Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro produced a sparkling test to put Great Britain in the lead after the first day of the team competition at the FEI European Dressage Championships 2011 in Rotterdam, The Netherlands today.  Photo: FEI/Peter Nixon.
Rotterdam (NED), 17 August 2011

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Charlotte Dujardin (GBR) and Valegro created a great buzz of excitement with a delightful late-morning test at the FEI European Dressage Championships 2011 in Rotterdam, The Netherlands today that put the British on course for team gold for the first time in the 25-year history of the event.

A score of 78.830 from the 26 year old who has been working as stable-rider for team-mate Carl Hester for the last four years, has cemented the British position.  And it is now up to Dujardin's boss, Hester riding the exciting Uthopia, and to Laura Bechtolsheimer with Mistral Hojris, to capitalise on the advantage provided by their considerably less-experienced colleague whose score, along with that of veteran Emile Faurie's mark of 70.426 with Elmegardens Marquis, brought the British tally to 149.256.

Germany lies second as the action resumes in the morning, but they are heading the third-placed defending champions from The Netherlands by only just over a single point, so the battle for silver and bronze promises to be a close-fought affair.

Second into the arena, it was Helen Langehanenberg (GER) and Damon Hill NRW who held the lead after the first tranche of riders completed. But there was a tension about the work produced by the German duo who were awarded a score of 71.079. Meanwhile Faurie's calm, controlled ride on the big bay gelding Elmegardens Marquis included some lovely piaffe, but few could have expected that his compatriot Dujardin would produce a personal-best performance on her debut at championship level to place the British in a position of such strength.

Christoph Korschel and Donnperignon bolstered German chances with a score of 71.444 just before Dujardin entered the arena.  But, like Langehanenberg, he admitted afterwards that his test included too many mistakes. "In the tempi changes we are normally good, but we lost a lot of points there and it was disappointing for me, I expected more", Koschel said afterwards.

In contrast, Dujardin had no such complaints.  From the outset her test oozed confidence and coordination, her relationship with the nine-year-old Valegro played out through her lightness of hand as they blended together for a flowing performance that began with an average score of 8.9 for extended trot and hardly wavered.  It was clear the judges were enjoying what they were seeing, and as Ground Jury President, Poland's Wojtek Markowski, said afterwards, "it was a fantastic ride for Charlotte!".

In her first season at Grand Prix level, Dujardin is already a sensation.  "This feels amazing, I'm thrilled even to get here, very excited, very keen and wanting to do well", she said today.  Asked if she felt under huge pressure this morning, she explained that Valegro had done all his work to perfection during the warm-up so she was amazed when he produced the same result in his test.  But her attitude helps her a lot.  "I don't see going into the arena any different from outside. I go down the centre line like I do at home, I forget about where I am and I just concentrate", she explained.

In stark contrast, that centre line has become something of an issue for The Netherlands’ Hans Peter Minderhoud and Exquis Nadine.  The mare, now 16, really lost her cool in the closing stages of their test during last year's Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Kentucky and although she held firm in the earlier part of her test today there was a mistake after the extended canter "and going down the centre line I never know what she is going to do!" the rider admitted.  He held her together, but, as he said "I hoped to do a little better". The pair earned a mark of 70.912 which, when added to the impressive 70.578 from relative newcomer Sander Marijnissen riding Moedwill, brought the Dutch tally to 141.490, just 1.033 behind the German first-day total.  Nadine of course has had a long and remarkable career that has embraced European and World Championships along with Olympic Games.

All eyes are now, however, on the British going into tomorrow's second-half of the team event.  They took team silver at the FEI European Championships in Lipica, Slovenia in 1993, Faurie was a member of the side that claimed bronze at Hickstead in 2003 and two years ago, again on their home turf at Windsor, they were silver medallists once again.  It seems the path to gold is clearly laid out before them - but Hester and Bechtosheimer have to take them the rest of the way.

Result (at halfway stage of team championship):
1. Great Britain 149.256 - Elmegardens Marquis (Emile Faurie) 70.426, Valegro (Charlotte Dujardin) 78.830;
2, Germany 142.523 - Damon Hill NRW (Helen Langehanenberg) 71.079, Donnperignon (Christoph Koschel) 71.444;
3, The Netherlands 141.490 - Moedwill (Sander Marijnissen) 70.578, Exquis Nadine (Hans Peter Minderhoud) 70.912;
4, Denmark 138.602 - Jonstrupgaardens Raneue (Lisbeth Seierskilde) 69.970, Exquis Clearwater (Anne van Olst) 68.632;
5, Sweden 134.787 - Bocelli 1044 (Rose Mathisen) 68.024, Lennox (Cecilia Dorselius) 66.763;
6, Spain 134.742 - Faberge (Beatriz Ferrer-Salat) 67.742, Jade de MV (Claudio Castilla Ruiz) 66.900; 7, Switzerland 130.851 - Ronaldo 11 (Markus Graf) 64.696, Rokoko N (Elisabeth Eversfield-Koch) 66.155;
8, France 128.526 - Le Guerrier (Anne-Sophie Serre) 65.152, Passe Partout (Sebastien Duperdu) 63.374;
9, Finland 127.812 - Axis TSF (Terhi Stegars) 68.131, MD Waterford (Alexandra Malstrom) 59.681; 10, Belgium 127.402 - Question de Liberte (Johan Zagers) 62.584, Donnerfee (Claudia Fassaert) 64.818;
11, Norway 124.149 - Orlando (Cathrine Rasmussen) 63.906, Carte d'Or (Camilla Kalseth) 60.243;
12, Poland 68.650 - Martini (Beata Stremier) 69.650;
13, Portugal 67.173 - Ziripiti (Maria Caetano) 67.173;
14, Austria 66.474 - Fabriano 58 (Renate Voglsang) 66.474;
15, Italy 61.292 - Harmonia (Ester Soldi) 61.292;
16, Russian Federation 55.699 - Vodevil (Yulia Vinnitskaja) 55.699.

Full results at

Facts and Figures:
30 riders competed on the first day of the Team Competition at the FEI European Dressage Championships in Rotterdam, The Netherlands today.

Great Britain's Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro set the arena alight when last into the arena this morning with a great test that earned a mark of 78.830.

Charlotte, 26 years old, has been stable-rider for team-mate Carl Hester for the last four years.
This is her first season of Grand Prix competition.

16 nations are competing in the team event at the FEI European Dressage Championships 2011.

British team member Emile Faurie, talking about his horse Elmegardens Marquis "I was pleased with him, he was relaxed and did everything I asked of him today".

Germany's Helen Langehanenberg "I was happy with my horse but sadly we had some mistakes - they were bad for us and expensive for us."

Britain's Charlotte Dujardin, when asked if Valegro, which is owned by Carl Hester, is for sale "He's not mine - I don't know!"

Britain's Charlotte Dujardin - "I have the best job in the world - I have nothing but fun working for Carl.  I have been riding Valegro since he was five and he was very successful as a young horse.  He's like a power machine, he's always with me and he was great today.  He's never seen cameras before or anything like that, but he just takes it all in his stride".

Dressage: European Championships: Brits head the dressage leader board at the halfway stage

Thanks to stunning performances from the two British riders Charlotte Dujardin and Emile Faurie, Britain leads the grand prix team competition at the half way stage of the European Championships 2011. The team posted 149.256 to sit 6.733 points clear of nearest rivals Germany (142.523) with the Dutch close behind on 141.490.

Emile Faurie riding Joanne Vaughan’s Elmegardens Marquis led out as trailblazer for the Brits. He rode a cool, calm test with the 11 year old Michellino gelding to bank a reassuring 70.426%.

“I’m really chuffed!” commented Emile “Max stayed relaxed and concentrated through the whole test. We had a small blip going into the arena where there’s a lot going on but as soon as I turned left I knew I had him with me. Everyone knows he is a hot, excitable horse but he has masses of talent. We’ve had a good season, both of us have come here well prepared and this has been our aim for the year.”

“Of course our ultimate goal is London but there are so many brilliant combinations in Britain we’re really going to have to go some to make the cut. We had to get a championship under our belt to even put ourselves in with a chance.”

“I knew I would be first to go for the team and that we had to get a solid base score on the board so I’m really proud of the horse for what he did today. I’m certain there is at least another 5% in him and his owner Joanne has always believed in him.”

26 year old Charlotte Dujardin made her championship team debut count, taking the arena by storm with the nine year old Negro bred gelding Valegro co-owned by Carl Hester and Roly Luard. The pair rode a confident and polished test that belied their relative inexperience, sweeping them into the lead with a massive personal best of 78.830%.

“I’m over the moon and to score a PB is really special, especially with two extra judges sitting there to watch our every move!” said Charlotte. “After Hickstead we’ve been able to sharpen up a few things and come here ready to rock and roll. Blueberry [Valegro] is so brilliant in his mind; he wants to do it and learns so fast.  He grows out of mistakes he makes in weeks, problems that other horses would take a season to get over.”

“I’m so lucky to have Carl behind me; he’s made it all possible really – he’s so supportive and keeps me on the straight and narrow. I’ve just had fantastic opportunities and owe it all to the support of the people around me, Roly Luard, who half owns Blueberry, the Lottery funding behind us, and the whole World Class support team. It’s all incredible.”

34 competitors are yet to ride and with top horse and rider combinations still to come including British team mates Carl Hester and Laura Bechtolsheimer, tomorrow's competition promises an exciting climax before the individual sections, the grand prix special and grand prix freestyle classes take place on Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 August respectively.

Dressage: European Championships: Great Britain's Team Preview

17 August 2011

British dressage riders; Laura Bechtolsheimer (Mistral Hojris), Carl Hester (Uthopia) Charlotte Dujardin (Valegro) and Emile Faurie (Elmegardens Marquis) will be representing Britain at this week’s FEI European Dressage Championships at the Kralingse Bos arena in the Dutch city of Rotterdam (17 - 21 August). The team will be one of a record number of 16 contesting the Championships.

The British team comes with good form as the current European and World team silver medallists. While it will be a team debut for the young and exciting combination of Dujardin and Valegro, the team has the experience of three former Olympic, World and European Championship team riders. Laura Bechtolsheimer and Mistral Hojris, winners of an individual bronze medal at the European Championships at Windsor in 2009 and silver at last year’s World Equestrian Games, are currently second in the FEI world rankings and it is anticipated that the combination will be amongst those fighting for individual honours.

Carl Hester made his team debut 21years ago and has a record 51 National titles to his name. He was a member of the silver medal winning team at the 2009 European Championships and 2010 World Equestrian Games. With Uthopia, he has this year been posting high scores in Europe; scoring over 80% on their last two outings at Fritzens (AUT) and Hickstead (GBR) where the combination gained a personal best score for Hester of 81.80% in the Freestyle.

The Championship team test will be only the sixth international grand prix test for Dujardin, a pupil of Hester for five years. In January the twenty-six-year old scored 74% per cent on her winning international grand prix debut in Vidauban (FRA) and has since recorded grand prix wins at Saumur (FRA), Fritzens and Hickstead, including beating her tutor. 

The Gloucestershire based trio of Bechtolsheimer, Dujardin and Hester will be joined by Oxfordshire based Emile Faurie winner of European individual bronze and team silver in 1993 and a further team bronze at Hickstead in 2003. With Elmegardens Marquis, who shares the same sire, Michellino, as Mistral Hojris, Faurie has impressed with consistent good scores particularly at the recent Aachen CDIO (GER).

There will be strong opposition from both the Dutch and German teams. Germany, formerly undefeated in European Championships from 1965-2005,  now have former Dutch world record holding mount Totilas (Matthias Alexander Rath) on their side and will be keen to re-establish their authority on the Championships since relinquishing the Championship title to the Dutch in Turin (ITA) in 2007. The Dutch, who also won at Windsor in 2009 will be determined to hang on as the best in Europe and will be banking on the experience of this year’s high scoring World Cup winner Jerich Parzival (Adelinde Cornelissen) who will also be one of the favourites, along with Totilas, for individual honours.

For further event information, and competition timetables please visit: