Saturday, 24 July 2021
Team GB’s equestrian campaign at Tokyo 2020 got underway today with the first day of the Grand Prix, which acts as a qualifier for the team and individual dressage competitions.
First horse inspection
The previous morning, the three team combinations of Charlotte Dujardin and Gio, Carl Hester and En Vogue, and Charlotte (Lottie) Fry and Everdale, and reserve combination of Gareth Hughes and Sintano Van Hof Olympia, all flew through the first horse inspection. There was a moment of concern for onlookers when Everdale was not presented with the rest of the British team, but the fiery stallion was merely being put before the ground jury at the end of the session to help keep him calm.
Lottie Fry and Everdale
The first British combination down the centre line today was Lottie Fry and Van Olst Horses’ breeding stallion Everdale (Lord Leatherdale x Negro) – Tokyo being an Olympic debut for 25-year-old Lottie and a Senior championship debut for 12-year-old stallion Everdale. A smooth and harmonious test saw them take commanding lead of Group A with a score of 77.096%, which is a personal best for the duo at international Grand Prix level.
“I was really, really happy, it couldn’t have gone much better today”, commented Lottie, picking out the extended movements and canter pirouettes as personal highlights.
“Everdale was really with me and was concentrating so hard – I think he had a shock at the end when he realised that there were people watching. He definitely knew it’s a big occasion, he’s been concentrating so hard today because he knew what was coming.
“I enjoyed every second of it and Everdale really felt as though he was enjoying it, too. It’s a shame that there are empty stands, but there’s still so much atmosphere in here. You never know how it’s going to be every time you come into an arena, and each one is different, but I really trust him and he really trusts me, so we don’t tend to worry about that kind of situation because I know he’s going to try his best whatever happens.”
“I’ve been riding him since he was seven years old. I did Young Riders and under-25 Grand Prix with him, then we moved up to Senior Grand Prix in 2019, so we’ve really grown up together and built a good partnership.”
Being based at Van Olst Horses in the Netherlands, a position that Carl Hester helped to secure for her, Lottie, originally from near Scarborough in Yorkshire, doesn’t normally get to spend time with her team mates outside of championships. “It’s been so fun to spend so much time with my fellow British riders out here in Tokyo and I feel as though I’m on such a good team. Everyone gets on and supports each so much and we have so much fun together,” she commented.
“I’m so grateful to Carl for finding me opportunities and nurturing my career. I think it’s really special to be on a team with him when he was also on a team with my mum in 1992.”
The top two athletes from each group qualify for the Grand Prix Freestyle, which acts as the individual final, meaning that we’ll see Lottie and Everdale there on Wednesday 28 July.
Carl Hester and En Vogue
Another horse making their Senior championship debut was Carl Hester’s ride, En Vogue, who he owns with Sandra Biddlecombe, Charlotte Dujardin and Lady Anne Evans. This is only a fourth international Grand Prix outing for the 12-year-old Jazz-sired gelding, but he couldn’t have asked for a more experienced or sympathetic rider in the saddle. Carl, meanwhile, is contesting his sixth Olympic Games – the first was in 1992, when he rode alongside Lottie’s mother Laura in Barcelona.
Their test was a few little wobbles, including when Vogue kicked out during the two-time changes across the diagonal, but Carl held him together for a credible score of 75.124%
“Vogue’s never done anything like this before, so this enormous for him,” commented Carl. “He’s nervous, he’s hot and he was very on it warming up, but you know what, he was actually perfect in there – he walked, he halted. There were two fairly obvious mistakes in my two-tempis and my extend canter. Normally my canter work is my go-to for marks, he never normally seems to make mistakes in there, but I didn’t think he was going to answer so I just touched him too strongly with my leg and he shot forwards – you can see how sensitive he is.
“I feel he’s better than the scores we had, but my aim was 75%+ and I achieved that even with two mistakes, so I’m more than happy.
“My sixth Olympics feels so much worse than the ones before it – number one was basically a holiday, two was a holiday, three was a holiday, then four, five and six have had all the pressure to get the scores for the team. On the other hand, now I’ve done it, I feel great – I’ve ordered a pizza for 11 o’clock!”
The combination finished fourth in Group C, meaning they miss out on automatic qualification to the individual final, but there are still Freestyle slots open to the six highest-scoring non-qualified riders. Carl and Vogue currently sit second on this list, so their individual campaign hopes rest on what happens tomorrow in day two – a nervous wait for the Gloucestershire rider.
Tomorrow, the competition will start at 09:00 BST, with Charlotte Dujardin and Gio coming down the centre line at 13:06 BST as part of Group F.
Full results from day one of the Grand Prix are available here.
Information of how to watch all equestrian sessions at Tokyo 2020 is available here.