Charlotte Du­jardin Shares Her Story

An ex­cerpt from her new mem­oir, The Girl on the Danc­ing Horse

Dressage Today - - Content - By Charlotte Du­jardin

An Ex­cerpt from her The Girl on the Danc­ing Horse

In her mem­oir, The Girl on the Danc­ing Horse, leg­endary Bri­tish Olympic dres­sage com­peti­tor Charlotte Du­jardin de­tails the highs and lows of her il­lus­tri­ous rid­ing ca­reer. She be­gins by shar­ing memories from her child­hood spent aboard ponies and de­scribes her path to reach the sta­tus of dres­sage su­per­star with the help of men­tor and Bri­tish Olympian Carl Hester and her cel­e­brated mount Vale­gro. It is a sur­pris­ingly re­lat­able story that she shares with hu­mor, hon­esty and emo­tional detail. The fol­low­ing ex­cerpted sec­tions are a few high­lights from the text, which is used with per­mis­sion from Trafal­gar Square Books. The book is available through Equine Net­work Store. To learn more visit www.equinenet­works­ are like big squares with deep seats and thick knee rolls. How was I meant to sit in that?

It felt com­pletely dif­fer­ent to ev­ery­thing I’d been used to, but we hacked down through the trees as usual and Debi got me to warm Tru­day up. Then, out of nowhere, she told me to do a fly­ing change. Well, I had no idea what one of those was.

A fly­ing change is when a horse skips from lead­ing with one leg to the other while she’s can­ter­ing. But I couldn’t fol­low Debi’s ex­pla­na­tion at all and just sat there, nod­ding away, to­tally lost. Even as she sent me off can­ter­ing around the arena I still had no clue what I was do­ing, but then I put my leg back be­hind the girth like I’d been told and to my com­plete sur­prise I felt Tru­day skip and start lead­ing with her other leg. We did it a cou­ple more times, then Debi told me to try some fours (chang­ing legs ev­ery four strides) and af­ter that a half­pass. By now I was so out of my com­fort zone: All my ponies ever had to do was walk, trot, can­ter and go in a straight line, and sud­denly here I was on a great big dres­sage horse do­ing tricks. The tempi changes I found quite hard be­cause of the tim­ing, but when I asked Tru­day for the half pass she didn’t hes­i­tate—I was go­ing side­ways across the arena be­fore I even knew it. It was amaz­ing: All I could think was, Wow! This is so cool!

Cross­ing Paths with Carl Hester

Af­ter get­ting the feel of pi­affe on Tru­day I knew what I was aim­ing for, so one day I thought to my­self, I’m go­ing to teach [my horse] Charlie McGee to do that. I found a big field while we were out hack­ing and started play­ing around, but it seemed like no mat­ter what I did, it wasn’t hap­pen­ing: Charlie was a show horse and had no idea what I wanted him to do. I knew then that I some­how

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