Double Olympic dressage champion Charlotte Dujardin says she “cannot wait to find the next one” as her multiple gold medal-winning horse Valegro prepares for retirement.
The most successful partnership in dressage history will officially bow out at Olympia’s London International Horse Show later this month.
With 10 Olympic, world and European gold medals in the bag – plus all three dressage world records – 14-year-old Valegro’s work is done.
And an Olympia farewell – scene of their stunning freestyle world record performance in 2014 – is the perfect stage for them to bid farewell after taking the equestrian world by storm during five unforgettable years highlighted through London and Rio Olympic gold.
“Olympia is going to be very emotional,” said British star Dujardin, at the Gloucestershire base of her trainer, mentor and Great Britain team-mate Carl Hester.
“People have said to me ‘why are you finishing, he’s only 14? You can still go on and do more with him’. But what’s the point? He has won everything there is to win – he’s done more than I ever dreamt of doing with him.
“He has been an incredible horse for me. He deserves to finish at the top.”
Far from taking a back seat herself, though, Dujardin is working hard with a string of exciting young horses, one of which – the eight-year-old Hawtins Delicato, owned by Hester – showcased rich potential by claiming an impressive victory at October’s Horse of the Year Show in Birmingham.
The European Championships in Gothenburg next summer are likely to be too soon for Dujardin – Britain still has a powerful selection base provided by the likes of Hester, Fiona Bigwood, Spencer Wilton, Laura Tomlinson, Michael Eilberg and Gareth Hughes – but she does not intend wasting time.
“Tokyo (2020) is a big target,” she added. “And I will be out to do the World Equestrian Games in 2018 – I will be ready to go. I really feel that I have got some special horses. It’s a huge challenge to do it again, but I am really excited about it.
“For not one minute have I ever thought people might see me as a one hit wonder-rider, because I have always worked from the bottom and got where I have from hard work. Just because I haven’t got Valegro, doesn’t mean I am going to stop all that. To me, the next challenge is to go out and bring up another one and get another one at international level and compete for your country – the Europeans, the Worlds, the Olympics. I can’t wait to find the next one.”
Although Valegro is not competing at Olympia on December 13 and 14, Dujardin will ride him during both evenings of the show’s dressage events and perform one of the freestyle to music tests that became synonymous with their success. After retirement, he will continue to do public appearances and demonstrations.
“We always knew he was a really talented horse, but none of us knew he would go on to do what he has done,” she said.
“He just got better and better. I did the 2011 Europeans in Rotterdam and scored 78 per cent in the grand prix, and that was it.
“From that moment on, he just went up and up.
“To win at London 2012, to stand on that podium and get that medal was unbelievable.
“I never ever thought I would win individual gold – it never entered my mind – but if you look back at his consistency throughout his career, it has been absolutely incredible.
“So much of it has just been pure enjoyment. A lot of riders can crumble at major championships, but I have always been in it to win it.
“To retain the Olympic title in Rio was one of the most emotional times of my career.
“It was the perfect end to my competitive career with Valegro.”