by Louise Parkes
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.
Result: 1, Nip Tuck (Carl Hester) GBR 84.669; 2, Glock’s Flirt (Hans Peter Minderhoud) NED 81.880; 3, Glock’s Voice (Edward Gal) NED 80.467; 4, Vancouver K (Judy Reynolds) IRL 78.269; 5, Rubins Nite (Hayley Watson-Greaves) 77.574; 6, Warlocks Charm (Henriette Andersen) GBR 76.987; 7, Markov (Michael Eilberg) GBR 75.934; 8, Weekend Fun (Emile Faurie) GBR 75.831; 9, Thriller (Katja Gevers) NED 74.963; 10, Rustique (Mai Tofte Olesen) DEN 73.303; 11, Amorak (Stephanie Brieussel) FRA 72.112; 12, Xenofonte d’Atela (Miguel Ralao Duarte) POR 71.116; 13, After You (Ludovic Henry) FRA 69.843.
Detailed result here
Facts and Figures:
The London International Horse Show at Olympia, London (GBR) hosted tonight’s fifth leg of the FEI World Cup™ Dressage 2016/2017 Western European League.
13 horse-and-rider combinations from six nations competed.
The panel of judges consisted of: At E, Isabelle Judet (FRA); At M, Frances Verbeek van Rooy (NED); At C, Andrew Gardner (GBR); At M, Katrina Wuest (GER); At B, Susanne Baarup (DEN).
Winner for the second year in a row at the British fixture was Carl Hester with Nip Tuck for Great Britain.
The 2016 FEI World Cup™ Dressage champions Hans Peter Minderhoud and Glock’s Flirt finished second ahead of Dutch compatriots Edward Gal and Glock’s Voice in third.
Ireland’s Judy Reynolds finished fourth with Vancouver K and has now moved to the top of the Western European League leaderboard.
The next leg of series will take place in Amsterdam (NED) on 28 January 2017 and will be followed by just three more qualifiers, at Neumunster (GER) and Goteborg (SWE) in February and at ’s-Hertogenbosch (NED) in March.
The FEI World Cup™ Dressage 2016/2017 Final will be held in Omaha, Nebraska (USA) 27 March to 2 April.
The competition was followed by a retirement ceremony for Valegro, the 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding who, together with his rider Charlotte Dujardin, has become a legend in the sport over the last five years. Together the British partnership reset Olympic and world records during an extraordinary career in which they collected three gold medals from two Olympic Games, double-gold at the FEI World Equestrian Games, became FEI World Cup™ Dressage champions twice and scooped four individual and one team gold medal at European Championships.
Carl Hester GBR (1st): “My plan is to get to Omaha (for the FEI World Cup™ Dressage 2017 Final). I started at Lyon and will next head to Amsterdam and keep room in the diary for another one if needs be. I last competed in a World Cup Final in 2005 with Escapado.”
Hans Peter Minderhoud NED (2nd): “I expected a great class with a big atmosphere so I knew we would have to produce our best, and then I heard Carl’s score so decided to keep to the plan and just try to do everything the best we can and not over-ride him. I am super happy, but perhaps it’s time to make my Freestyle more difficult”
Edward Gal NED (3rd): “my horse was a little unsettled at the beginning as being last to go he got left on his own in the warm up arena – which because he is a stallion distracted him. But otherwise he felt good and he made not many mistakes – it was a good start for our World Cup season. I love to come to London the atmosphere in the Hall is very special, and especially at Christmas time!”
Standings following round 5 of the FEI World Cup™ Dressage 2016/2017 Western European League at Olympia, London (GBR):
1. Judy Reynolds IRL - 45
2. Kristy Oakley AUS - 44
3. Fabienne Lutkemeier GER - 41
3. Marcela Krinke Susmelj SUI - 41
5. Isabell Werth GER - 40
6. Carl Hester GBR - 37
6. Severo Jesus Jurado Lopez ESP - 37
6. Inna Logutenkova UKR - 37
9. Hubertus Schmidt GER - 31
10. Jessica von Bredow-Werndl GER - 30
10. Mai Tofte Olesen DEN - 30
10. Terhi Stegars FIN - 30
Full standings here