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GirlandtheDancingHorse-horseandriderbooks

Charlotte Dujardin and her charismatic horse Valegro burst onto the international sports scene with their record–breaking performance at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The world was captivated by the young woman with the dazzling smile and her dancing horse. The YouTube clip of their Freestyle performance has since had over 1.7 million views, and Dujardin is considered the dominant dressage rider of her era. When Valegro (affectionately called “Blueberry”) retired from competition at the end of 2016, his farewell performance at the Olympia Grand Hall sold out and the dark bay gelding received a standing ovation.

But what about “before” the stardom? Dujardin’s journey began at the age of two when she first began riding her family’s ponies, and Valegro’s on July 5, 2002, when he was born on Burgh Haamstede, an island in the Netherlands, of dressage horse lineage. Dujardin’s autobiography THE GIRL ON THE DANCING HORSE shares how their two paths would eventually meet, and become one high road to unparalleled success.

Here, in Dujardin’s words, are what she remembers about the first (and second!) time she saw Valegro:

The first time I saw Valegro was at Addington in the summer of 2006. He was being ridden by Carl [Hester], who also owned him, and I can honestly say I was blown away. His canter was huge, absolutely huge, and even though it looked a bit out of control, he looked like he’d be so much fun to ride.

One of the things that immediately jumped out about him was the way he was built: he was a complete and utter powerhouse. Nowadays you see a lot of thoroughbred-type dressage horses with very elegant, long legs, but Valegro was much more of an old-fashioned, stocky stamp – a real-leg-in-each-corner type. He completely filled your eye, but he also had a pretty, dished face like a seahorse’s, and even then he looked like he only wanted to please.

I saw him again, a few months later, at the Nationals, where he won the Shearwater Four-Year-Old Championship. He left the same impression on me as last time – here was a horse that stood out from all the rest. Dez and I were entered for the Elementary class at the Nationals where we finished third, which was a good result because as we were warming up it started to rain. Not just a little bit of rain, but torrential, thundering, lightning, fill-your-boots-up-with-water rain. My boots actually did fill up with water and I could feel it sloshing all round my legs; my saddle was so slippery I couldn’t sit on it, I could hardly hold my reins, and Dez was curling up like a hedgehog because he wanted to get out of it so badly. There wasn’t a single part of me that was dry, the arenas were all underwater and everything and everybody was soaked.

I carried on warming up, trying to make the best of it, but then suddenly the class was suspended: the judges, who were sitting in their cars around the arena, had had their ignitions on so they could use their windscreen wipers, but it had been raining so hard for so long that their batteries had all gone flat.

Girl on Dancing HorseIt was brilliant timing for me. I ran back to the stables, dried Fernandez off and got him a new saddle-cloth, then tried to dry myself. My coat was too wet to put back on, but I managed to borrow someone else’s; I somehow then managed to change my breeches, empty the water out of my boots, pull myself together, get myself back on and still be in the arena by the time the judges were ready to go again. It carried on raining throughout my test and we were sloshing through puddles with water sheeting up around us the whole time – I might as well have been riding on the beach.

 

THE GIRL ON THE DANCING HORSE is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

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CharlotteDujardin-horseandriderbooks

We at TSB are simply thrilled to be the US publisher of Charlotte Dujardin’s autobiography THE GIRL ON THE DANCING HORSE, which will be released in the States on Friday, March 16, 2018.

Charlotte Dujardin and her charismatic horse Valegro burst onto the international sports scene with their record–breaking performance at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The world was captivated by the young woman with the dazzling smile and her dancing horse. The YouTube clip of their Freestyle performance has since had over 1.7 million views, and Dujardin is considered the dominant dressage rider of her era. When Valegro (affectionately called “Blueberry”) retired from competition at the end of 2016, his farewell performance at the Olympia Grand Hall sold out and the dark bay gelding received a standing ovation.

Dujardin began riding horses at the age of two, but dressage was the domain of the rich–not the life a girl from a middleclass family was born into. Her parents sacrificed to give her as many opportunities as they could, and she left school at 16 to focus on equestrian competition. It was at 22, when she was invited to be a groom for British Olympian Carl Hester, that she met the equine partner that would change her fortune.

THE GIRL ON THE DANCING HORSE shares this story, beginning with Charlotte’s early years restarting naughty ponies and following her equestrian evolution, which eventually led to the Olympic arena and gold medals, as she competed against the best in the world. Readers get an honest look at the road Charlotte took to reach the top, and along the way they gain an intimate understanding of who she is and why she and Valegro were able to connect with each other and develop such an unparalleled partnership.

There are many fascinating details readers learn in the pages of Charlotte’s autobiography. Here are 10 you probably (maybe) didn’t already know:

1 Charlotte grew up battling dyslexia, which led to anxiety at school. But as much as she feared a spelling test, as a child she was never nervous at a horse show. The bigger the crowd, the better. (That changed when she had to memorize dressage tests!)

2 Early in her development as a dressage rider, Charlotte struggled with her sitting trot. So she took up swimming to help develop her core strength, clocking in 50-70 lengths each morning before heading to the barn.

3 Charlotte wears false nails because she wants to disguise her “old lady hands” and arthritic knuckles from years of working and riding outside in the wet and cold.

4 At the barn where she rode with Carl Hester, there was a long concrete driveway that riders would walk the horses up before and after work, and when Charlotte first started at Carl’s, she would always try and finish schooling at the same time as him so they could ride up the driveway together and she could work up the courage to talk to him.

5 Charlotte never rode in a helmet at home and wore a top hat to show until she was bucked off into the wall of the arena one day and ended up in the hospital with a skull fracture. Now she schools and shows in a helmet.

6 Charlotte’s fiancé went to the horse show where they first met intending to find himself a girlfriend. He thought it a likely venue for available young women!

7 The first time Charlotte and Valegro competed against Carl was in a Prix St Georges class at the Royal Windsor Horse Show in May 2009. Charlotte and Valegro won.

8 In 2010 Charlotte lost a bet (by winning a test with Valegro) and had to jump into a hot tub in her riding clothes.

9 Valegro loves performing. There are never monsters lurking in corners or waiting in the flowerpots to get him. He’s always focused and always reliable.

10 Before the Olympics in Rio, Charlotte had a feeling it should be Valegro’s final competition. She wanted him to finish at the top where everybody would remember him as the best horse there was. She didn’t want him to end his career as an older horse, not able to give what he once could. Retiring him while he was still at his best was what she felt was the right thing to do.

Girl on Dancing HorseThe first 100 people to order THE GIRL ON THE DANCING HORSE from the Trafalgar Square Books online bookstore will receive an autographed copy! Plus, shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to order your copy now.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small company based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

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