Bredahl Dressage

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Going to the Olympics was the greatest experience of my life and something I will always look back at with very fond memories. When people ask if I would like to do it again, my answer is yes. However I know how much dedication and work goes into it and  I feel incredibly lucky to have made it once in my life. It is one of those special things that no one can ever take away from me and I am very grateful for that.

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Charlotte Bredahl-Baker and Carol Lavell, along with Robert Dover and Michael Poulin, comprised the bronze medal U.S. Olympic Dressage Team in Barcelona in 1992.  Although both women participated in the same games, their experiences were quite different.

Charlotte rode Monsieur, her then-11-year-old Danish Warmblood chestnut gelding.

"I first seriously considered trying out for the Team probably in 1990."   Charlotte recalls.  "We placed third in the National Finals, and I felt that was a good indication that we might make it.  I was also alternate for the World Championship in Stockholm.  And that was my first year showing grand prix with Monsieur.

"I originally picked Monsieur in Denmark, when he was five years old.  A friend and I had gone there to buy some horses, train them, and then resell them.   Well, the other horse we bought we had no trouble selling, but no one wanted Monsieur.  For two years I tried very hard to sell him, but I couldn't find a buyer.

"I think somehow he just didn't want to be sold.   Every time someone would come to try him, he acted like he was on remote control.   It was very embarrassing.  It made it look as if he wasn't trained at all.  I truly believe he was meant to be my horse.  It ended up being a very lucky thing that he never sold.

"I trained him myself, but I had a lot of help.  The USET sent us to Germany to train, and we learned a lot over there.  I took lessons with Hilda Gurney, and attended many clinics with Robert Dover, and these, also, helped me tremendously.

"I didn't actually know we were going to the Olympics until the last minute.   There were 12 riders in the tryouts, which were held in Florida.  There were four tests to ride, overall, and the top six riders would be sent to Europe.

"I went into the arena to ride my first test, and at that exact minute, a school which was right next to the show grounds dismissed their kids.  Monsieur totally lost all focus.  I got the worst score of my career and ended up eleventh out of 12 riders.  I thought it was all over.  But the next day I had the best ride of my life and ended up in third place.  I placed third and fourth on the next two tests and just made it into sixth place.  So I went to Europe, and during the four tests there I ended up third overall.  That's how I made the Team.

"Getting to the Olympics was pretty nerve-wracking.  I felt like we had to be great every single time we rode.  But once I had actually made the Team, I felt less pressured.  I felt the hardest part was already over.  I was very excited just to be there on the team.

"There are two things which really stand out in my memory of the Olympics.   One was walking in the opening ceremony.  It gave me goose bumps.  The other thing was riding in the awards ceremony and then standing on the podium and getting the bronze medal - it just felt like the culmination of all the years of dedication to the sport and the horses.  To have achieved this after all the trials and tribulations - it was really phenomenal.  No matter what happens, no one can ever take that away from me."