The Early Years
Carl was raised on the tiny Channel island of Sark, the island has no cars and horses are very much part of Sark life. It is no surprise that Carl learnt to ride, what is more surprising is where his early introduction to horses on this sleepy island has led him.
The first equine to be subjected to Carl’s skill was a donkey that Carl would ride to the village shop. Always eager on the way there for the chance of a carrot he stubbornly refused to leave for the journey home. Carl would get on board, then be handed the shopping and with a flap of the carrier bags that frightened the donkey they set off home at a spanking gallop.
The donkey was followed by a string of ponies and horses on the island, many led a double life pulling carriages in the day and becoming gymkana ponies for the local kids on their days off. Carl, like most kids raised on Sark drove carriages for tourists in school holidays as a way to earn pocket money.
Once a year the whole island gets together for the Sark horse show. This tradition still remains and the horse show weekend has now become an annual pilgrimage for Carl and friends. On one memorable trip Carl, with fellow riders Richard Barrett and Peter Storr, entered the bareback race. This is three laps at flat out gallop against the locals around a large field with every shape and size of horse and pony entered. If you think Carl is competitive in a grand prix you should have seen him that day, overtaking dangerously, cutting people up. He won and was as pleased as if it was a medal!
His biggest fan is his grandma who looks forward to Carl’s visit every summer. As the boat leaves Sark Nan waves from a rocky hill-top just as she did when Carl went off to school. It is tradition on Sark for ladies to throw a posy of flowers from the boat as it leaves, if the posy drifts back toward the island it means you will return. Luckily they always do.
The Main Land Calls
At 19 Carl had no ambition or aspirations but with no jobs on Sark and winter coming he decided to apply for a job with horses on the mainland. Through an advertisement in Horse and Hound Carl arrived at the Fortune Centre in Hampshire, where adults with learning and physical disabilities are given a sense of freedom and achievement through riding. It was there Carl had his first opportunity to compete and it was on the Fortune Centre’s skewbald mare, Jolly Dolly, that Carl won the 1985 Young Dressage Rider Championship.
His next job took him to the Gloucestershire village of Bourton on the Hill and the farm of Jannie and Christopher Taylor. "The three and a half years with the Taylors were happy years. I was made to ride difficult horses, Jannie’s speciality, which resulted in a broken ankle and shoulder during my brief eventing career. However I did compete at the first Blenheim Horse Trials and won the Spillers Dressage with Jumping Championship. It was during this time that I learnt the true basis of horsemanship, finding a way based on tact, patience, firmness and kindness when dealing with horses with behavioural problems. Making them think for themselves, rather than having their natural character and ability suppressed through harshness, this has stayed with me."
A Dressage Star is Born
Carl’s career took the most dramatic turn when Dr Bechtolsheimer approached him to join his yard as a rider. “I was totally overawed at the interview; I had never seen a yard like it or horses of this calibre. When Dr B asked me how much I would want I said nothing! To ride the horses would be enough! I remember Dr B smiling and saying how does £XX a week and a cottage sound. I thought all my birthdays had come at once!”
This part of Carl’s career is well documented but it is sufficient to say that Carl feels a lasting fondness and debt to Dr and Mrs B who literally gave him the chance of a lifetime.” I rode and trained with Dr B for three and a half years and in 1990 went to the World Championships on Rubelit von Unkenriff, the European Championships in 1991 and in 1992 the Barcelona Olympics on Georgioni. I was the youngest British rider to ever compete in an Olympic Games. It was the most amazing thing that had ever happened to me, and a period that changed the course of my life.”
On leaving Dr B Carl went into a business partnership with Kate Carter at her yard at Stow on the Wold. This continued until Kate decided to move for more space for her stud activities and soon Carl too had moved to buy his own yard.
There is no such thing as a lie-in at Carls. He is irritatingly cheerful and bouncing with energy first thing in the morning. With his mobile ringing and a shout to the dogs he is off to the yard. The schedule is tight, but not hurried where the horses are concerned. Carl never rushes a schooling session and each horse is worked for as long as is required to achieve the goal Carl has set. He misses nothing and calls instructions to the others on the team as they school along side him. The radio plays and quiet concentration fills the air. The afternoons are when Carl teaches his many clients.
Taken from www.carlhester.co.uk
Words from Wilfried and Ursula Bechtolsheimer
In October 1989, our then stable jockey informed us that he was heading back to Germany with four weeks’ notice. We were all the more surprised as we had won 4 classes at the National Championships for the second year running, had a stable full of horses and were beginning to make our mark.
Ursula and I started looking for a suitable jockey straightaway. Joan Gold told me that she knew somebody who seemed quite talented and desperately looking for job. We arranged an interview.
I will never forget the surprise when I opened the door and there was a shy young man with a big smile introducing himself as Carl Hester. ‘Oh God, what shall I do with this boy?’ I thought.
After a little chat and some pleasantries, we got to work fairly quickly. We had only one horse in work because all the others were turned out for their autumn break.
It was obvious from the beginning that this ‘boy’ had talent, but he was riding too fast in all paces and I told him we were doing dressage and not ‘Pony Express’!
He had never heard of the scales of training but he adjusted his tempo and rhythm very quickly and he was taking on board everything he was told instantly.
‘Not bad’, I thought but then came the canter changes. Single, three and four time changes all went well but when I said, ‘so Carl, let’s try some twos’, he stopped and said, ‘no way! I can’t do that’. After two attempts with me counting Carl down he did a row of very nice twos. When I asked him to try some one time changes he again stopped and said ‘No way, that is too much. I just can’t’. To cut a long story short, with a bit of help and some trial and error , Carl managed to ride 9 very presentable one time changes.
I told Carl ‘well done’, turned around to my wife and said ‘He has got the job’.
And here began a fairytale of a young man who was not only extremely talented but also eager to learn. He had a positive and happy attitude and was the most likable person to have around. Within five months of hard work for both of us he rode his first international Grand Prix and within nine months he was competing at the World Championships in Stockholm. The following year the Europeans didn’t go so well because good old Unki (Rubelit von Unkenruf), the horse Carl had been competing, was coming to the end of his career. I made the very difficult decision to hand my ‘Giorgione’ over to Carl, as I knew him to be a better rider and a rising star, and Carl went on to compete at the 1992 Olympics.
Within the short time span of just under four years, Carl had become not only the darling of British Dressage but also an extremely well-liked and respected international competitor.
I could go on for hours telling little anecdotes of Ursula’s and my experiences with Carl but this is not necessary as you all know Carl and he hasn’t really changed much. His outstanding successes in the sport speak for themselves. We are grateful and proud that we could play a part in Carl’s early career.
Dearest Carl, It was 28 years ago that you started with us. We wish you at least another 28 happy years with horses.
Wilfried and Ursula Bechtolsheimer