Dressage legend Carl Hester will be hosting a Dressage Masterclass at the Equerry Bolesworth International Horse Show, as well as competing in the CDI*** here he takes time out to tell us more...
How did your relationship with dressage develop?
I grew up in Sark but left when I was a teenager as I wanted to further my riding skills. The opportunities that the mainland offered were a big draw and I started to compete in both eventing and dressage. I had so much fun but realised my skills were better spent in the dressage arena rather than jumping fences. The more I learnt about flatwork, training and bonding with horses the more I wanted to know and my thirst for knowledge was endless.
For the uneducated amongst us, what's the discipline all about?
Dressage is very much about being in tune with your horse, working as a team, training for suppleness and cadence, and developing a partnership where horse and rider are working as one. During competitions and tests horse and rider are then asked to perform a set series of moves around the arena with the judges marking those moves for accuracy, movement, balance, suppleness and harmony to name just a few.
What are the secrets to success?
Without doubt hard work, planning, being open minded to new ideas and learning, training with the best and most knowledgeable people you can are all key success, you then need to find the talented horses along the way and need a little bit of luck as well.
How achievable is it for ambitious young riders today?
Having come from a non-horsey background I would like to think that everything is achievable. A bit of natural talent and making the most of opportunities is also important. Being adaptable and having the desire to reach your goals and ambitions is key and even though I was a bit hot-headed at times with some decision making I never lost that will to win and improve.
What advice would you give to someone with dreams of dressage?
Get a good trainer, stay focused and never give up learning. With horses one day you can be on top of the world and the next you can be on the deck.
For the amateur spectator what should you look for?
When spectators at a show are watching dressage I would hope they look for harmony between horse and rider with as little tension as possible. Everything should be calm and together but obviously a winning test will also have expression and that ‘wow’ factor.
You ride and teach, what are the best bits about each?
For me one of the very special aspects of riding is seeing a young horse develop and grow into himself. Finding a horse in the first few years of his life and training him to Grand Prix will always be something to look back on and be proud of.
When it comes to training, I have always enjoyed helping riders, and watching their skills and knowledge grow with their horse. Then following their progress in the competition arena is great.
If there is ever a spare moment, what do you enjoy doing to relax and recharge?
Socialising with friends is very important whether going out for a meal or eating at each other’s homes. I also try and do extra fitness work but I am either on it and doing well or can slip off the wagon.
A few of your favourite things...
My dogs – they are very important to me and I love having them around.
My home and yard – I am very proud of the set-up we have and the facilities we enjoy every day.
Tell us about Valegro, when he's not winning medals?
If it was down to Valegro he would be eating and sleeping. He is very chilled and will now be brought out for a few lecture demonstrations and meet and greet events.
What are the most memorable moments of your career?
This to be at the European Championships where I won my first individual medals, and then of course London 2012 – an event to remember forever.
If you want to make your life with horses there will be plenty of ups and downs but there will be plenty of fun along the way as well!
What are you looking forward to at Bolesworth this year?
It is brilliant that Bolesworth has introduced international dressage at the 2017 event and everyone in the dressage community needs to support the show. There is always plenty to watch at the event as well as the shopping and everything from VIP hospitality to the champagne bar and bistro.
What makes it special?
The atmosphere when riding in the main arena at Bolesworth International is just fantastic and the crowds are really supportive.
How did your relationship with Charlotte come about?
Charlotte came to the yard to help out and never went home. She was just so keen to learn and from the early days it was obvious she had a natural talent that just needed enhancing and fine tuning.