I would imagine that only those who are not connected to the Equestrian world in any way would not know of Charlotte Dujardin. Charlotte Dujardin was on the British Olympic Dressage team in London 2012 and Rio 2016. The British team won the gold medal in London 2012 and silver in Rio 2016. Charlotte won the Individual gold medal in both 2012 and 2016! For both Olympics she was riding the Superstar horse Valegro. Valegro is now retired but Charlotte is still campaigning and looks to be heading to the World Equestrian Games this September in Tryon NC. on a new horse.
This autobiography gives the reader a look at Charlotte’s childhood and how she started as a rider. It always seems that movie stars and sport stars suddenly burst upon a startled world when in fact they have, almost always,been working their way to success over many years. Charlotte started on ponies. Her family was not an ‘upper crust’ family and they often had to move due to her father’s difficulties with his business. But Charlotte’s mother always managed to keep Charlotte and her sister Emma-Jayne riding and around horses and ponies.
The thing that struck me most about this book is that Charlotte does not pull any punches and is very honest about her life, her work, her passion for horses and the times in her life when things were not all glamor and glory. The turning point in her career as a horsewoman came when she got an opportunity to work for the British master of dressage Carl Hester.
“I finally got up the courage to ask Carl if he needed anyone–if not staff, then maybe someone to do a bit of work experience. The look on my face when he said yes must have been priceless. Carl’s head girl, Caroline Dawson, was going on holiday for ten days. If I wanted to, I could bring Fernandez ( her horse), and be a temporary working pupil. I wouldn’t get paid, but Fernandez could stay for free and we’d have lessons from Carl.
I didn’t need to think twice…… As it turned out, I went for ten days and never came back.”
Charlotte now attributes much of her success to Carl’s knowledge and experience. They still work together; she calls him “Grandad” and he calls her “Eddie” ( after Edward Scissorhands as he did not like how she used her hands when riding when she first came to him).
As a dressage rider myself it was fascinating for me to read the story of how Charlotte worked her way up to the top. There were difficult times and times when luck opened doors for her. I found it most interesting to know that although she and Valegro always looked picture perfect there were moments when he was not so easy to ride ,as well as times when she admits she made mistakes in the competition arena.
“I made an error in the zigzag and also in the ones. I was so disappointed, but rather than wishing, or hoping it was going to come right in the Special ( the second test of Grand Prix level competition) I had to give myself a kick up the backside and go in fighting. “
She did go in fighting and achieved the top score. But in the third phase of the competition she scored just barely ahead of the German rider and this was a big championship held in Germany.
“….as my score went up the crowd started to boo. It was the worst feeling: I’d only been doing my job, and I was being made to feel like I didn’t deserve to win. …. I was petrified that I’d be booed when I went to get my medal and I couldn’t think of anything more horrible. I didn’t know if I could face that. As it turned out the crown booed the judges, but were generous enough to applaud when I stepped onto the podium. “
I enjoyed this book very much. It is a glimpse into the life of a superstar athlete and the kind of work , dedication and sacrifice required to get to the very top. I think these attributes would apply to success in any field not just sport. I think this book would be a “must read” for any equestrian, in any riding discipline and an interesting read for anyone even if you are not a “horse” person.