After nearly a decade as fixtures on the international Grand Prix scene, Charlotte Jorst is retiring her top horse and longtime partner Kastel’s Nintendo. The 20-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Negro—Rodieni R, Monaco) stallion’s last competition was the FEI World Cup Grand Prix freestyle held March 3 during the Palm Beach Dressage Derby, where the pair finished fifth (74.04%) and got a standing ovation on their way out of the arena.
“Nintendo” will have a formal retirement ceremony Friday during the CDI5* at Week 10 of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival (Florida). Going through photos in preparation for the ceremony hasn’t been the easiest for Jorst, she said.
“I’ve kind of always hidden my feelings, but I’ve decided I’m no longer going to,” she said. “I’m just going to be upset and happy and upset again about all this. It’s such an emotional thing.”
After more than 100 Grand Prix competitions together, the absence of Nintendo’s dark bay face with its familiar large teardrop snip at the showgrounds will be something for her to get used to. But Jorst, 58, has no shortage of talented horses waiting to follow in his hoofprints.
We sat down with the Reno, Nevada-based amateur athlete and owner/founder of Kastel Denmark to talk about the end of an era, her rising stars, and her plans to continue Nintendo’s legacy with his three, nearly year-old clones—Nintendo Switch, Nintendo 64 and Super Nintendo—and Led Zhaplin and Stairway To Heaven, the two clones of Zhaplin Langholt, the 10-year-old Danish Warmblood (Zonik N.O.P.—Sonia Langholt, Stedinger) with whom she currently is leading the FEI’s CDI1* world rankings.
With Nintendo’s retirement ceremony coming up this Friday, what memory are you most thankful for in your journey together?
My favorite memory has to be Aachen 2021, where we had that absurd freestyle. All of a sudden, out of the blue, Nintendo just decided that this was his day and this was his thing. We almost got an 80%. I got 7’s in Aachen. It was unbelievable. It was just magical. That whole show for me was just incredibly good.
But I’m also very thankful just for the journey. What I’ve really found out is that with horses the journey is the destination. I’m thankful for my friends, who I can share this with, that have witnessed the journey on Facebook and on Instagram and in show after show after show here in Wellington and in Europe.
Nintendo has been such a love fest. Everyone has such great memories of him. He’s just an incredible animal. When everybody got on their feet and clapped after a test of his, he was just so happy. He stayed happy for days after that. He was all invigorated. He just commanded this immense respect for his presence in the arena.
You scored a personal best 76.20% with “Zhaplin” to finish second in the Stillpoint Farm FEI Nations Cup Intermediaire I freestyle at the CDIO3* during AGDF 7 last month. What was it like being on the podium?
It was cool! It was crazy sharing it with Christian Simonson and Alexander Helgstrand. There’s almost 40 years between us. And you know, what separated me from the gold medal position was that I messed my twos, but I was happy to see Christian win, because he’s such a nice guy. It was just so funny, I was just up there laughing.
I’m at Helgstrand every day—there’s, like, all these young people there, getting better and better each day. Sometimes, it can feel like you’re falling behind, and like you’ll never catch up. I’ve gone through all of those emotions. But just know that it can be done at a later time.
You are leading the FEI’s CDI1* world rankings Zhaplin in what has been a break-out season for him. How is he developing, and will he be stepping into Nintendo’s shoes soon? How similar is he to Nintendo?
He’s so good, it’s crazy. I wanted him to be a happy athlete going in—I wanted it to be pretty and harmonious and all of that—so I’m really working hard on all of those things. I think he’ll get it. I’m just doing it at the tempo that he can do it at.
I think this summer, I’ll keep him [in Wellington] until June, and then I’ll take him back to Reno, let him chill out a little bit, and then come back and hopefully do the CDIs in the fall with him at Grand Prix.
He’s a very different ride than Nintendo. He’s much more predictable. Nintendo was never predictable. With Nintendo, he’d always look the same, but it always felt completely different. So I never had any kind of peace. It was like, some days he was extremely strong, other days he was fine. I always just kind of had to ride what I had, but it was nerve-wracking. Zhaplin is way more the same every day. He’s just goes in, and you know where you’re at. It’s easier to visualize your test and prepare for it with him because you know how it’s going to feel.
But with Nintendo, you try to visualize the test, and then you get up on him, and you’re like, “Oh! this is completely different from what I thought it was going to be!” It was so challenging. He was always very strong in the front. Sometimes you could get him back in the corners, but sometimes you just couldn’t. When I went across the diagonal to do my pirouettes, every single time I was thinking, “Oh my god, I’m never gonna get this horse back. He’s going to jump the fence!” And then every time he got back, of course, and did a perfect pirouette because he just did. It was always fun.
You sent your 8-year-old Straight Horse Cosmo (Grand Galaxy Win—Romanik, Blue Hors Romanov) to a hunter/jumper trainer recently. What gave you that idea and, now that you’ve gotten him back, how did that training help?
He had been so lazy in the spring; I didn’t know what to do. My daughter does hunter/jumpers, and I was thinking, maybe he would be a better hunter/jumper. So I sent him—and he was, arguably, a very, very good hunter/jumper. He’s so pretty and has so much charisma.
Then I was like, OK, I’m going try one more time to see if I can’t make him forward enough to be a dressage horse. I took him to Wellington, and literally after a month, he was doing the Prix St. Georges.
Now he goes forward, ears forward—he’s loving dressage. So I just think maybe it was the wrong approach in the spring. Sometimes you just kind of have to take a new approach to things.
Speaking of young horses, how are your Nintendo and Zhaplin clones growing up? What is your plan for them?
They are doing great. It’s been so cold up there in Reno, the poor little animals are in snow and ice up to their knees. But they’re doing great. They’re so fun because they’re so sweet. They’re kind of like Nintendo—they know everything, so you can just kind of put a halter on them and lead them around. They’re not like other foals, where you have to teach them to go in a halter. People say that [clones] are born with a memory. It’s fascinating.
I talked to [Danish Olympian and Van Olst Horses co-owner] Anne van Olst this summer about taking the Nintendo clones, because she had Nintendo in the early years. And she said she’d take the clones. It would be so cool. I’m thinking maybe getting them to her when they are 2 or 3, and then letting her keep them for a couple of years. Because I’m going be 60 when they’re 3, I don’t want to be riding 3-year-olds. I think it would be fun to get them in that environment.
As for Zhaplin’s clones, [Zhaplin came from] Helgstrand, so that’s easier for me to emulate, because I know how that program really runs. So I could emulate that in Reno by keeping them with me. I could even take them to Florida and ride them with Lars [Petersen]. I will try to emulate as much as I can the dad’s way of growing up.
What are your goals for the year ahead, and how do you tackle simultaneously setting goals for your horses and your company, Kastel Denmark?
It’s so hard. Sometimes I have to compartmentalize a little bit because it just gets so overwhelming. I work really hard. And as soon as I’m not riding, I work the whole time. [Last year, Jorst took us through a day in her life that illustrated how riding and running a company work together.] But I like it. It doesn’t bother me.
I also listen to a lot of podcasts. I work a lot on my mental health, and on setting goals. I have A, B and C goals, so if I don’t reach the A goal, then I still have a B goal and C goal. That way, I always reach some kind of goal. It works really well for me, because otherwise you get so disappointed. And I don’t really get disappointed anymore, I just kind of approach things with an attitude of “I’m going to try my best.”
In the upcoming year, I want to see if I can make the Pan Am Games with Federle [a 9-year-old Hanoverian (Fuerstenball OLD—Fantastic Girl, Farewell III) who she is competing at Prix St. Georges/Intermediaire 1 this winter], my mare who’s doing extremely well. With Cosmo, I want to get through all the trials and tribulations [of his first Grand Prix tests] so that next year he’ll be really ready to go. He’s a very consistent horse, so I think that will be fine. And then, of course, I want to see if I can qualify for Paris next year with Zhaplin—or it could be with Federle or with Cosmo even. They all have really great talent for piaffe and passage. I’m so excited.