Dujardin: It would be hard to replace 'professor' Valegro
OLYMPIC dressage champion Charlotte Dujardin admits coming to terms with life after London 2012 and the probable sale of wonder-horse Valegro is "the worst feeling".
Dujardin has taken the sport by storm during an astonishing 18-month rise from obscurity to world number one, via two Olympic gold medals, a world record and European team title.
But a period of consolidation now awaits on the road to next year's Europeans, 2014 World Equestrian Games and 2016 Rio Olympics.
Valegro, co-owned by Dujardin's mentor and Great Britain team-mate Carl Hester and Roly Luard, is rated in the £10 million bracket following his spectacular successes at Greenwich Park.
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And after keeping the horse for 27-year-old Dujardin to chase Olympic glory, a parting of the ways now appears likely with big-money offers set to be tabled, although contrary to some reports the horse has not yet been sold.
"I have started riding Valegro again following his post-Olympics holiday," said Dujardin.
"I have to thank Carl and Roly for keeping the horse for me for the Olympics and being able to do what I've done on him. Who knows? Someone might come along, buy him and keep him for me.
"It will be very sad if he goes, but that is something I have to deal with.
"It's going to be hard to ever have a horse to replace Valegro. He is a professor. I think he read the dressage book and learnt it all before he ever did it.
"The power he has is sensational, and his mentality and desire is so special.
"There were 24,000 people watching at Greenwich, and he just took it all in his stride. He loves the limelight."
Such is Dujardin's talent, spirit and determination to succeed, it would be no surprise if she arrives at the European Championships in Denmark in August as a major medal contender.
But she also knows the next few months promise to be a testing phase of her career.
"I've had so many goals that I wanted to achieve," she added.
"I wanted to ride on the same British team as Carl, I wanted to do the Europeans, Olympia and the Olympics, and I've done it all in 18 months with a world record in between.
"The Olympics are now all over, I've got the possibility of Valegro being sold, and it is the worst feeling.
"It is one of the hardest things I've had to deal with. I have got other horses that are up and coming, but at the moment it feels really tough.
"I have done everything I wanted to do in the space of 18 months, so I kind of think, 'What do I do now?'
"There is Rio in 2016, but it won't be the same as going to London and hearing 24,000 people – nearly all British – cheering, stamping their feet and screaming your name.
"I can honestly say I had the time of my life in London. I don't regret one part of it, and I have never wanted the moment to end."
Almost two months on from her team and individual triumphs at Greenwich, Dujardin revealed she was reduced to tears when she first watched her stunning gold medal freestyle routine that included stirring strains of Land of Hope and Glory interspersed with Big Ben chimes.
It was a performance that earned Dujardin a score of 90.089 per cent, giving her a third Olympic record in three rides during an unforgettable week.
"It made me cry when I watched it back," she said. "It was such an emotional feeling.
"It was the goal I always wanted, but even when I watched it back with my mum I said to her, 'I can't believe I've done what I've done'
"I just felt so relaxed. I wanted to show everybody what Valegro and I could do."
Dujardin has a string of promising horses at Hester's Newent yard, headed by Don Archie, while a new-found status as the world's top dressage rider could see owners offering her rides.
But whatever happens, Dujardin is ready to meet the challenges ahead and continue doing everything she can to keep British dressage in the sporting spotlight.
"I've had grown men who had no idea about dressage saying to me, 'You are the girl off the dancing horse at the Olympics that brought me to tears'," she said.
"I am so glad we got the sport out there, and hopefully we will now get more people behind us and maybe a few more sponsors.
"It has all been so surreal, especially being called the 'golden girl'. That is really weird."