What do Charlotte Dujardin, Annabella Pidgley and Lottie Fry all have in common?

  • Charlotte Dujardin is back to her winning ways following the birth of her daughter Isabella in March, and she has revealed how training 18-year-old grand prix rider Annabella Pidgley while pregnant has helped with her return to competition.

    “My last show was the National Dressage Championships in September 2022, but since then I’ve been blessed that I’ve been going to shows with Annabella and I’ve lived the sport through her,” says Charlotte, who has trained Annabella since she sold her Tokyo Olympic and bronze and European silver medallist Gio to the Pidgley family in October 2021.

    Charlotte continues: “It has kept me in the game and kept my eye in, which really helped, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being with her and watching her succeed.”

    Indeed Annabella has made startling progress since taking over the ride on Gio, aka Pumpkin. She stepped up to grand prix for the first time only last October, but already has international wins at top level under her belt. She has also enjoyed success since taking over the ride on the family’s Vamos Amigos, who won team gold with Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour at last summer’s World Dressage Championships.

    And Charlotte has high hopes for Annabella, whom she says is “unbelievably dedicated to succeeding in the sport”.

    “I’ve never met anyone as dedicated as Annabella. She is up at a ridiculous time to train before going to school, and she rides again when she comes home as well as doing home tutoring. She’s been juggling exams and competing this year, and I don’t know how she does it all mentally. She is just so dedicated to learn and what she has learned in the last few years is phenomenal.

    “Annabella’s like me – I see so much of myself in her,” adds Charlotte. “She goes into that arena and she knows the job she’s got to do, she doesn’t care what people think or what other people say, or what’s happening on the outside. She is just so focused and driven.

    “And she has balls of steel, too – there’s no fear in her. That’s where she’s good, and where I’m good and where Lottie Fry is good too. To be a really top rider you have to have no fear and just really want it.”

    Annabella Pidgley with Gio

    Annabella Pidgley riding Gio.

    It’s not the first time Charlotte and Lottie’s strengths have been compared, with Carl Hester explaining that “Lottie gives you that same sort of calmness while watching her that I finally learnt to get with Charlotte. They are so good at their job, so good at competing, that I don’t feel nervous or worried for her while watching”.

    “You never feel as though the situation will affect Lottie; it totally does not overwhelm her, and she is able to rise to the pressure. In fact, she rides better under pressure, just like Charlotte does,” added Carl.

    And now it seems that Annabella will soon be snapping at the heels of both Charlotte and Lottie as she continues to gain experience at senior level. She may have an undeniably superb string of horses in her stables, but Charlotte is keen to point out that having the means to acquire good horses only takes a rider so far.

    “Annabella is very fortunate that she is able to have these amazing horses, but there’s a lot of people out there who could have the same horses and wouldn’t be in the same position. When she is in that arena, I’m not there telling her what to do, she has to do it herself and cope with all the pressure and everything that’s said and done behind the scenes,” continues Charlotte. “That’s a lot for an 18-year-old.

    “I think of her as family now, and I get so nervous watching her! I wish her so much luck because I know how much it means to her and her family, and I’ve found it amazing to be a part of that.”

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