Equestrian: Team GB's horses up for sale after Games


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The Independent Online

The horses that helped Britain to win its 20th gold medal will soon go on sale in a bid to boost the economy.

Valegro, Uthopia and Alf won the team dressage to take Britain to its highest post-war medal tally, but are expected to be auctioned off for about £20 million.

Carl Hester, one of three riders to land gold in front of 23,000 fans in Greenwich Park yesterday, owns his own steed, Uthopia, and a half-share in Valegro, nicknamed the “Lionel Messi” of the equine world.

He said: “It was always the plan to ride them until the Olympics and then they would be sold. I’d like to say thank you to them for taking the risk and letting us keep them that long.

“They’re both very talented young horses and of course there are plenty of people who would like to take them on.”

His protégée Charlotte Dujardin, a world and Olympic record holder, danced Valegro around the dressage course to clinch the gold that eclipsed the UK’s post-war record, set at the Beijing Olympics four years ago.

Hester, 45, will sell the horses to raise funds for his business partner Sasha Stewart, whose work in Ireland has been hit hard by the downturn.

He said this year: “I always thought [Uthopia] would release me from a lifetime of slavery to work. I always thought, ‘You will be the one that pays off my mortgage and finally frees me from those shackles.’”

Hester owns dozens of horses at his Gloucestershire stables. In 2004, he sold his Athens Olympic mount Escapado to a rider in Holland but later regretted it.

Laura Bechtolsheimer, 27, one of the trio of riders who denied Germany the team dressage gold medal for the first time since 1972, admitted her horse, Alf, was likely to be sold but said it was a tough decision to make.

“Alf’s future is up to Alf — he’ll go home for a holiday and then I’ll pick him back up again in the autumn and see how he feels.

“He’s 17 now but he gave the ride of a young horse. If he’s still as motivated as ever and comes back fit and well, then we’ll keep going until I get the feeling he’s done enough.”

Dujardin is confident Britain will be able to groom other horses for Olympic glory in Rio in 2016. She said: “We’ve got our next pair we’re getting ready. It’s not like we’re disappearing.”

The only postbox on the Channel island of Sark is to be painted gold to honour Hester, who was born there.

Britain’s Nick Skelton, 54, on Big Star, was joint favourite with American Rich Fellers to take gold in the individual showjumping today, adding to Monday’s team gold.

Skelton’s son Harry, an accomplished jockey, said: “I’m very proud of him.”