5 Things we can all Learn from Charlotte and Valegro
21 February 2018
The story of Dressage's most famous pairing can teach us much about life...
Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro are the world’s most successful Dressage duo, and probably almost entirely responsible for inspiring a new generation of Dressage riders.
While there are endless things to admire about the pair, there are also some lessons that they can teach us insofar as our riding goes – and maybe even our lives in general. After all, life lessons are easier to absorb when they come disguised in a horsey package!
As we prepare for this week’s FEI World Cup™ Dressage event in Gothenburg – which is live on FEI TV and YouTube on Friday afternoon – we take a look at five things we can learn from Charlotte and Valegro…
Once you’ve decided
to do something,
commit to it properly
There were plenty of people who didn’t believe...
1. Trust your gut instinct
Valegro famously failed his stallion licencing – and Carl Hester picked him up for a measly £4,000 (€4,600/$5,600). Why? Because he wasn’t showing much promise! There were plenty of people who didn’t believe that Valegro had huge amounts of talent or potential, but Carl and Charlotte saw something in him, trusted their gut and produced one of the best Dressage horses the world has ever seen!
In fact, top FEI judge Stephen Clarke said that he didn’t think Valegro would be able to collect when he saw him ridden as a youngster. So even the top names can be wrong...
2. Always be brave
Anyone who watched Charlotte’s Rio Olympics performance in the Grand Prix Freestyle would have had their hearts in their mouths – and although Charlotte was nervous, she pulled together an incredible performance. What makes this even more amazing is that she actually made some last minute changes to her routine based on how Valegro was feeling – now that is real self-belief and bravery for you.
And once you’ve decided to do something, be it a movement, a jump or even just a decision; commit to it properly.
3. Push yourself, but know your limits
Let’s not kid ourselves – it takes serious determination and hard work to get to top of your game like Valegro and Charlotte. Sometimes you might hit a training block or a plateau and have to push through it. Having said that, working yourself to the bone benefits nobody.
As a young horse, Valegro was only ever schooled for 20-30 minutes and even as an established Grand Prix competitor, he fell into the usual routine of the yard which sees most of the horses spending far less time doing circles in the arena than you might think!
In fact, Valegro was normally schooled three times a week, hacked three times a week, and spent one day resting. For the superstar combination, less is more. After all, both horses and humans need some downtime!
4. Learn to let go
Oh yes. One of Charlotte’s most quoted sayings is: “People are so afraid of letting go of them and afraid they’re going to get bucked off. If you give a kick, you have to let go.” Try that the next time you're riding.
And as far as life goes, there’s definitely nothing wrong with that as a piece of advice either – move forward, and let go. See what we mean? Life advice conveniently disguised as horse advice!
Valegro had nothing left to prove...
5. Know when to stop
One of the hardest things to learn is when to stop. Charlotte and Valegro retired as a competitive partnership soon after the Rio Olympics. To many of us, that would be sheer madness. After all, why wouldn’t you want to continue riding and competing with a horse who was almost unbeatable and clearly at the top of his game? But Valegro had nothing left to prove and he has retired as an utter legend.
Sometimes, saying ‘enough’ and learning to quit while you’re ahead can be the best decision you’ve made for the day, the month, or maybe even for the rest of your life.
Watch the world's top Dressage stars in Friday's FEI World Cup™ Dressage event in Gothenburg via FEI TV and YouTube
Text by Sophie Baker
Images by Richard Juilliart, Arnd Bronkhorst, Eric Knoll, Dirk Caremans