Dressage champion Charlotte Dujardin on lucky breeches, stable relationships and the horse that took her to the top.
Riders used to wear a top hat for dressage but it’s not safe – there’s no protection. I’ve worn a crash hat since 2011 after I had a fall and fractured my skull [in 2009]. I was one of the first riders to compete in a helmet. Now everyone does it and it looks strange if people have top hats on.
I wear these Kingsland headbands all the time when I am teaching other people. They keep my ears and my head warm, and my hair out of my face. Some people collect handbags, I collect headbands.
My lucky breeches, which I started wearing in 2011, hold every [dressage] world record and have been to two Olympic games. I retired them when Blueberry [her horse Valegro’s stable name] retired in 2016. It was hard to keep them white.
I’m a gin girl – a friend introduced me to it on my 30th birthday and I’ve been drinking it ever since. I toasted my Olympic gold medal win in Rio with gin. Everybody knows that’s what I like, so they give it to me for birthdays and at Christmas. I have so many bottles.
I have worked with [Olympic dressage champion] Carl Hester every day for 12 years. He’s my inspiration and my mentor. Before I compete, he says, ‘Good luck and have fun.’ That’s the message I try to pass on to other people.
In my autobiography I wanted to inspire people to take up the sport, but also show that it hasn’t been as easy as it looks. I didn’t come from money, so when my mum’s mother died she used her inheritance to buy me my first dressage horse.
I’ve been with my fiancé Dean [Golding] for 12 years. He’s the love of my life and one day I’ll marry him. I designed my engagement ring so I could ride in it – the platinum band is rounded so it doesn’t pinch when I hold the reins and the diamond is set flat.
Valegro has been a horse of a lifetime, who has made my dreams come true. I started riding him when he was five years old – he’s now 16. It’s like when you first see your partner and you just click. Winning double gold with him at the London 2012 Olympics was amazing.
Interview by Victoria Woodhall
Charlotte will compete in the freestyle dressage at Olympia, the London International Horse Show, on 17-18 December. Go to olympiahorseshow.com for tickets.