She walked with poise down the ramp into the spotlight. Her partner’s breathing matched hers and their eyes filled with determination to win. Her pride for Great Britain was radiant. Every equestrian in the crowd waited for Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro to grasp the gold. We knew she would win — it was just a matter by how much. When his hooves touched the white sand of the battlefield, tears filled my eyes. My hero was right in front of me, a moment I never thought would happen. For the next six minutes I held my breath for her.
I continued to fan girl. She presented herself to the world with class and elegance. The moment felt so surreal, but I felt connected to her, to Valegro, and their partnership.
I competed for years and I vividly remember trotting and cantering around the ring waiting for my signal to begin and feeling the energy in my horse, the energy of a true athlete. In that moment your horse inspires you and you encourage your horse to show God-given talents and abilities. This is your partner’s moment, just as much as it is yours. Charlotte was feeling something similar.
A Charlotte equestrian watches Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro win the gold medal in dressage
Six minutes later she finished and reached down to hug Valegro. She waved proudly to her country and her fans. She knew she had won, and so did the crowd. Her performance was ridden to near perfection, scoring a 93.975 percent, and landing the gold medal. I felt their happiness and their exhaustion. I know the amount of sacrifice, hard work, sadness, stress, exhaustion, and happiness that it takes to build a relationship like hers with Valegro. While I have not competed at that level and do not know if I ever will, I felt that connection because I am an equestrian and this incredible animal connects us all. That is why we ride.
Photo above: Jamie Doolittle at the dressage finals of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro are competing in the arena.