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The teenager hitting the big time with some of the world’s best horses – riders to watch in 2023

Horse & Hound is looking ahead to the new season with our experts’ selection of equestrians to follow

  • If Annabella Pidgley was a dressage rider to a watch out for in 2022, she should be even more firmly on your radar in 2023.

    The 18-year-old has taken her budding dressage career to new heights over the past 12 months, largely thanks to the multi-medalled gelding Gio, and the next year promises to be just as exciting for the pair.

    Almost exactly year after the Pidgleys purchased Gio, winner of two Olympic bronze medals and European bronze and silver with Charlotte Dujardin, Annabella made a successful grand prix debut with the experienced Apache gelding. The pair scored over 73% on that occasion, with Annabella calling Gio, known at home as Pumpkin, “the best teacher”.

    Fast forward just six weeks and the duo have not only made their international debut together at Kronenberg CDI in the Netherlands, but came back from that show with a brilliant win in the grand prix special, on plus-75%.

    “I’m just enjoying this so much, and I feel so lucky to be able to learn from Pumpkin. All I can do is rise to the occasion and what an opportunity it is to compete alongside so many of my role models,” she says. “Charlotte always wants to me do well.

    “Pumpkin will have a well-deserved rest now, and then we are aiming for some early internationals next year, to get back out again at senior level. I’ve really got the bug.”

    And it’s not just Pumpkin who makes the upcoming year so exciting for Annabella Pidgley. In September it was revealed that the Pidgleys’ 10-year-old Vamos Amigos, whom Denmark’s Cathrine Laudrup-Dufour rode to team gold at the 2022 World Dressage Championships, had joined Annabella’s string. She and the Vitalis son made their competitive debut together in mid-December, finishing second in the grand prix at Arena UK High Profile show, and look set to build on their exciting partnership in 2023.

    Then there’s Espe and Sultan Des Paluds, each junior European medallists for Annabella, including team bronze, individual silver and bronze in 2022. But although Annabella has already made a successful start to young riders, having won two international classes at the level on Espe in October, it’s the big time she is really targeting. And with horses of such calibre as Vamos Amigos and Gio in her string, and two of the best riders in the world as her trainers – Charlotte Dujardin and Cathrine Laudrup-Dufour – expect to see Annabella cementing her place amongst senior stars in 2023.

    She has already proved she has the talent and the dedication necessary to make it to the top, and she has horsepower most can only dream of at her fingertips. Could British senior teams be on the cards for Annabella in the years to come?

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