As the dressage world continues to grapple with the retirement of its biggest star, Valegro, leave it to Carl Hester to remind us that we humans are not the only ones feeling the void.

Hester of course acquired Valegro as a raw 2-year-old prospect, eventually tasking his development to an aspiring young groom named Charlotte Dujardin. The rest is poetry. Though there can only be one Valegro, Hester has developed a world-class partnership with his Dutch gelding Nip Tuck. The pair are poised for the podium at this weekend’s FEI World Cup Finals in Omaha, but will do so with heavy hearts and empty stomachs.

Turns out, Nip Tuck really misses his dude. 

“He didn’t eat for the first four days, bless him,” says Hester. “He’s still going in there and trying on an empty stomach, really. He only started to eat yesterday. The problem is, of course, he’s always traveled with Valegro, and now suddenly he’s started traveling on his own and he’s quite stressed about traveling on his own.”

Stablemates. Travel mates. Dancin’ mates. Mates to the end. But now, mates a world apart.

“Valegro was such an old pro. Never gets stressed, eats on the plane. Eats everywhere, basically. So the horses copied him and now he’s on his own a bit. He’s just insecure at the moment. He needs to travel a bit more on his own. He’ll get [there].”