouver K (78.269) performed a powerful and expressive routine to a seasonal foot-tapping compilation to be fourth. British rider Hayley Watson-Greaves achieved a personal best with Rubins Nite for fifth place.
While Hester has yet to win a FEI World Cup™ Final, he has trained both Valegro and his rider Charlotte who have won the FEI World Cup™ series on two occasions (2014 & ’15). The pair is the current holders of the record FEI World Cup™ Grand Prix (87.129% in Lyon, 2014) and Grand Prix Freestyle score (94.16 in Las Vegas, 2016).
The 14-year-old equine superhero is part-owned by Hester, who has trained him and his rider Charlotte Dujardin through the fairy-tale style story that runs from four-year-old young horse champion to achieving double Olympic glory this year at Rio.
The 2017 FEI World Cup™ Final (March 29 – April 2) takes place in Omaha, Nebraska.
Three-time Olympic Champions Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro entered the Olympia Grand Hall for a final time, performing their London 2012 Gold medal winning freestyle test to a sell-out crowd in a touching retirement ceremony. In 2014 the pair set the Freestyle Dressage world record at Olympia, and currently holds the highest Olympic score in the Freestyle. Beyond their phenomenal medal haul, the pair has achieved a great amount for the sport itself, as acknowledged by British Dressage in a special award ceremony during last night’s performance.
Valegro and Charlotte were joined in the arena by mentor and part-owner, Carl Hester, as well as groom Alan Davies, in what was an emotional last dance. The packed-out stands gave the duo a well-deserved standing ovation as they paraded out of the arena.
Speaking after the ceremony, Charlotte Dujardin said, “There have been so many happy memories; he’s won every gold medal there is, including three Olympic golds and two FEI World Cup™ titles. He’s a once in a lifetime horse and I’ll miss competing with him enormously.”
The solitary foot-perfect performance secured the Services Jumping Championship win at Olympia, The London International Horse Show for the Household Cavalry’s Major Chambers, an accolade he has chased for six years with the 12-year-old gelding Hightide.
“It’s the ultimate [equestrian] title to win when for the military,” said Major Chambers, a Riding Master for the Lifeguards. “We have been second two times previously, and I had actually qualified two horses at the Royal Tournament for this final. I decided to bring Hightide as I trust him in the atmosphere here. The other horse, Freeway, has never been here before, so it made sense.”
Major Chambers bought Hightide at Gorsebridge sales eight years ago for the Defence Animal Riding Centre as a school horse. However, the two quickly developed a strong bond. “I decided to try him out one day and fell in love,” said Major Chambers, who was also part of the winning Services Team Jumping squad with Hightide at this year’s Royal Windsor Horse Show.