I want to say a personal thank you to Carl Hester, my friend, trainer and mentor for taking me on at his yard all those years ago, and for being at my side for all of these years and through all of my memorable moments.
Many years ago, I had lessons at Carl’s and then was asked to ride for him for ten days, which was a dream in itself. To then be asked to stay on was a rare opportunity I had to grab with both hands. As the days turned into months, I learnt that dressage demands utter precision and how important it is to gain an understanding and trust between horse and rider, that can only come from hours of practice and bonding with the horses on the ground. Carl has nothing but patience and love for all the horses at the yard. Our partnership and mutual respect for each other grows by the day. He is always fun to be around, shouts at me when I make mistakes (ha ha) but always makes me want to be a better rider and I want nothing more each day than to make him proud. I have learnt more than I could ever have imagined just being based at his yard, watching and observing his training techniques and for this I will be always be thankful.
The greatest honour was yet to come when I began to ride Blueberry (Valegro) who is my horse of a lifetime. Carl and Roly Luard gave me the ride when he was just five years old. As it became clear that Blueberry had immense talent, I expected Carl to take the ride for himself. But as he saw my partnership grow, he and Roly let me keep the ride and words cannot describe how grateful I am to them for this opportunity. After an incredible first year on Valegro, winning at the Europeans was a huge boost in my quest to ride in Greenwich at London 2012. We were then selected to represent Great Britain in the summer of 2012 at the Olympic Games. On the day, Carl said “Some people wish it would happen, some people think it will happen, and you are going to make it happen” Blueberry gave me his all and I will cherish those days forever. What we have gone on to achieve, including achieving Gold at our second Olympics in Rio during the summer of 2016 is so surreal to me, even now. I could not have done it without Carl, our owners, Alan Davies, Ian Cast, Dean, the team at the yard, my family, friends, my management, supporters, sponsors, British Dressage, BEF, Dickie Waygood, World Class, The National Lottery and of course the wonder horse himself. There are many more who have been a part of this journey, to numerous to mention, but you know who you are. Know that I will always hold dear the contributions you have made along the way.
Thank you for it all. You will never know how much your support and guidance has meant to me. x