Book Review: Charlotte Dujardin The Girl on the Dancing Horse.

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.

IMG_20180615_2016191 (1)
Charlotte and Valegro. Photo (C) Rose Lewis 

 

 

8 Comments Add yours

  1. cagedunn says:

    In all fields, it’s a tough slog to get to the top of the pile, and unfortunately, there are also the ones who don’t want their favourites replaced. I get very annoyed when a crowd boos a rider, any rider, who is doing their best. Shame on them – what if it was their child, brother, sister, friend?
    She is an amazing woman who worked hard, and then harder, and then aimed even higher …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      I agree. Thanks for this comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Of course she is heard and known. I saw most of her videos on dressage, I guess all of them! She held a world record too. It’s very inspiring for me as a horse person that how people start from small and reach in the top of the world. It’s good to know struggles because that is the real world. Real world is not stepping into fame and instantly being hit. And riding is royale and grace, it is trust and connection. Other than that the things come on its own. Thank you for sharing such valuable information I look forward to read this book. And I am more intrigued to know that you are a dressage rider!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Charlotte and Valegro still hold all the world records in Dressage. She has a new horse now, Freestyle, that is getting some very good scores in the CDIs leading up to WEG. And yes I am a dressage rider. There are some posts on my blog about my own riding and training with my horse Biasini. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

      Like

      1. That’s great. After all the struggles and excellent performances. I hope she goes far and good. And I am more privledged to know that you are a dressage rider. I read your posts, I guess I read every one of them. And remember your horse Biasini. Your welcome. It was worth reading! 😊

        Liked by 1 person

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