Carl Hester is a superb equestrian – everyone knows this, but many would be unaware that he also has some thespian blood. His biological father is UK actor, Tony Smee.
“I was actually born in Cambridge in 1967,” Carl explains. “My mother, Brenda, had been sent there to stay with a social worker after falling pregnant while still at school. After I was born she returned to London to finish her A levels.
“When I was very young the doctor advised we move to Sark as I kept suffering bouts of pneumonia. There she met and married Jess Hester, a carpenter, and had more children. When I was at boarding school she’d sometimes ring and tell me to look at Coronation Street, Morse or other mainstream shows of the time so I could see what my father looked like. I finally met him in London when I was 19 and everything turned out well.”
As did Carl’s cameo appearance in The Equestrian, written and directed by Sybil H. Mair. Before starting to make movies she had studied literature and French and German languages, working as a freelance translator specialising in the social sciences. Her short film went on to win a slate of awards from festivals all over the world.
It tells the story of a young, ambitious dressage rider, Freddie Forester. His stallion is Gaius, played for much of the time by eight-year-old Sandro’s Dancer (by Sandro Hit) a 16.2hh Swedish warmblood. At the time of filming, he was trained and competed by Stephanie Eardley and owned by Rachel Struel, a British dressage trainer. Much of the action was shot at Home Farm Stud, Hartpury, in Gloucestershire where the stallion was standing. Other scenes were at Addington Manor Equestrian Centre in Buckinghamshire.
“I was going to adapt a short story about horse racing,” says Mair, “but then I noticed something much more interesting and subtle was going on in a horse and rider dressage combination. I considered it more intense and mysterious than other equestrian sports. Sandro’s Dancer was black and beautiful and trained to a high level in dressage.” (In her film the stallion looked to be more Prix St Georges than Grand Prix, but he did what was asked of him).