To the horse that has raised the profile of dressage across the world. The horse that has elevated British Dressage to the highest echelons that we could once only dream of. To the horse that touched the heart of a nation in 2012 and made London commuters stop and talk about 'the girl and the dancing horse'. To the horse that moved us to tears time and time again with his elegance and grace and unrivalled harmony between horse and rider. To the three time Olympic Champion, World Champion, European Champion, World Cup Winner and 3 time World Record Holder.
Valegro we thank you for being a legend, an inspiration, a national treasure, a personality, a champion - our hero. And to the team that have produced and cared for this phenomenal horse, we salute you, admire you and honour you.
As a team they have changed the face of dressage forever and cemented their place into the hearts of millions and in the history books. As we sit and reflect on the journey that this superstar has taken and all they have achieved we cannot help but shed a tear that this journey has come to an end and that we won't be celerating any more Valegro Golden moments. However what we can take consolation in is the fact that the world's greatest horse is being retired at his peak, owing his owners and rider nothing, and will remain the undisputed champion.
Trying to list all fo Valegro's achievements would be a roll call of National Championships, European Championships, World titles, Olympic Golds, Olympia wins and a plethora of World Records.
Charlotte Dujardin OBE simply described her equine partner as “A once in a lifetime horse and owes us nothing. I can’t wait to give him the send-off he deserves.”
With Olympia a complete sell out and reports of tickets selling for £1,000 a pair to catch a glimpse of 'the professor' in his final performance, it looks as if both Charlotte and Carl will get what they wanted for him.
“Valegro has done it all and we want him to go out in style!" added Carl Hester MBE.
With nothing else left to win, the retirement will leave Valegro as the Champion he is for many many years to come.
It seemed only fitting that in the first stage of the Valegro retirement party his team were also presented with a series of awards.
A Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Valegro’s groom Alan Davies, by Chris Hewlett (Chairman of the British Grooms Association) in recognition of the outstanding levels of care and attention he has shown in his career with Valegro, and Team Hester's other horses.
Carl Hester MBE, was presented with his BHS Fellowship Award by Lynn Petersen, Tessa Martin-Bird and Julia David from The British Horse Society and the new International Champions British Dressage Award was very fittingly presented to Valegro and Charlotte Dujardin, presented by Jennie Loriston-Clarke.
Wednesday 14th December marked the final performance, the grand goodbye and farewell. Split into two performances the three-time Olympic Champions Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro entered the Olympia Grand Hall for a final time, performing their London 2012 Gold medal winning freestyle test. It could not have been more perfect. Charlotte herself admitted that riding that test was one of the hardest things to get perfect. She achieved near perfection in 2014 when they set the Freestyle Dressage world record at Olympia, and last night it was better. As the pair started their final piaffe pirouette the crowd rose to their feet clapping in time with every step. The tears fell as Valegro completed his final centre line and the old Olympia roof was raised when they came to a halt.
As the final part of the retirement ceremony Valegro and Charlotte were joined in the arena by mentor and part-owner, Carl Hester, as well as groom Alan Davies, in what was an emotional last dance. The lights were dimmed as Valegro filled the spotlight, ears pricked and grinning from ear to ear they danced their way around the Grand Hall for the very last time. One times changes and extentions delighted the crowd and then to then time to say goodbye. Not a dry eye in the house as the diamond duo galloped out the arena to a standing ovation and raptuous applause.
“There have been so many happy memories" commented Charlotte after the ceremony's completion, "he’s won every gold medal there is, including three Olympic golds and two FEI World Cup™ titles. He’s a once in a lifetime horse and I’ll miss competing with him enormously.”
Thank you for the dance Valegro - happy retirement!
All photos courtesy of Rose Lewis at Daydream Equine Art