Gio is dressage superstar Charlotte Dujardin’s horse who recently wowed the world with his performance at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The famous chestnut horse has previously achieved impressive Grand Prix scores. He is predicted by many to become Dujardin’s next dressage legend.
Gio is actually co-owned by Dujardin herself, her mentor Carl Hester and her friend from New Zealand Renee Hart. The pure Dutch Warmblood gelding comes from the sire lines of Apache and Tango, foaled by Zanzi. Those close to him describe Gio as playful, attention-seeking, and eager to please.
On their first-ever Grand Prix event at Keysoe CDI, Dujardin and Gio achieved an impressive 79% in the Freestyle category. More remarkable scores followed in the high seventies and eighties, paving their way to the Olympics.
Stats about Gio:
|Born:||July 4th, 2011|
|Height:||16 hands (162.5 cm)|
|Owners:||Charlotte Dujardin, Renai Hart, Carl Hester|
Here are 6 interesting facts about Gio, Charlotte Dujardin’s horse!
Gio was Previously Owned by Amelie Kovac
Amelie Kovac is a French-Croatian dressage rider who moved from Holland to the United States in 2012. Her plan was to start a new life training and selling horses, which she did successfully.
Once she sold on her beloved Grand Prix horse Treffer, Kovac returned home to look for her next project. She soon came across the then 3-year-old Gio, fiery and completely green. According to The Chronicle of the Horse, it took the horse no more than three steps for Kovac to realize she’s found what she was looking for.
Mesmerized by Gio’s natural carriage and “crazy good” hind leg, Kovac purchased him without even looking at other horses. The promising chestnut arrived in the United States in April 2015, ready to begin his training.
After only a year and a half of schooling with Kovac, Gio proved his potential at local shows. Naturally, Kovac became extremely fond of the horse.
“He’s so smart, just super super smart and loves to work. I never had to work him very much. I would ride him maybe three or four times a week at the most, and the other days he would just go in the field. He was always so nice to ride and happy to work, so I wanted to keep it that way, keep it fun for him.” she told The Chronicle of the Horse.
Dujardin and Gio First Met in the United States
In October 2016, Charlotte Dujardin was holding a clinic at the SH Production’s Symposium at El Campeon Farms in Los Angeles, California. Amelie Kovac happened to be at the same event. After getting a last-minute call that space just opened up for a horse, she brought Gio too.
From the moment Kovac and Gio walked into the arena, Dujardin couldn’t take her eyes off the horse. It was love at first sight. “I don’t know what it was about him, you just know these things, it’s instinct. I looked at him and just immediately loved him and then got on him and was like ‘wow’.” the Olympian told Gloucestershire Live.
After just a few minutes, Dujardin asked Kovac if she would consider selling the horse and whether she could ride him. Seeing their connection, Kovac assured her that if she was to ever sell Gio, she would sell him to Dujardin.
“When I saw her ride, it was perfect. It was like she felt him, and he would just follow her. Since he arrived in the United States, he hadn’t had anyone else on him,” Kovac told The Chronicle of the Horse.
After Dujardin became interested in Gio, Kovac received many tempting offers for the 5-year-old gelding. However, she turned them all down, convinced that Dujardin offered the highest quality of life for the horse.
His Nicknames are “Pumpkin” and “Pocket Rocket”
It was actually Amelie Kovac’s girlfriend who originally came up with the nickname “Pumpkin” for Gio. She thought the name fit the rather small and round chestnut gelding perfectly. And it stuck.
Dujardin has also taken a liking to the affectionate name and Gio soon became known as “Pumpkin” among his fans. The horse’s small stature and feisty character further inspired Dujardin to call him “Pocket Rocket”.
The Olympian just can’t seem to get enough of what Gio has to offer. “He’s a lovely, lovely horse – such a cheeky little character, but so loving at the same time.” she told British Equestrian.
Gio Won His First Ever Show With High Scores
Gio’s first outing with Dujardin was at Hunters EC in Gloucestershire, England. The gelding won both of his elementary level tests effortlessly, scoring 74.4% and 77.94%. Elementary tests involve leg-yield, medium paces, simple changes, and counter canter.
On their international debut at Keysoe CDI, the combination brought home an impressive 79%. On the 2020 Hartpury Grand Prix and Freestyle, they scored 79.10% and 88.05% respectively, earning second place. So far, the gelding has over-delivered on every occasion, making the pair of them unstoppable.
Dujardin and Gio Won Bronze at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics
After a year-long wait, Charlotte Dujardin and Gio finally had the chance to showcase their skills at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, held in July-August, 2021. The dressage event was certainly a turning point in Gio’s career, and the talented gelding didn’t disappoint.
Competing alongside teammates Carl Hester and Charlotte Fry, Dujardin helped the British team to a bronze medal. Their total scores came to 7723 points, not far behind the United States’ 7747 points. The gold medal went to the German team who scored an impressive 8178 points.
Dujardin and Gio also won bronze on the Grand Prix Freestyle test, having scored 88.54%, which is their personal best on an international level. When asked to describe Gio’s overall performance, Dujardin commented: “I can’t ask any more. I really felt emotional on the last centerline because when you have a ride like that, it doesn’t matter if you win or lose. That’s what it’s all about for me.” (source: The Chronicle of the Horse)
While Dujardin previously said she will never have another horse like Valegro, she and Gio have grown close over the past few years. The cheeky chestnut helped her through the toughest times of her life. The pair actually won Olympic bronze a year to the day after Dujardin’s fiancée left her, which finally helped Dujardin get over her relationship.
Also read: 8 Interesting Facts About Valegro
Dujardin Chose Gio for the Olympics Because of the Weather
Many fans have wondered why Dujardin chose to compete with Gio instead of her more experienced Mount St. John Freestyle in the Olympics. In The Chronicle of the Horse, she revealed that the Tokyo heat would’ve taken a toll on Freestyle, while Gio acclimatizes much better. After weighing the pros and cons, she decided that Gio would have the highest chances of succeeding.
Despite only having six or seven Grand Prix under his belt, the chestnut gelding dominated a field of older and more experienced horses. While Dujardin didn’t really know what to expect of him in an Olympic arena, “He went in, and he tried his absolute heart out.“
To say that Dujardin was happy with Gio’s performance is an understatement. “That is as good as winning because I came out of there knowing he could not have done any more. For where he is in his training and how [few] competitions he’s done, he couldn’t have done any more. That, to me, is like a gold medal.” she told The Chronicle of the Horse.
How Tall is Charlotte Dujardin’s Horse Gio?
Charlotte Dujardin’s horse Gio is 16 hands (162.5 cm) tall. While this is quite tall for an average horse, it is considered short in the elite dressage world.
When Dujardin’s mentor Carl Hester first saw Gio, he famously mocked him for a pony. As Dujardin told The Chronicle of the Horse, “When he [Gio] came off the lorry, Carl was like, “What have you bought? You bought a pony.” I was like, “Well, you wait and see.” And here he is today!
True enough, the chestnut gelding has defied all odds against him. Every time someone has doubts over his potential as a top-level dressage horse, Dujardin is quick to defend him.
“He does everything and more. He’s like a powerhouse. He might be small, but he’s definitely mighty. He’s got a power engine in there” the champion told The Chronicle of the Horse.
Also read: 12 Facts & FAQs About Charlotte Dujardin
How Old is Gio the Horse?
Pumpkin, Charlotte Dujardin’s horse is 10 years old. He was born on July the 4th, 2011.
To compete in the Olympics, a horse must be at least 9 years old. With that being said, most Olympic dressage horses are well into their teens. They also progressed further in training than Gio has, which makes his achievements all the more impressive.
What’s Next for Charlotte Dujardin and Gio?
Winning two Olympic bronze medals is an incredible success for such a young horse, but the story doesn’t stop here. Looking ahead, Dujardin has high hopes for her beloved Pumpkin. She says he needs to get stronger and more confident in what he’s doing, and then he’s going to give even more.
As for the Paris Olympic Games in 2024, Dujardin is confident Gio will not disappoint. In the article of The Week, she shared: “Gio is green still, there is so much more to come,” she said. “He’s ten years old and look what he’s done. He’s going to be a superstar. When you’ve had a horse like Valegro it’s very difficult to find another to follow him, but in my head I know I can do it again.”
On the other hand, great things have already happened for Charlotte Dujardin herself this year. By winning two bronze medals, Dujardin became the first British woman ever to win 6 Olympic medals. For a short time, she was also Britain’s most decorated female Olympian, a title she now shares with cyclist Laura Kenny.
As many sources have pointed out, Dujardin is still considered a newbie in the sport of dressage, aged only 36. The Telegraph, among others, predicts that if she continues to compete for the next few decades, “her record could be untouchable”. And rightfully so.