Carl Hester returned to the stage after a 13-month absence from CDI competition and has not lost his winning ways. At the 2023 CDI Tolbert in The Netherlands, the six-time Olympian steered Fiona Bigwood's Fame to a double victory in the Grand Prix and Special.
In January 2023 Hester premiered the 13-year old Dutch warmblood Fame (by Bordeaux x Rhodium) at a home show in Hartpury. They were entered for the CDI Addington in March, but Carl injured his foot in a slip and fall and withdrew. Tolbert was chosen as the substitute event, which meant crossing the Channel, a trip he confessed he does not like doing. However, going against the grain paid off.
Tolbert hosted its first international competition after having been known as a dressage venue for multiple-day national shows. There was a particular Dutch touch to it with "Schlager" music playing in the background as if carnaval was back in town.
A Treat for the Eye
Carl rode Fame into the Tolbert Grand Prix test with a lot of confidence and skill.
Overall the horse was tight in the neck, but the contact was consistent and not overbearing. The first trot extension developed late on the diagonal, but then very nice half passes were ridden, although they got a fraction uneven in the last few steps to the left. The rein back was good, the second extension a bit conservative again. In passage Fame is lovely and soft footed, but some Dutch knee action to boot, but overall could carry himself more with more push and power from behind. The first piaffe was softly ridden, but there was a slight back-stepping tendency with the left hind. In the extended walk the gelding was tense, neighed and did not really stretched nor marched on the diagonal, still a 6.2 from the judges... The second piaffe was early to the marker, but very diligently ridden by Hester, again there was some back-stepping. The line of two tempi changes was clean but with swing in the hindquarters, the canter extension was ridden on the safe side, and in the ones one change was short behind (score between 7 - 8). The zig zag was good, the left pirouette slightly unbalanced. The final trot extension was the best one and Hester produced a very clear final centerline. It was a pleasure to watch the Brit work this horse through this test.
Judges Vincenzo Truppa, Alice Schwab, Lars Andersson, Thomas Keßler, and Patricia Wolters rewarded this Grand Prix ride with a winning 75.891%. The next day, Carl posted 76.936% for the victory in the Special.
In an interview with Horse & Hound, Carl said "he was gorgeous; he’s so willing and always up for it. He was a little on the edge sometimes, but he’s just got so much ability and wants it to do it right. It’s lovely to have a horse like that. I’m keeping the lid on a little at the moment, and just trying to build confidence, but I really enjoyed it.”
“It’s been a while [since competing internationally] and I was a little apprehensive riding around at the outside,"he added, "but I remembered what it’s all about. It’s a cool show, friendly. Sometimes it’s nice to do a competition just for yourself, to get to know your horse better.”
Hester will head to the CDI's in Windsor and Hickstead next, and plans to make a come back with his 2021 Tokyo Olympic and European Championship ride En Vogue.
Feldrose and Furstenglory
The Grand Prix top three in Tolbert featured three different flags with Finnish Emma Kanerva becoming the runner-up and Spaniard Severo Jurado Lopez third.
Emma Kanerva brought her sponsor Gert Saborowski's Hanoverian mare Feldrose (by Feuerspie x Latimer), bred by Burkhard Wahler. The liver chestnut mare is the least advanced of her string of Grand Prix horses (Greek Air, Mist of Titanium and the occasionally shown Eye Catcher) and it shows. She is still quite tense in the top line, often swinging with the tail, but Kanerva rode big trot extensions, and bouncy passage work with lots of airtime. In the trot half passes the ones to the right were smoother than to the left. In piaffe the mare stays a bit straight in the hindleg. Kanerva rode with a lot of risk and ground cover in the zig zag and one tempi changes. Overall the canter could have been more uphill oriented. Feldrose got stuck behind in the right pirouette. They scored 71.630% for second place. In the Special on Saturday she was second again with 72.255%.
Severo Jurado Lopez brought the 12-year old Oldenburg stallion Furstenglory (by Furstenball x Rohdiamant) to Tolbert. The stallion, who is owned by Swedish Olympian Juliette Ramel, only did his second CDI with Severo and his third international in his life. The pair debuted in Den Bosch last month and now chose Tolbert. In trot the stallion had the tendency to become mechanic and passagey and there could have been more bending in the corners, but overall the passage was floaty and energetic. In the piaffe he back-stepped with the right hindleg. The extended walk was mediocre in the rhythm at the start of the diagonal, but improved towards the end. The second piaffe was better, but the balance not optimal as the frontleg gets positioned too far under the body instead straight under the shoulder so that the horse shows a climbing ability. The two tempi changes were solid and ground covering, there was a mistake in the ones. The horse still had plenty of energy on the final centerline. He scored 71.609% in the Grand Prix for third place and went on to win the freestyle with 78.510%. This puts Jurado back in the picture for Spanish team selection.