Ah , Valegro. Superstar dressage horse who made all our hearts flutter in the last two Olympics. If you’ve ever wondered how Valegro started off, and what life is like if you’re a horse on Carl Hester’s yard (and indeed if you’re a dog, a guinea fowl, or a human) then this is the book for you.
There’s not a great deal of narrative excitement in the book, as obviously we all know what’s going to happen. What we don’t know, however, is how Valegro got there, and that’s what this book covers – or at least his early life. The book is the first of a series and I admit I am looking forward to what happens when Valegro meets the woman who was to become his rider, Charlotte Dujardin. What this book tells you is what happens when Valegro is first shipped from Holland over to Carl Hester’s yard.
We’re probably all familiar with some elements of his story, but this book introduces you to things you probably didn’t know, such as the Hester naming convention (all horses the year Valegro arrived were given stable names of fruits) and that Valegro busily passaged all by himself in Holland: actual proper passaging, and not just in the midst of general field mucking about.
The book does have considerable charm, and gives an excellent insight into the somewhat esoteric world of dressage; one that most children will have little to no idea about. That does mean that at times the pace drags a little, because of the very careful explanations to make sure that all readers, and not just the horsy, will understand what is going on. And I think on balance that that’s a good thing, as this book is intended for children, and not for me.
If you know a child who was charmed by Valegro at the Olympics, then this book should be an absolutely ideal Christmas present.
Thank you to Janet Rising for sending me a copy of this book.
Carl Hester with Janet Rising: Valegro, the Little Horse with the Big Dream
Kindle: £3.99, Kobo: £3.47
Age range: aimed at key stage 2 (ie, for non UK readers, ages 7–11)
Themes: growing up, dressage