Annabella Pidgley will take over the ride on Charlotte Dujardin’s Olympic and European Championship medallist Gio, following the sale of the 10-year-old Apache gelding to the Pidgley family. So, who is Annabella Pidgley, and what can we expect of this exciting new British partnership?
Annabella Pidgley is a 16-year-old British dressage rider, who has competed extensively for Britain in pony and junior ranks. She is the daughter of the late Tony Pidgley, co-founder of the Berkeley Group and major equestrian supporter and benefactor, who died unexpectedly in 2020 aged 72. Her mother Sarah is a dressage rider and judge.
Annabella made her international debut in 2017, aged 12, riding Farbenfroh, and the combination scored a hat-trick of wins at Hickstead CDI that year.
She went on to enjoy a hugely successful pony career, partnering the German-bred chestnut mare Ine and palomino gelding Cognac IX. Annabella and Ine were members of the British team at the 2018 pony Europeans at Bishop Burton, finishing 13th individually and fourth as a team. A year later, she competed Cognac at the pony Europeans in Strzegom, Poland, finishing 11th individually and fourth as a team one more. In 2020, Annabella took the opportunity to compete at the re-scheduled pony Europeans at Pilisjaszfalu, Hungary, as an individual on a self-funded basis, after British Dressage announced it would not be fielding a team. There, she and Cognac achieved a top-30 individual finish.
In 2020, alongside ponies, Annabella also stepped up to junior competition with the Belissimo stallion Belafonte, previously owned and campaigned to great success in youth ranks by Ellie McCarthy. Annabella and Belafonte competed for Britain both at home and abroad, with numerous top three placings in 2020.
Early in 2021, it was announced that the Pidgleys had purchased the 11-year-old gelding Sultan Des Paluds, a son of Soliman De Hus, to be Annabella’s ride for her first full year in junior ranks. The French-bred gelding had been a reserve champion at the World Young Horse Championships in 2017, under Kirsten Brouwer, and had been competed to small tour level. He and Annabella hit the ground running, with triple victory at their first international show together, at Wellington CDI in May.
The pair were subsequently selected to compete at the junior European Championships at Oliva, Spain, in July. There, they made history by winning two individual silver medals, with Annabella becoming the first British rider to claim an individual podium place at the FEI junior European Dressage Championships.
“Although I’d always dreamed of it, I never thought I’d get a medal in my first year of juniors,” said Annabella, following her plus-80% freestyle test.
Annabella and Sultan Des Paludes also won the under-21 national championship title in 2021, as well as becoming advanced medium gold champions.
Annabella will turn 17 in November, so will still be eligible for juniors in 2022, and at just 10 years old, Gio has plenty more talent to offer in the years to come, so the future looks bright for this young pair. Annabella will continue to train with her long-term coach, the Danish Olympic rider Cathrine Dufour, as well as with Charlotte Dujardin on Gio.
“Under the training of both Cathrine Dufour and Charlotte, I will work every day to do my best by [Gio], bond with him and keep him in the manner he is used to,” said Annabella, who is based in Berkshire.
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