Dujardin ready for equestrian challenge

01 August 2012 / 16:51

Dressage star Charlotte Dujardin could possibly become Team GB's golden girl of London 2012 - and if that sounds like a bold statement, then some key facts are worth digesting.

Enfield-born Dujardin only started riding at dressage grand prix level in January last year. But she has arrived at her first Olympic Games as the grand prix special world record holder and first British rider to score 90% for freestyle.

That latter achievement came at Hartpury in Gloucestershire just a few weeks ago when Dujardin gave her Olympic freestyle to music campaign a dress rehearsal on the brilliant 10-year-old Valegro.

It is a breathtaking routine crammed with patriotic British music and frequent interjections of Big Ben's chimes. If 26-year-old Dujardin performs like she can at Greenwich Park a week on Thursday, then an expected capacity 23,000 crowd will erupt.

First on her Olympic agenda is the team competition, which she will contest alongside Carl Hester and Laura Bechtolsheimer. It starts on Thursday and continues on Friday, with medals decided when it resumes next Tuesday.

Dujardin trains with Hester at his yard in Gloucestershire, which has been a major factor behind her startling rise to prominence, and she revealed how their connection started when she bought a DVD in a saddle shop.

"I was in the shop and I saw this Carl Hester dressage demonstration DVD, so I bought it, watched it and thought 'wow, that is really cool,'" she said. "I had an Irish thoroughbred horse at the time, so we went out into the field together at home and I started teaching him to do piaffes and changes.

"I did showing with ponies when I first got involved in horses. My sister and I had Shetland ponies and we had a great time. I managed to win at the Horse of the Year Show four times, the Royal International and all the big county shows, but even in those days I was trained by a dressage trainer.

"And she always used to say to me 'why are you doing showing, why aren't you doing dressage?' But at that point it didn't really appeal to me to do dressage. Then at one of the showing competitions I did, there was also a dressage test involved in it.

"I did a really good test and won it, then a lady called Debbie Thomas took me on for work experience and let me ride her grand prix dressage horse. I tried a few things, and I found I actually quite liked it, even though I didn't know hardly anything about dressage."