Charlotte Ricca-Smith: The King and I


Charlotte Ricca-Smith has been in touch with her latest blog and this month, she has confronted a few home truths with the help of an unlikely source to help her get back in touch with why she loves what she does…

I never had Carl Hester and I down as kindred spirits. Other than the fact that we are both in our 40s and ride horses, we have little else in common. Carl is male, I’m female; he’s gay, I’m straight; he grew up in rural Sark, I’m from suburban Surrey. Oh, and he also happens to be a gold medal-winning Olympic dressage rider while I’m a (very) amateur eventer.  However, after watching the first edit of a new TV programme due to air on Horse & Country later this month, I now realise Carl and I have more in common than I first thought. It turns out even the king of dressage (with Charlotte Dujardin the dressage queen) suffers from self-doubt.

In Rudall Rides With Carl Hester, the 49-year-old reveals how he felt like giving up after the Sydney Olympics. Carl was tired of watching his fellow athletes pick up medals while heading home empty handed, and asked himself, ‘what’s the point?.

It’s something I’m sure many of you have asked yourself, after a bad lesson, unsuccessful competition or just a soggy hack in freezing rain. Exactly what IS the point? It’s certainly something I found myself asking after I had my fall. Even though I’ve been back competing for a couple of months now– and getting placed – I’ve often found myself wondering ‘what is the point’ when riddled with pre-show nerves and tension.

Carl’s turning point was London 2012, where he won team gold with Charlotte and Laura Tomlinson (nee Bechtolsheimer), and Charlotte also took individual honours riding Valegro. Britain has dominated dressage ever since, with Carl at the helm – both as rider and trainer. According to Carl when things finally came together it was “like the stars collided”.

We could all do with a little stellar intervention from time to time, and my moment came last weekend when I won my first competition with Pepa. We went arena eventing at Brendon Equestrian centre, which never does things by halves. The track was long and tough – with some tricky lines and spooky fences (well, it was Halloween) but Pepa and I worked as a team and everything went to plan. We had the fastest time by nearly nine seconds, but more importantly I had fun!

What made my win even more special was my nine-year-old daughter Mabel was there, grooming for me
for the first time. I admit I shed a little tear – it was a combination of relief that my confidence had finally come back and the sheer joy of succeeding at something I love. Whking-and-iether you’re an Olympic rider or an amateur just having a go, we all have our moments of self-doubt and it’s getting through these battles that mean the difference between success and failure. That doesn’t have to mean winning; success comes in many guises, not just medals.

So Carl, I salute you – not just for your talent, but also your tenacity. I also
want to give myself a mental high five for once, instead of a hard time. Because I picked myself up, got back on and achieved my very own Olympic gold.

 

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