History was made at Olympia last night when 28-year-old Charlotte Dujardin claimed her third world record in the freestyle to music aboard her formidable equine partner Valegro.
“I came with the purpose of taking the world record but thinking it and doing it are two different things. To be able to do it in front of our home crowd is the best Christmas present I could ever have.” said Dujardin after scoring 93.975 per cent in a performance that epitomised perfection.
How lucky am I to ride a horse like this?"
The Olympic and European champion, who now holds the world record for all three Grand Prix tests, spoke of her “incredible journey” with Valegro, fondly known as Blueberry. “He’s such a fantastic horse, he just tries his heart out. How lucky am I to ride a horse like this? I can’t thank his owners Carl Hester and Roly Luard enough for the opportunity and for keeping hold of him for me.” (Several seven figure sums were reportedly offered for Valegro after the Olympics).
Dujardin, who heralds from Enfield, began riding before she could walk and started her equestrian career in the world of showing. Her devoted parents have supported her throughout. Her mother, Jane, describes her as: “the most determined child who displayed a natural affinity with horses from an early age.”
She added: “As a toddler, she would cry if I tried to take her off the pony. At the age of nine a friend of mine put her on her Grand Prix dressage horse and she was doing advanced dressage movements like tempi changes in the first session. Charlotte loved being around them and if she wasn’t riding she was brushing them and patting them.”
Dujardin's dressage world record hat-trick:
- Grand Prix special - Hagen, April 2012
- Grand Prix - Herning, August 2013
- Grand Prix freestyle - Olympia, December 2013
Her father, Ian, recounts how “every day she was outside with the horses.”
“Charlotte would never get off a horse until it was going right. She would ride through a thunderstorm until she felt she had achieved what she wanted from a training session. I’ve even been out there with the headlights on my car so she could ride at night.”
In a world where a top dressage horses go for millions, Dujardin’s parents are unable to offer financial support in a way that might keep their daughter at the top of her sport and they claim that investing in horses nearly bankrupted them.
Her father said: “We had a little small-holding where we kept the horses but unfortunately we lost it because we had put everything into the horses and the showing.
“If I had had a pound for every time someone said to me ‘give up horses, you can’t afford to do it’ I’d be rich. But, stupid as it sounds, the horses and Charlotte’s enthusiasm are what have kept me going through all the hard times.”
Dujardin and Valegro produced a stunning display at Olympia
For Dujardin and Valegro, their sights are now set on the World Equestrian Games in September 2014. “I’m going to be changing my music. It’s great to finish this year with this music the way it has. I used that music for London 2012 and it meant the world to me. It was such a special moment to achieve what I did with it (Olympic and European titles).
“It was a bit of a risk running it again this year because it was nothing new but every time I’ve performed it, it’s been better.
“I nearly nailed the World record at the Europeans but just made that small mistake and coming here it gave me that extra fight because I had a glimpse that I could actually nail it. I thought I had the ride of my life at the Europeans and I just tried to recreate that feeling without any blips.”
It’s almost misty as you come into the arena and the judges are so close they don’t miss a thing."
In front of a record crowd of 8,000 at Olympia and an electric atmosphere, one might expect Charlotte to feel the pressure. “The atmosphere actually helps. Olympia is like no other arena, the audience is right next to you and you can feel them breathing. I didn’t have this at the Olympics or the Europeans where the crowd and the judges are much further away.
“At Olympia, you come from this quiet warm-up arena with no one around and then you ride into that arena. It’s almost misty as you come into the arena and the judges are so close they don’t miss a thing. It makes it more special although it can work against you.
“In the Grand Prix on Monday (where Charlotte won with 84.851%), Blueberry was a bit on edge but tonight he just knew what he had to do.”
Charlotte will now start working on the new routine with trainer Hester and finding suitable music. “I really don’t know what I am going to do yet, I just wanted to concentrate on nailing the world record. Now I’ve done that I’ll be talking to Tom Hunt, who did the music for this routine. He’s certainly got a lot to fulfil.”
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