Charlotte Fry and Glamourdale steal the show in Herning to take individual gold medal

Monday, 08 August 2022

Charlotte Fry is no stranger to the podium – in her short senior championship career, she’s added team Olympic, European and, as of yesterday, World medals in her growing collection. She has, however, never stood on the senior podium without her team mates around her.

Tonight, that changed. Riding Van Olst Horses’ phenomenal Glamourdale in the Blue Hors FEI World Dressage Grand Prix Special Individual Championship, she pulled out the test that we’ve all been waiting for ever she stepped onto the world stage – the one that would crown her the champion of the dressage world.

Gareth Hughes and Classic Briolinca

Before ‘Lottie’ could take to the ring, however, there were still two more British combinations set to face the white boards. First in and ready to put on a display in the afternoon sunshine – a great improvement on the rain that’s hung over Herning for the past few days – were Gareth Hughes and Classic Briolinca, who he owns alongside wife Rebecca, daughter Ruby and Julia Hornig.

The Special is, to quote Gareth, Briolinca’s test. The increased difficulty over Saturday and Sunday’s Grand Prix suits her talent for collection and this is where she really shows how special – pun intended – she can be. Gareth is such a quiet but effective rider, able to coax the best out of his horses while seeming to do very little. He kept the 16-year-old Trento B x Royal Dance mare’s energy flowing while still contained enough to bring her back for the more collected movements, including her party piece pirouettes, which scored 10s.

“We like our pirouettes,” explained Gareth. “We don’t do a lot of them and she knows where it’s got to happen, so when I turn a corner and I set her up in a particular way, wherever it is, she knows she’s got to lock into a pirouette.

‘She’s always done good pirouettes, but they’ve got better and better. She’s one of those now, in a passage, where her tempo changes, in a pirouette she sort of locks onto a rhythm and so the canter pirouette, especially if they can sit and separate behind and get that rhythm so each step is the same so she doesn’t knock herself out, because you’re looking for that separation of the hindleg and she does it beautifully.

The final centre line had been costly in their Grand Prix test, when the crowd prematurely started clapping and unsettled Briolinca. This time, however, the audience largely stayed quiet and the pair were able to capitalise on this to amass yet more marks, including a nine for their final salute. A delighted Gareth punched the air as he left the arena, in recognition of how pleased he was with his mare’s performance.

“The other day, we did a really good test but there was a bit of tension there – today, she felt really calm and relaxed, so I could ride a bit more positively. She doesn’t have huge natural scope to her base of paces, but in all her collected work she’s got such good mechanics and she’s so regular and you can really ride her on the marker, and I feel I can ride nicely as well. That’s really important  these days because I think, even though I want to do as well as I can, I think a nice ride should always be at the forefront of our minds, and I feel like I rode nice. I’ve come out and I’ve ridden nice and we’ve done good, so where we finish – I don’t care.”

Their final score was 77.280%, with the judge at B putting them at a whopping 80.00%. This was enough to take the lead as the competition neared its latter stages.

Charlotte Dujardin and Imhotep

A rider who’s certainly no stranger to the individual podium is Charlotte Dujardin. A previous holder of the world championship title, which she picked up at the World Equestrian Games in Caen in 2014 with Valegro, tonight she brought forward Imhotep – a young horse low on mileage but brimming with potential.

The Everdale x Vivaldi gelding, owned by Carl Hester and Coral Ingham, has had a real baptism of fire this week – tonight was only his third ever Grand Prix Special, and never before has he experienced at atmosphere like that in the Stutteri Ask Stadium, which is more commonly the home of football matches and music concerts. The championship environment has also been a world away from what he’s used to at home, where he lives out in a field and only comes in to be exercised. However, groom Alan Davies has been tireless hand-grazing him since his arrival in Herning in order to keep him settled, and he’s had Charlotte to hold his hand and bring out his best in the competition arena.

One of the real standout qualities of the nine-year-old gelding is his endless supply of energy and power. If Olympic and European medallist Gio was Charlotte’s pocket rocket, Imhotep is more akin to a souped-up Bugatti Veyron.

“At the moment, the only thing I can’t do is slow down,” laughed Charlotte. “I mean, I feel like I’m on, like, high speed and full power – I think he needs to go a little bit less to make his life and my life a little bit easier, but he’s just so enthusiastic. That’s how much power he has, he can’t quite manage it at the moment, which is why he still makes mistakes. But once he gets it all under control and waits for me, I think it’s going to be spectacular.

“It’s like driving a go-kart – he’s full power, full speed, goes round every corner at 100mph so, at the moment, it’s just trying to find that control. What he offers is so incredible, the feeling he gives is like being on springs – he’s just so much fun.”

While the test wasn’t without mistakes – most of which can be put down to sheer overexuberance from ‘Pete’, Charlotte was clearly delighted with her newest star as she left the arena.

‘I’m really happy. He’s so green, I’m just trying to ride and give him confidence,” she explained. “I’m just going round there, trying to keep everything as neat and as tidy as I can to help him. He seems to want to do everything massive, so I’m out of control at the moment and he’s like ‘I can do it’ and I’m like ‘you can but not quite yet’. I love that, it just shows how willing he is and it makes it so much fun.”

Charlotte and Imhotep’s score of 77.523% slotted then into second, immediately ahead of Gareth and Classic Briolinca, who had dropped two placings since their earlier test.

Charlotte Fry and Glamourdale

Charlotte ‘Lottie’ Fry and Glamourdale were the penultimate pairing into the arena this evening. In the weeks leading up to the championship, there had been a lot of buzz around what they might be able to pull off – they were crowned FEI Seven-Year-Old World Breeding Champions in 2018 and have been producing scores around the 80% mark for the whole of this season. Last night’s runners-up placing in the Grand Prix showed that they’d come here to battle it out for an individual medal, but there would be stiff competition from nations including Germany and home-side Denmark along the way.

From the moment they set foot in the arena, it was clear that Lottie and her stallion meant business. Glamourdale is the sort of horse that, quite simply, takes your breath away. Jet black, immensely powerful and with the soul of a true showman, he has enough presence to command the attention of an arena as big as the Stutteri Ask Stadium. Their first halt earned them nines and 10s from the judges and, from that point on, the high marks just kept flowing. Everything was big, powerful and accurate – the audience watched in rapt silence as a dressage masterclass unfolded before them. The trending scores didn’t drop below 80% and, in the middle, reached as high as +88% – the realms of Charlotte and Valegro’s long-held world record.

While he seems to have no weakness, it’s in the canter work where Glamourdale really comes into his own. More nine and 10s flooded the scoreboard, including five 10s for their extended canter – the lift and suspension 11-year-old Glamourdale is able to achieve across the diagonal resembles nothing short of a fighter jet about to take off. They finished with yet more 10s for their final halt and it was only then that Lottie’s steely façade broke under the weight of her enormous smile.

“He was incredible, the atmosphere was incredible, and he did he just did everything I could ask,” she gushed afterwards. “The changes were bigger than yesterday, the piaffes were bigger than yesterday, the pirouettes were better than yesterday, and he was just ready for it today.

“The feeling as he goes into the arena is like no other, he’s just a massive show man and he takes me with him on that – it’s an incredible feeling to sit on Glamourdale.”

It seemed almost impossible that they wouldn’t go into the lead. The question, really, was by how much. A score of 82.508% flashed up – a full 1.529% above their previous personal best – and into the lead they went.

There was just one combination standing between Lottie, Glamourdale and the top of the podium. Germany’s Isabell Werth is never one to give up without a fight – and she has a bulging trophy cabinet to prove it – but she and DSP Quantaz just couldn’t catch the British pair.

Within minutes, it was confirmed – Britain had a new dressage world champion – and Lottie was mid-interview with Swedish television when the news broke!

The journey to the podium

Some might argue that 26-year-old Lottie was destined to reach this moment. Born in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, dressage is in her blood thanks to her mother, Laura Fry, who represented her country alongside such greats as Carl Hester and Richard Davison – in fact, she and Richard were part of the team that won Britain’s first ever dressage team medal at the European Championship in 1993. Lottie grew up sitting the side of the arena, watching her mum training, before taking to the saddle herself. Laura sadly passed away in 2012 after a battle with cancer and Lottie, who already had one Pony European Championship team appearance to her name, began to train with Carl Hester.

Carl was impressed with her potential but, unfortunately, there was already one talented Charlotte on his yard, so he found Lottie a place with his friend Anne van Olst in the Netherlands. Lottie joined Van Olst Horses as their stable jockey in 2014 and has never looked back. She now has a string of talented stallions at her disposal and is reaping the rewards for her hard work and dedication. The year that she and Glamourdale won the Seven-Year-Old World Breeding Championship was also the year she took home team bronze, individual silver and freestyle gold at the U25 European Championship. A senior team place came the next year for the FEI European Championship, followed in 2021 by an Olympic debut – and team bronze medal – and European team silver medal with Glamourdale’s half-brother Everdale.

Selection for the FEI World Championships in Herning seemed inevitable – the question was more whether she would take her medal-winning partner Everdale, or gamble with the talented but untested Glamourdale. As it turns out, it was Glamourdale who got the call-up – a decision that paved the way for tonight’s success.

Champions of the world

While the rest of us might have quietly but confidently predicted tonight’s outcome, the new world champion was clearly struggling to believe what had just happened when the final placings were confirmed.

“It feels unreal – it’s just unbelievable right now. I feel like I’m about to burst into tears any minute, but I’m also the happiest person in the world right,” a shell-shocked Lottie explained. “Glamourdale gave me everything in there, the atmosphere was incredible, the crowds was amazing and he really rose to it and gave me the most incredible test I’ve ever felt.

“The sky is the limit for Glamourdale – he’s always been so special. He’s on in a million, really, and to ride him here at the World Championship is a dream come true.”

In the mist of this success, it’s important not to forget our other British pairings. Charlotte and Imhotep finished a very respectable sixth place, with Gareth and Briolinca immediately behind them in seventh. To have all three combinations finish inside the top seven shows just how talent there is within the British team this year, and Wednesday’s Freestyle promises to be truly exciting.