26-year-old Charlotte is not just a joy to watch in the competition arena, she is a delight to interview. Charlotte has been working with Carl Hester for four years.
Was international success always the aim?
“Absolutely. I always wanted to do Grand Prix, the Olympics was always my goal. I was very lucky to have worked with Judy Harvey for four years before Carl. She gave me a lot of knowledge, then having four years with Carl was the best thing of my life, really.”
“I have the best job in the world. I have nothing but fun with Carl. He is fantastic, we laugh and joke all the time.”
Have you made a Grand Prix horse before this one?
“I have, my own horse, Fernandez, I bought him as a three-year-old. I rode him in the Grand Prix at Aachen. I took him all the way from three to Grand Prix… I have been riding Valegro since he was four, coming five.”
“He is like a power machine. As a young horse he always had the power, teaching him, he was very, very clever, very bright. You taught him one thing, and the next day he had it. His extended trot, his extended canter, his changes, his piaffe – when you sit on a horse like that, it is amazing. He is so sensitive as well, I don’t kick, I don’t have to pull, I just kind of sit, and boom he’s gone.”
“Here has been my best ever competition. Out in the warm ups, he is only nine, so he usually makes mistakes – whereas here at Rotterdam, I did everything right outside and I was like, oh my god because sometimes if it goes too good out there then it is not so great inside, but I went into the arena and he did the same. It was fantastic.”
Does the atmosphere get to him?
“He’s never been anywhere like this. He’s never seen cameras, he has only been to a couple of smaller international shows.”
Did Carl ever ride him?
“He showed him a couple of times as a four-year-old, and then that was it.”
How did you get the ride – threaten him with an axe…
“He was very, very hot as a young horse and I kind of started riding him, and I never let Carl have him back. I went um ah, this is mine.”
Before you rode dressage…
“I was into showing. I won Horse of the Year at Hickstead, ponies and horses, and I won four or five times. My trainer was a lady called Debby Thomas, she was a dressage trainer, and she always tried to get me to do dressage, and I was like, no, didn’t fancy it. Then she put me on her horse one day, did a little bit of piaffe, bit of passage, some changes. She was amazed that I managed to pick it up. I had an Irish Thoroughbred of my own, which I used to show, and I went, I am going to teach him to piaffe, I did. He was amazing, he was the best little piaffe/passage machine there was, just brilliant. I used to go round everywhere doing it, and people were like wow!”
“Valegro is so easy to ride now, you can take him anywhere, hack him out, in the fields, he loves people… even though he was hot when he was younger, he was never naughty, he has never reared, never bucked, never napped, just literally was hot – he had all this power and he didn’t know what to do with it.”
Aside from all the laughs, how would you describe Carl’s style of training…
“He is so kind to the horses. The horses have a fantastic life, it is very normal, they school four days a week. They work on Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday they hack, Thursday, Friday, they school again. Saturday they hack, and Sunday they are completely off. They go in the field, they all have normal lives, even Valegro and Uthopia, they all go in the field, it’s a little bit risky, but they all go in the field. It’s nature, they have this normal life, we don’t school them 24/7. I think that makes such a difference to them, it keeps them fresh in their mind.”
Are you going to wake up tomorrow morning and pinch yourself…
“I was really wanting to do well, you can’t say you are confident because you never know how it is going to go, but I wanted to do good.”