Having Olympic and world medal-winning horses in our stables is something most of us can only dream of, but for 18-year-old Annabella Pidgley, it’s a remarkable reality.
Annabella purchased Olympic bronze medallist Gio from Charlotte Dujardin in 2021, and last autumn brought home her own Vamos Amigos, winner of team gold with Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour at the 2022 world championships.
But taking over the ride on such talented and well-known horses hasn’t been a walk in the park.
“It’s been incredible but definitely challenging,” says Annabella of learning to master the bouncy little chestnut gelding Gio, known at home as Pumpkin. “I’ve had to really step up my riding from last year competing in juniors to this year doing senior grand prix.”
Annabella only made her own grand prix debut last October, but has already made her mark on the senior circuit, while continuing to compete in young riders as well. She says she owes much of her success so far to taking things slowly when she first bought Gio, and laying solid foundations under Charlotte’s expert direction.
“In the beginning and having such an exciting horse join my team, I wanted to have him at home, but Charlotte suggested we keep him with her so she could oversee our training,” she explained on The Horse & Hound Podcast episode 135, supported by Charles Owen.
“Setting those foundations and roots early on in our partnership has really helped us down the line, as we’ve been able to build on that, and our scores have really started to improve now,” says Annabella, who now has Pumpkin home at her Berkshire yard, but still trains with Charlotte once a week.
Annabella Pidgley: ‘I just focus on my horses and our training’
When it comes to developing her partnership with Vamos Amigos, Annabella admits that she had some negativity on social media to deal with, as people publicly expressed their disappointment that the gelding would not stay with Cathrine.
“Initially it was not nice to see people writing mean things, especially when it was always the plan that I would take over the ride on Vamos,” says Annabella.
“It was amazing that Cathrine did so well with him and I do understand that people felt attached to their partnership. Most people were so supportive, but a few couldn’t understand why I was now riding him.
“I try to focus on the positivity and just on me and my horses. It’s amazing to be in our bubble and focus on our training. I’m on a different journey with Vamos compared to Cathine, and I’m on a different journey with Pumpkin than Charlotte. So I’m just trying to focus on myself. I’m so grateful to be able to have such amazing horses that I don’t want the negativity to impact that.”
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