Charlotte Dujardin: Meet Great Britain’s masterful equestrian dressage rider

WINDSOR, ENGLAND - JUNE 30: Charlotte Dujardin of Great Britain poses for a photo to mark the official announcement of the Equestrian Dressage team selected to Team GB for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on June 30, 2021 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images for British Olympic Association)
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - JUNE 30: Charlotte Dujardin of Great Britain poses for a photo to mark the official announcement of the Equestrian Dressage team selected to Team GB for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on June 30, 2021 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images for British Olympic Association)

Dujardin is now tied for most decorated British female Olympian ever after she claimed a team dressage bronze in Tokyo 2020 on Tuesday. And she's not done yet.

Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin is, once again, a history-maker.

The 36-year-old, alongside GB teammates Carl Hester and Charlotte Fry, became a bronze medallist at Tokyo 2020 in 2021, after they scored a total of 7,723.0 points in the equestrian team dressage competition on Tuesday (27 July).

With a medal cabinet that already contains two golds from London 2012, and a gold and silver from Rio 2016, the bronze in Japan’s capital sees Dujardin match the medal records of legendary British rower Katherine Grainger and tennis player Kathleen McKane Godfree.

After her record-matching bronze medal performance on horse Gio, Dujardin expressed her delight:

“To come away with another medal, and be alongside incredible, inspiring women and sportspeople, I can’t say much more."

“I feel so proud to be here, we have such a fantastic team – it’s unbelievable.”

Equaling the record is just another feather in the cap of the Briton; her dressage career is widely regarded as being one of the best in the world. She's tipped to pull clear at the top by claiming a podium in the individual event on Wednesday.

Read on to learn more about the legendary Dujardin.

TOKYO, JAPAN - JULY 27: Charlotte Dujardin of Team Great Britain riding Gio competes in the Dressage Team Grand Prix Special Team Final on day four of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Equestrian Park on July 27, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - JULY 27: Charlotte Dujardin of Team Great Britain riding Gio competes in the Dressage Team Grand Prix Special Team Final on day four of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Equestrian Park on July 27, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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Carl Hester: forming a formidable partnership

When Dujardin left school at 16-years-old to pursue a dressage riding career, it is hard to believe she would form a long-lasting, working relationship with another British great right from the start.

At the suggestion of her then trainer, Dujardin was urged to go for lessons at Carl Hester’s yard, in the hope of developing her abilities as a rider.

The 54-year-old, who back then had no idea that one day he would win bronze alongside the young Dujardin in Tokyo, asked his new groom to stay on for a further 10 days to cover a staff member who was taking leave.

Dujardin never left, and under the watchful eye of her new mentor Hester, she developed Valegro – a horse Dujardin would enjoy remarkable success with around the world.

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Valegro: a wonder horse for a wonder rider

It would not be an understatement to say that Valegro and Dujardin formed a partnership that stunned the world. Together the two could not stop winning, setting records in their wake.

As well as lifting Dujardin to her London 2012 and Rio 2016 titles, Valegro also won his rider the 2013 and 2015 European Championships and an individual gold at the World Equestrian Games in 2014. At Olympia 2014, Valegro won the highest ever recorded grand prix freestyle dressage score: 93.4%. A score that to this day has not been matched. The previous record owner? Valegro and Dujardin.

After his well-deserved retirement at the end of 2016, Valegro has since been immortalised in bronze in the town of Newent.

Tokyo 2020: a very different Games

The route to Dujardin's bronze at Tokyo was far from smooth.

With the trusty Valegro calling time on his international career after Rio, the hunt to find his replacement was on.

Dujardin threw her energy into developing a string of exciting young horses, looking for that same special spark she once shared with Valegro.

She soon believed she had found something in two horses in particular: Mount St John Freestyle and Gio.

Earlier this year, however, a blow came for Dujardin. Freestyle's owners declared her unfit for the Games. As the higher scoring horse of the two, the call was a great disappoint for Dujardin. Her only option was to invest everything in the gelding.

With very few grands prix under his belt, 10-year-old Gio was something of a gamble for Dujardin heading to Japan; the rider was unsure how he might react to the weather conditions in Tokyo.

But her faith was justly rewarded and now, with thanks to the spritely Gio, Dujardin's name will be etched in the annals of British sporting history once again.