Accolades for Britain’s golden dressage duo

Charlotte Dujardin and Gio won the fourth leg of the FEI Dressage World Cup Western European League in London on Friday night. © FEI/Jon Stroud

Britain’s most popular dressage duo continue to gather the accolades, with honours for both Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin at this week’s London International Horse Show.

Carl Hester was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the British Equestrian Writers Association, and his protégé Charlotte Dujardin was awarded the British Dressage International Champions Trophy with her Tokyo 2020 mount Gio, as the highest placed British combination at this year’s championships.

Hester, a six-time Olympian and described as the “architect of Britain’s success”, received the award on Friday night at the show at the ExCeL Stadium in London, and Dujardin won the FEI Dressage World Cup Grand Prix Freestyle for the fifth time, scoring 89.040%. Riding her Tokyo 2020 mount Gio, she also took out the Short Grand Prix on Thursday.

Hester was up against former Burghley director Liz Inman, eventer Andrew Nicholson, who is retiring after 40 years of international competition, and World Class Performance Manager Richard Waygood.

Watching from the crowd, Hester said Gio and Dujardin deserved their freestyle win. “It’s an amazing score and he’s an amazing horse who gives his all. The programme is extremely difficult. It’s a little bit disturbing when you watch somebody so good and a horse that’s so good that you don’t realise how difficult the movements that she’s doing are, because she spins together these incredible movements and the horse just responds so beautifully.”

Gio was sold after the Olympics to British junior rider Annabella Pidgley, but he was reunited with Dujardin for one final performance together at their home fixture this week.

Dujardin said Gio had come on very quickly over the season. “Finishing the year with two personal bests here in the Short Grand Prix yesterday and the Freestyle tonight is amazing. He has shown what a great horse he really is,” she said.

“He truly is a very special horse. This year he did his very first Olympics, his very first Europeans and now he’s just finished off by winning the World Cup here at the London International Horse Show. What a legend!”

Pidgley gets her horse back after the show, and Dujardin said the new partnership is “magical to watch – she is an amazing up-and-coming rider, so next year is going to be very exciting”.

Boyd Exell took out the first leg of the FEI Driving World Cup series at the London International Horse Show.
Boyd Exell took out the first leg of the FEI Driving World Cup series at the London International Horse Show. © Peter Nixon

In other competitions at the show, the Services Jumping Championship was won by Sgt Charlotte Lee from the Police, riding Bermudez BDA, the only competitor to jump clear in the second round, with Dawn Weaver’s Ag Ch Galaxy’s Dream Summer winning the Kennel Club Small Agility Stakes Final.

The first leg of the FEI Driving World Cup was won by Boyd Exell. The Australian’s masterful display of horsemanship was more than seven seconds fast than the runner-up, Koos de Ronde from The Netherlands, in the drive-off, with Dries Degrieck back in third.

The opening 5* showjumping contest of the day was a two-phase competition whereby all those clear over the first seven fences went on to the second phase against the clock. Great Britain’s John Whitaker and Green Grass won on 27.16 seconds, with Sameh El Dahan aboard WKD Toronto posting 28.41 for second. Frenchman Mathieu Billot was third.

The Champagne Taittinger Ivy Stakes went to Tokyo 2020 Olympian Harry Charles riding Borsato, with  Germany’s Marcus Ehning second and Martin Fuchs third.

Ben Maher and his Olympic gold medal-winning partner Explosion W led the celebratory medal parade featuring many of Great Britain’s Olympic and Paralympic equestrian heroes. The parade provided fans with an opportunity to celebrate the exceptional performances from the summer, which also included a successful European Championships and Driving World Championship for Ponies. The medalists were joined in the arena by their owners and grooms, all pivotal to the successes achieved over the course of the year.

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