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BLOG: When Opportunity Knocks (Part 1)

Abbie O'Brien and Rajah's Rave, Charlotte Dujardin Masterclass - Photo Stephen Mowbray

Abbie and Rajah putting their best hoof forward under the watchful eye of Charlotte.

© Stephen Mowbray


Well, it’s the start of another year and to say that 2017 for me has started with a bang would be a mighty understatement.

For those of you who aren’t aware, I live and have my horses’ agisted at Boneo Park Equestrian Centre on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria. One evening towards the end of 2016 I heard that Charlotte Dujardin was coming to Australia, and better yet, she was coming to Boneo Park!

I had a minor fan girl moment and began to grin from ear to ear. Charlotte and her horse, Valegro, have no doubt made an astonishing impact on modern day dressage – no one can deny that she has done something that we all dream of. 

She has ridden and trained Valegro from a young horse through to Grand Prix with the help and guidance from her coach and Valegro’s owner, Carl Hester. To train a horse to Grand Prix is a feat in itself and, as I am currently learning, takes a lot of time, patience and commitment. We aspire after training a horse to then have the opportunity to represent our country and show off the partnership – whether it be at a World Equestrian Games, World Cup Final or Olympic Games. I think that is an ultimate dream for most. We are human so we often hope for more than that – we hope for a medal, to stand on the podium. We also hope to be the best the world has ever seen and to break the records.

Charlotte and Valegro have achieved all of this and it was very fitting for him to retire from active sport after achieving his second individual Olympic gold medal at Rio. So I guess, what is next for Charlotte? I often think about what it would be like to have achieved all that so young and so early in your career, that will be hard to top! I have heard some say that she may be a one horse wonder and she will never reach that peak again; but I also think so what? We all hope and search for just one special horse that will take us beyond anything we dreamed could be reality. The reality is they just don’t come along very often, if at all.

So, Charlotte came to Australia to do a masterclass. There were five spots available for horse and rider combinations. An online application process was conducted and at the start of January I was contacted privately by the Canadian event management company SH Productions and told that I was one of the lucky five with my big chestnut horse, Rajah!


Abbie O'Brien March Blog

Abbie and Rajah getting ready to enter the arena.

© Abbie O'Brien


I had that grin from ear to ear again and may/may not have skipped around work and blasted the radio as loud as it would go. We all forget how old we are sometimes! The excitement began to turn to nerves and reality began to kick back in when Boneo was getting prepared for the event. The marquee tents, the grandstands – there was going to be a lot of people. I think just under 2000 was the number. Rajah has grown up a lot over the years but I can never be quite sure how sensible he is going to be in an unusual (and somewhat stressful) environment.

I hadn’t entered him to compete at the Boneo Classic so we were able to just focus on the masterclass. We are currently in the gap between small tour (Prix St Georges and Intermediate 1) and big tour (Grand Prix). This makes competing a little tricky as he has to become very established in the Grand Prix work before competing at a big event but I also decided that dropping him back to small tour was interrupting the training and progress – so, the compromise is to not compete until we see how far we can get with the Grand Prix work.

The masterclass was to be held on the Saturday evening of the Boneo Classic and prior to this we were informed that we would get to meet Charlotte and have her watch us ride privately on the Friday evening. I was so nervous/excited!








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