The team competition at the Blue Hors FEI Dressage World Championship reached a thrilling climax on day two of the Grand Prix, in front of a crowd and atmosphere more akin to the football matches usually hosted in the Stutteri Ask Stadium in Herning, Denmark.
Building on a solid foundation laid on Saturday, by Richard Davison and Gareth Hughes, the British team’s two young horses – Imhotep and Glamourdale – were brimming with raw potential, yet lacking in championship experience to take on the world’s best. However, they were paired with riders who are absolute masters in nurturing talent, Charlotte Dujardin and Charlotte Fry respectively – but would it be enough to bring home a team medal?
Charlotte Dujardin and Imhotep
Herning is a venue seeped in history for Charlotte Dujardin – the year after their Olympic success at London 2012, she and Valegro came here to scoop team bronze and double individual gold at the European Championship. It’s also the site of their unbeaten Grand Prix Special record, at the CDI4* in 2012. This year, though, she was bringing forward a very different horse – one without the expectation of a winning performance because, frankly, most of the world hadn’t heard his name until a matter of months ago.
With Gio last year, Charlotte proved that she can bring a green horse onto the world stage and produce medal-winning performances as the pair took home team and individual bronze in Tokyo, then team silver and freestyle bronze at the European Championship in Hagen. With Imhotep, however, the challenge is taken to a whole new level.
The rangy Dutch-bred gelding was purchased by Carl Hester from a video when he was a young horse. His overexuberant nature came with a habit for bucking riders off, which prompted Carl to hand ‘Pete’ over to Charlotte to train at home, while being competed as a young horse by stable jockey Sadie Smith. Coral Ingham came onboard as co-owner and Charlotte took over Pete’s competitive career in 2020, and they’re since unbeaten on home soil. However, a World Championship is a completely different ball game to anything they’ve experienced to date. As a nine-year-old, Pete is one of the youngest horses in the field and likely has the least mileage – he had just two international starts to his name prior to arrival in Herning and only made his Grand Prix debut in March.
There is nobody better than Charlotte to conjure the best out of him. While it’s clear that there’s plenty more to come, their test was still packed with energy and power. Charlotte used every inch of the arena to produce a test that – while not without mistakes, including an early strike-off into canter – was impressive enough to pick up every available mark without pushing her budding star beyond his current capabilities.
I’m thrilled with him,”
enthused Charlotte afterwards.
He’s come here having only done three Grands Prix – a very inexperienced horse. I had no idea how he was going to cope in there, he’s never seen anything like it. He’s done one show aboard at Compiègne and there were no spectators as such. To go in there and have the crowd, the buzz – I was just so proud of him.
I had the one little blip, but it was just a miscommunication more than anything. I just absolutely love that horse, he makes me smile from ear to ear every day. He’s got so much power, so much expression – he wants to work every day, he wants to please you every day. He never runs out of energy, which I absolutely love. I know by day three he’ll still be going.”
Charlotte Fry and Glamourdale
Taking over Charlotte’s usual role of anchor rider was Yorkshire-born Charlotte ‘Lottie’ Fry. The 26-year-old thrives under pressure, so there was nobody better suited to sealing the British medal campaign.
Lottie spent last summer cementing her status as Britain’s newest dressage star – partnering Everdale, the sire of Charlotte’s ride Imhotep, she scooped Olympic team bronze and European team silver in quick succession. While Everdale has been in the spotlight, though, younger half-brother Glamourdale has been in the background, quietly amassing podium placings and waiting for his moment to shine. The dressage world has been waiting for ‘Glammy’ to make his mark ever since he won the FEI Young Horse World Championship with Lottie as a seven-year-old – and for this event, he proved to be well worth the wait.
The great black stallion (Lord Leatherdale x Negro), who oozes quality from every pore, rose to the occasion and showed exactly why there’s so much excitement surrounding him. He and Lottie were in perfect harmony from the outset, making nothing of the huge atmosphere of the Stutteri Ask Stadium – her years as stable jockey for Van Olst Horses, who own Glamourdale and Everdale, have given Lottie a special gift for communicating with fiery breeding stallions and bringing out their best. That, combined with an equine partner who’s clearly a showman at heart, saw them produce something that was nothing short of magical.
From the second we left the warm up and he heard the crowd, he was just ready for it – he was taking me!”
He felt incredible. There were small moments in the pirouettes, which I can fix tomorrow for even more marks – he was just on fire and loving it.”
The judges threw nines and tens at the pair throughout their test, with particular highlights being their one- and two-time tempis, the canter zig-zag and the extended canter – the latter of which earned 10s from all but one judge thanks to some incredible suspension and straightness. The one wobble in an otherwise incredibly exciting championship debut came when Everdale slightly lost his balance in the first pirouette, but Lottie was skillfully able to recover it.
After the final salute, the crowds waited on bated breath. Lottie and Glamourdale looked sure to go into the lead, but, by how much? The answer soon flashed up – 80.838%, which was not only the first +80% score of the competition but a new international personal best.
I actually don’t think it’s sunk in yet – I’m a little bit numb and speechless!”
said Lottie after her test.
I need to take a look at that scoreboard and take it in.
He’s been such a pro here – this is the furthest he’s ever travelled, the longest he’s ever been away from home at a competition so a lot of firsts for him, and he’s only 11 and being a stallion makes it a little more difficult. He’s taken it all in his stride and, now he realises why he’s here, he’s going to be very happy.
I loved going last – and on day two. Luckily, Gareth and Charlotte really put me in a good place and there was a good team feeling with lots of support – it couldn’t have been better. The pressure drives me to do better. Of course, I need to do Glamourdale justice because everyone knows he’s amazing, I have to show that I can let him be amazing in the arena, so of course there is a lot of pressure riding him, but it’s such a great team and a great partnership. Hopefully, he loves me as much as I love him.”
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Team silver for Great Britain
With Lottie and Glamourdale wrapping up the British efforts and the team sitting in gold medal position, it was a nervous hour-long wait to see how the final riders from the remaining nations would affect the leaderboard. The greatest challenge would come from the home side’s Cathrine Landrup-Dufour and Vamos Amigos – the hot favourites for individual honours this week – and, indeed, they threw down a score of 81.864% to overtake Lottie and Glamourdale. This put the Danes ahead of Great Britain, and the battle for silver began in earnest. Sweden’s Patrik Kittel and Touchdown came up just short with 76.522%, and then it was the turn of Frederic Wandres and Duke of Britain FRH for Germany – could the reigning world champions hold onto their title? As it turned out, Frederic’s score of 76.661% wasn’t enough to lift them out of bronze medal position, behind Denmark and Great Britain. Last to go, Adrienne Lyle and Salvino of the USA gave it their best shot, but were unable to unset the leaderboard. The final result was confirmed as gold for Denmark, silver for Great Britain and bronze for Germany.
The British team had arrived in Herning unsure of what to expect. With two untested young horses, one lacking in match practice following injury, and the fourth making his championship debut, it was hard to predict where they would end up. The priority had been to secure team qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games in just two years’ time – today’s result achieves that with ease, and now leaves many wondering which of the British quartet who stood on the podium this evening might dance across the grounds of Versailles.
The hunt for individual medals starts today (Monday, 8th August) in the form of the Grand Prix Special. With the top 30 combinations qualifying, Gareth and Classic Briolinca (13th), Charlotte and Imhotep (fourth), and Lottie and Glamourdale (second) will all be back in the Stutteri Ask Stadium, ready to show what they can do. Gareth goes up the centre line at 16.20 BST, Charlotte is at 18.00 BST, while Lottie is the penultimate competitor at 18:30 BST.