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Valegro - No. 1 dressage horse of the year

At an evening ceremony Wednesday 20 November in Doha, Quatar, the breeders of this outstanding horse will be honored by the WBFSH and their sponsor Jaeger-LeCoultre

Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro.
d. 20-11-2013 - 13:32

Valegro is a 11-year-old KPWN gelding by Negro/Gerschwin bred by Maartje & Joop Hanse, the Netherlands.

Maartje & Joop Hanse started with Valegro's great grand dam, the only 160 cm tall chestnut mare Petit Fleur (P.Fleur) by Frappant. The bought her in foral to Heidelberg which produced Valegro’s grand dam Weidyfleur.

- Petit Fleur was a hot horse with a lot of character, and not everyone got along with her. That was before the specialization of the dressage and jumping breeding directions. P.Fleur could jump well, but because of her drive and temperament, she was less suited for dressage, remembers Joop Hanse.

Her first foal Weidyfleur was not only very beautiful but also a chestnut which the breeders particularly liked, so they kept her for breeding. She developed very well and became four times the regional champion at filly and mare inspections. Weidyfleur gave birth to eight foals and among them were the advanced jumper Kruhling and Valegro’s dam Maifleur by Gerschwin.

– When Maifleur was born, we sold our business, and since then we have only had three stalls, so we breed fewer horses. We eventually stopped breeding Weidyfleur, but we kept her because she was a great riding horse. She died when she was 26, explains Joop.

Maifleur grew into a large-framed mare measuring above 170 cm. Just like her mother she became Champion of Zeeland and got highly decorated in the KWPN system. When she was bred to Negro, the breeders said to the stallion keeper Gertjan van Olst that they would call him if it was a colt, and so they did when Valegro was born.

– When we turned Valegro out in the tall grass, he showed himself really well and Gertjan bought him right away, Joop recalls.

Maifleur's next foal was also by Negro. Initially, the filly named Weidyfleur II, was not for sale. However, when Valegro began excelling, Van Olst purchased her too and she was sold to the UK as a broodmare.

Gertjan van Olst raised Valegro with the goal of getting him to the KWPN Stallion Show. However, he was dismissed in the first round viewing. At the time, Carl Hester was among the spectators in Ermelo and was immediately smitten with the Negro son and bought him from his friends Anne and Gertjan van Olst.

Valegro was started under saddle in England when he was 3½ years old. Hester thought he was on the small side and sold him to a lady who just matched the horse, but ultimately the sale did not go through. In hindsight, that was Hester’s good fortune.

Initially, Hester trained Valegro and won the four-year-old championship in Great Britain, among other competitions. A year later, Valegro captured the five-year-old championship under a different rider; and the following year, he swept the six-year-old division. Hester’s resident rider, Charlotte Dujardin, has been riding Valegro since he was six. For Hester, a dressage horse is only good if it has Grand Prix potential.

– I have always believed that Valegro would become a Grand Prix horse. His movement in the trot spoke volumes from the start. He seemed born for the Grand Prix. At first, he was a bit hectic, but when I looked passed that, I saw his talent for passage and piaffe. Another of Valegro's strong points is that his front leg is as spectacular as his hind. What is more, he has a very good canter and a wonderful attitude, says Carl Hester.

The rest is history! Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro have developed into a dream partnership. They are reigning Olympic Champions and European Champions, and have practically won every single Grand Prix they have entered the last couple of years with above 80%!

For the Hanse family, they have decided not to breed anymore. The still have Valegro’s grand dam and one of her daughters.

– We live in a beautiful area, and we like to ride both the mares in the forest or on the beach. My wife rides Maifleur, and I ride Aimfleur, says Joop Hanse.