Ingredients: 1 full Negro, 1 full Maifleur, ½ Ferro, ½ Fewrie, ½ Gershwin, ½ Weidyfleur, ¼ Ulft, ¼ Brenda, ¼ Variant, ¼ Mewri, ¼ Voltaire, ¼ Aphrodite, ¼ Heidelberg, ¼ P.Fleur.
This recipe takes some time and requires some dedication but is an ideal Olympic gold medal treat.
If only we could all just get out our recipe booklets and in doing so breed the best dressage horse in the world. Not so easy, although it appears that the Netherlands, profoundly backed up by the KWPN Breeding Organisation, makes good breeding ground. KWPN - always high in the WBFSH organisation rankings - has always had tough selection criteria, but contrary to breeding organisations in other countries who insist on keeping their breed “pure”, KWPN does in fact allow and even promote including horses from abroad, as long as they can withstand the high selection. As such we can find Oldenburger, Hannover, Rheinlander, Selle Français and Swedish Warm Blood amongst Valegro’s pedigree ancestors. Dressage horses are found to have jumping bloodlines intertwined, providing them with great strength. It also monitors hereditary defects using X-rays and as such keeps the horse breeds healthy, plus allowing only the healthiest of foreign breed to mingle into KWPN. Breeders of KWPN horses have access to a select range of studs and can obtain predicates for mares on the basis of exterior, health and even offspring. Of the 10.000 foals KWPN registers each year only few make it to the top. Carl Hester, co-owner of Valegro, underlines that the Netherlands is a great place to purchase young dressage horses. So what makes a KWPN horse a dressage star? What makes Valegro a KWPN ambassador? And basically, what makes a Valegro?
Although quite a small horse, he has a fabulous canter, flexing with his high fore legs (from Heidelberg) and bending with his strong engined horse power hind legs (from Negro), he truly strides flawlessly uphill. As a 4- and 5-year old he was given 9.5 and 9.6 for his canter and great appearance. He is rather like a Duracell battery and at first, in training him for the stretching, they had to be quite cautious, as he’d get all too excited and want to dash off. So instead, they moderately taught him to extend, finishing this training every time only so he would learn to enjoy it. They applied this during his years in the elite level for merely over a year. A true FEI happy athlete you might say. This could be said of more wonderful dressage horses, but what makes the intelligent Valegro even more special is that he actually brings into the arena what he has been taught. He understands quickly and loves performing his exercises. Once he mastered and understood the three time and four time changes at the age of five, he kept doing them. He really loves to work and likes to please. On top of that he has a heart of gold and a peaceful character with his ears curiously and attentively peaking out up front and his gracious thick chill tail backing him up. His breeders Joop and Maartje Hanse from Zeeuwe Burgh Haamstede in the Netherlands, already long time engaged with Gert Jan van Olst of Van Olst Horses(breeder/owner of Negro) and as such preferred the Negro/Ferro bloodline for character. Other than that they not only surrounded him with the utmost care but also with the most tender cuddling, thus impregnating trust into this outstanding creature. He has never done anything naughty in his life, he is just the perfect horse. With a total confidence in his equally wonderful rider Charlotte Dujardin, these #twohearts beating could not be stopped on their way to victory.
And victories they had. They won the Grand Prix Special and the Grand Prix Freestyle at the World Equestrian Games in Caen in 2014. Team gold at the European Dressage Championships in Rotterdam in 2011. Winning the FEI World Cup Grand Prix at London Olympia in 2011, setting a world record for the Olympic Grand Prix Special discipline scoring 88.022%, in April 2012. Team gold and individual gold at the Olympics in London with a score of 90,089%. They won the Grand Prix and the Grand Prix Special in Herning in 2013. At Olympia in 2013 Valegro set a new record of 93,975% in the Grand Prix Freestyle and after that improved his own with a 94,3% world record. Finally a gold medal in the individual dressage at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games with a score of 93.857%. Basically, there is not anything more Charlotte could wish to win with Valegro.
Having said that, word spread from the mouth of Charlotte herself that at the Olympia International Horse Show, the farewell grand prix freestyle demonstration Valegro and Charlotte gave the day before “felt like another world record”. The day after whole setting was absolutely magical in the grand old hall of Olympia, with the Christmas lights on, the gala atmosphere with guests in smoking and cocktail dresses, champagne flowing and all eyes set upon this memorable and historic moment. A silence set in as groom Alan Davies walked Valegro into the arena where Charlotte and Carl along with the TV camera’s awaited the pair. Carl, who was first congratulated for winning the Grand Prix Freestyle that night with his Nip Tuck (84%), admitted the whole Valegro journey had been a roller coaster and tonight, be it that his official retirement is one from competition, not from the stage, was indeed emotional. Charlotte was fighting her tears and thanked everyone for the tremendous support they had been given all these years, especially at the London Olympics. The warmth of the British fans then and there with social media exploding and taking it to a next level most certainly helped her achieve and she said she could not have done it without them. It meant the world to her. Meanwhile, Valegro who stood there in total calm, nibbling on his reigns, causing the public to laugh. Charlotte was hoisted onto the spotlighted Valegro and the public set in clapping to the rhythm of “Time to Say Goodbye”, followed by an applause and cheering the combination that after a few rounds made a final piaffe and left the arena in an extended trot, tears flowing all around leaving a feeling of loss if not goose bumps as Joop and Maartje Hanse would afterwards admit.
Still in his prime and loving to perform however, Valegro will still be seen on tours that Charlotte will be taking him on. Being the pride of KWPN, Valegro will at least be seen at the KWPN Stallion Show in Den Bosch, the Netherlands on Saturday evening February 4th 2017. All fans and breeders are of course most welcome to witness and perhaps find their own Blueberry at this KWPN yearly event.
Valegro is co-owned Olympic rider Carl Hester, who stumbled upon him in Ermelo in the Netherlands when Valegro was only two years old. Having set his eye on Valegro, he was relieved to find others passed on him for his hoofs turning inside a fraction and who is to know that this was a sign of flexibility rather than a wrong position. His hoof feature effectively subtracted a good € 1.000 off the requested price, the deal was done and the rest is history. The Netherlands is a great country for finding good dressage horses as the travelling in one’s search is limited and the quality of breeding is of a dream standard. A standard one might call Michelin Star. They do have the most wonderful recipes for all to enjoy.