Now a global superstar known for her magical partnership with Valegro, Charlotte Dujardin is one of the world’s top dressage riders.
Having ridden from a young age, Charlotte competed in showjumping and won classes at Horse of the Year Show and Hickstead. She took up dressage after encouragement from her trainer and, in 2007, spent 10 days having lessons with dressage legend, Carl Hester, at his yard. Carl spotted Charlotte’s talent, offered her a job and the rest is history!
When Charlotte met Valegro (who is part-owned by Carl), he was a young horse at the beginning of his career. Charlotte was asked to bring him on, with the idea that Carl would compete him when he was ready. However, it became clear that Charlotte and Valegro clicked and they successfully competed in their first Grand Prix event in 2011. After that, they became part of the GB dressage team and continued their rise to the top!
10 minutes with Charlotte Dujardin
What inspired you to start riding?
It was something I started when I was young and my mum and sister were involved, too, so we enjoyed it as a family. I loved horses from the start.
Did you know? Charlotte started riding at age two.
When did you know you wanted to be a professional rider?
From a fairly young age I was competing and I really enjoyed it. I knew I wanted to be riding horses as my full-time career.
How did it feel to win an Olympic gold medal?
It was an amazing feeling and really overwhelming.
What has been your biggest horsey disappointment and how did you overcome it?
I don’t tend to count anything as a disappointment, but instead as a learning experience. I try to keep focused during difficult times, learn from it and continue to enjoy my riding.
Did you know? Charlotte bought her first dressage horse, Fernandez, with inheritance from her grandmother.
When you first started riding Valegro, did you think you could make it to the Olympics?
I always knew he was special, but I wasn’t thinking about the Olympics in the early years.
If you could pick any horse other than yours to ride, who would it be and why?
I think I am very lucky to ride the ones I do, I’m very happy with my horses.
FACT: Charlotte and Valegro’s individual gold medal-winning score at the London 2012 Olympics was a massive 90.08%!
What would you do if you weren’t a professional dressage rider?
I would probably have tried to be a vet. I would definitely still have had a career with animals.
What qualities make a good dressage horse?
They have to have a good walk and canter, and also a nice temperament.
Do you get nervous before big competitions and, if so, how do you control your nerves?
I’m very lucky that I don’t get nervous. You have to remember it’s just another arena and not to focus on anything else – it’s important to just try your best with your horse.
Do you have any lucky charms?
It’s not really a lucky charm, but I do have a pair of lucky breeches!
Did you know? Charlotte is a global ambassador for The Brooke, an equine charity dedicated to improving the lives of working horses, donkeys and mules around the world.
How do you prepare for riding a dressage test?
I know most of them off by heart now, so I don’t have to learn them. On the day of the test, I just focus on keeping my routine and the horse’s routine the same.
What advice would you give to an aspiring dressage rider?
Just enjoy the process of training your pony.
If he’s struggling, think of another way. It helps to ride under the watchful eye of a good trainer.
2015 World Cup champion
2014 Individual Gold medal in Grand Prix special and Grand Prix freestyle at the World Equestrian Games
2014 Team Silver medal at the World Equestrian Games
2012 Individual and Team Gold medals at London 2012 Olympics
Grand Prix (87.46%, Olympia 2014)
Grand Prix Special (88.02%, Hagen CD14* 2012)
Grand Prix Freestyle (94.3%, Olympia 2014)