Hester happy to make way
Olympic gold medallist Carl Hester is prepared to step aside from Great Britain's European Championship team.
Hester is prepared to step aside this year if it helps nurture the next generation of international dressage riders.
Hester was part of a three-strong team alongside Charlotte Dujardin and Laura Bechtolsheimer that won the Olympic title at Greenwich Park last summer.
Dujardin followed up with individual gold on Valegro, while Bechtolsheimer and Mistral Hojris took bronze as British dressage enjoyed its finest hour.
The challenge now is to build on that success, starting with this year's Europeans in Denmark, followed by the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy and then the Rio Olympics two years later.
And Hester believes it is key that potential British team members - young talent such as Michael Eilberg and Nikki Crisp - are identified and developed for medal assaults stretching 10 years down the line.
"I would be available for the Europeans if they want me," said Hester.
"But I think it would be great to give some of the other riders a chance of a team placing this year because we might need them for future teams.
"There are people like Michael and Nikki Crisp, and you have got to think about who is going to make the team in the next 10 years, really.
"I think the next couple of years are going to be another building process, but we've done it before.
"We are going to have to let some new riders in, which is going to be exciting, and gives them a boost. Our next group of riders will be enthused by what happened last year.
"They know what they have to do to keep the standard up, but they will be going in on the back of success. We need to wait until March, really, get a few of the shows out of the way and just see who is coming to the front.
"Laura intends to still go with Hojris for another year, and I would make myself available and will go (to the Europeans) if I am needed.
"But I would like to have a year where I campaign smaller shows with the younger horses.
"I know you have to build them up to be at the top level, and I can't suddenly expect to pop in on a new horse and be a medal contender. The horses need different build-ups."
With Hester's Olympic horse Uthopia set to be sold, he is aiming Dances with Wolves at next year's World Games and then the Rio Olympics, while he also recently gained the ride on another exciting prospect Fine Time.
"I don't think Dances with Wolves will emotionally cope with the pressure of a team this year, so I am not going to push him," Hester added.
"I really feel he is a 2014 horse and then Rio, that's his plan. He is bang on form for a good World Games and Olympics.
"Fine Time could be ready for this year, but I am more thinking about letting the others have a go this year and get some riders with experience on teams that will cover the future."
Moves are ongoing in an attempt to attract sizeable financial support through a syndicate aimed at keeping Valegro, a horse that Hester co-owns, with Dujardin.
But if Valegro is sold, Hester has no doubt about his protege Dujardin's ability to spearhead future British teams at major championships.
"It is still a 50-50, to be honest. Some people have come forward, but we haven't reached the target that we wanted at the moment," he said. "There are still people we are talking to, so it's definitely not a foregone conclusion that he (Valegro) is going. It is just a question of whether we can raise enough money.
"Charlotte has got a good string of horses coming up, and she can also attract some really good horses now with her fame. It might not be Valegro, but she is a damn good team rider, and it doesn't have to be Valegro to sustain the team.
"We are going to sit down in the next few weeks and make the next plan, really."
Hester and Dujardin's memorable 2012 will be featured in a Horse and Country TV documentary "Carl and Charlotte: Golden Year" to be screened on Sky Channel 280 on Thursday 17 January at 8pm.
And the 45-year-old revealed it was not until New Year's Eve that he was able to fully reflect on the Olympics and the post-Games celebrations that meant an unprecedented media and public spotlight for British equestrian sport.
"New Year's Eve was a fantastic night," he added. "That was the one time I sat down with a group of friends and realised how big the year had been.
"The pressure had disappeared, which is a great feeling. Until that happens, you don't really appreciate what happened.
"I knew history had been made in 2012, and it was the one time I could reflect on the plan coming off."
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