CARL HESTER AND THE DRESSAGE PIONEERS OF THE UNITED KINGDOM
We have been able to see it with our very own eyes...Isabell Werth losing her otherwise cool composure and splashing champagne all over Carl Hester; the rather fat kisses which followed were even better!
And that brings me to the following subject. The English dressage fairy tale with Carl Hester as pin-up. Not only did Carl Hester build his dressage career from scratch, he has helped give both the English and also the international dressage scene a more horse-friendly image. Not only his beautifully relaxed style of riding, with the easily scared Nip Tuck as proof in the pudding, but also what he gives to the sport in so many other ways; how he comes across as a human being.
TWO LITTLE JUVENILE DUTCH DRESSAGE SNOBS
It all started with Jennie Loriston-Clarke and Dutch Gold in the seventies. The first English combination which counted internationally. And, oh man, how did my then friend and I, two Dutch juvenile dressage snobs in the middle of puberty, howl; because, in our opinion, the changes were not quite straight. We were barely able to pull off a half-pass!
TRAINING WITH JANE BREDIN
By the time I moved to Cornwall there were a few more English dressage stars on the firmament. And luck would have it that Jane Bredin's mum lived in the nearest village.
Soon I found myself in the car with Bunny on our way to Goodwood. It just so happened to be last dressage show ever held there. It was an atmosphere never to forget. Emile Faurie, with I believe Virtu, was basically peaking there. You could hear a pin drop but after the last salute the audience, including me, totally lost it.
A few years later, I was on my way, with my second breeding product Marie, in my little yellow lorry to Jane's yard near Chippenham. That is where I decided to never be a Dutch dressage snob, ever again. It was a humbling experience, Jane knew so much and I so little!
TO THE OLYMPICS
After having worked for David Hunt for many years, Jane ran her own training yard, with the help of her good friend Suzie Cumine.
Jane knew from a very young age she was going to the Olympics and did not mind telling her two sisters and friends this fact. I believe this happens more often, that top athletes know at a very young age that that is what they will do. Jane rode at two Olympics, Atlanta and Hong Kong.
TRAINING WITH ANKY VAN GRUNSVEN
I vividly remember her Dutch bred gelding Cupido with his lively eyes and big blaze. During that period, Jane put her lorry time and again on the ferry to Holland in order to train with Dutch dressage queen Anky van Grunsven and top trainer Sjef Janssen. Also, she was keen to measure herself with the best and never tired from crossing the Channel yet again to compete on the continent against the international riders with the dressage genes in their blood. At that time, it was a little too easy to win a Grand Prix in England; not exactly a recipe to become Olympic material.
Jane, together with riders such as Peter Storr, Emile Faurie, Carl Hester and Richard Davison, helped bring England on the international dressage agenda. Her pioneering instinct knew no boundaries.
INTERNATIONALLY RESPECTED BY THE VERY BEST
Sadly, she was not able to be part of the huge successes of recent years. Six years ago, Jane had a heart attack which she did not survive. After the memorial service, when walking back to the car with some of her friends, I heard a Dutch voice behind me. It was the voice of Dutch dressage queen Anky van Grunsven, who had made the effort to be there. The ultimate proof of how very much Jane was respected and appreciated by the very best.
THE RED CLOTH
Jane was a strong personality, a 'one-off'. She did not make it easy for the English Olympic organisation by letting them know that, if they wanted Cupido on the team in Atlanta in 1996, she needed to be on the plane with him. This was breaking every rule, but she managed to do it!
On arrival there was a lovely lot of shavings in the stable. Had to be removed; if Cupido rested his beautiful head on a pillow of straw at home, how could he possibly survive when having to perform at his best?
Sadly, Atlanta was disappointing because Cupido got terribly ill and spent his time recuperating.
But Jane had seen the red cloth from very nearby and, ten years later, she made a cracking come-back with her horse Lucky Star, which secured them a place for the Beijing Olympics.
HENK VAN BERGEN COACH FOR THE ENGLISH TEAM
In the late seventies, I was working at a huge riding school in the east of Holland. My boss, Jan Oortveld, had lessons with Henk van Bergen at the time. We, working pupils were green with envy; Henk van Bergen was 'God' to us.
Years later -surprise, surprise! - his name cropped up in this country. Pammy Hutton came down to Cornwall every six weeks and so, ready for more accurate flying changes and learning canter pirrouettes, it seemed the way to go to get some regular training and very successful, too.
On my first visit to Talland, Pammy herself went off in the lorry for a lesson with...Henk van Bergen. A small world, isn't it? I believe during that time he was the coach for the English dressage team, another great move to become a competing nation to reckon with.
CARL HESTER A GLORIOUS THIRD AT THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
And how well has England fared since then! After having enjoyed all the fun with Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro, there was Carl again with a brilliant third place in Omaha, sprayed with the champagne from Isabell's bottle. Superb...
Picture: Jane's mum's favourite picture. Bunny kindly let me use it for both the Dutch and English blog.
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About Liz Barclay
Her love for horses together with her dedication made her into the trainer and dressage rider she is, today. She is versatile and inventive and likes a challenge; whether it is a technical training question, a confidence issue or a problem involving the management of the horse or pony.
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