“As the familiar strains of his London 2012 Freestyle music began, a sell-out Olympia crowed watched as Valegro floated into the arena and stepped into a still, square halt.
In this, the finale to competitive career, he remained as flawless and exact as ever. Were it not for his white boots – banned in competition, of course – you would think it was just another one of his record-smashing, medal-winning performances.
But it wasn’t. It was one last dance in front of the adoring audience, in the arena where we had witnessed so many of his magical routines.
Even without all that pressure of competition, the pair produced perfection. When the crowd began clapping along in the final moments, carried away by what they were witnessing, Valegro’s ears barely flickered.
And that iconic, familiar music – the chimes of Big Ben, the Great Escape, the building crescendos of Land of Hope and Glory and the emotion of I vow to thee my country, taking us back to that unforgettable Olympic summer. To when the Games came home and dressage turned a humongous corner.
We were all transported back four-and-a-half years, when this new pair were being talked about as potential medallists. When a special horse and rider led a nation to their first ever Olympic gold medals in dressage. When people who didn’t have a clue about dressage suddenly started talking about those ‘dancing horses’.
Since then Charlotte and Valegro have performed other music routines, those which gave them world record busting scores, but the London 2012 one remains the most iconic.
Those who are in the Great Hall at Olympia tonight are so lucky to have seen it one last time. To remember that turning point, and to reflect on what this incredible pair has achieved since. That double of Olympic golds was just the beginning of an unprecedented run of European, World and Olympic success.
That Freestyle test marked the beginning of something incredible, so it’s fitting it should also be the end.”