The unexpected purchase who became a national treasure in 2021: charting Gio’s remarkable dressage career to-date

  • The diminutive 10-year-old gelding Gio was one of the equestrian world’s heroes in 2021, scooping two Olympic and two European medals with Charlotte Dujardin – and earning himself a nomination for the Bloomfields Horse of the Year gong at the Horse & Hound Awards.

    All eyes are sure to be on the Apache son in 2022 as well, as he moves to pastures new under his new owner, 16-year-old junior European medallist Annabella Pidgley. So as Gio – also known as Pumpkin – changes hands, we look back at his remarkable life and career so far…

    4 July 2011 – a little chestnut colt was born at Ad Valk Dressage, by grand prix stallion Apache and out of Zenzi, a then seven-year-old mare by the top KWPN grand prix stallion Glock’s Tango. The foal is named Gio.

    2014 – French-Croatian grand prix rider Amelie Kovac hears about a promising, yet unbacked and somewhat unruly three-year-old via grand prix rider Emmelie Scholtens, the rider of Apache. Amelie buys Gio and, the next spring, flies him to her base in California, where she renames him Toretto after the main character in the Fast & Furious film franchise.

    October 2016 – Amelie is asked to fill in at the last minute at SH Production’s Symposium at El Campeon Farms – featuring Charlotte Dujardin – after a horse originally due to feature in the clinic goes lame. She brings Gio, and Charlotte admits that she “instantly fell in love with him”.

    “As soon as he came in I thought, ‘Oh my god I love that horse’. Then I saw him trot and canter and I thought, ‘Oh my god, I really love that horse’.” Charlotte said.

    After riding Gio the following day, Charlotte asks Amelie how much she wants for the five-year-old gelding, by then known in the stables as Pumpkin, and the pair strike a deal.

    November 2016 – after passing a pre-purchase vetting, Gio arrives at Carl Hester’s yard in Gloucestershire, ready to embark on the next chapter of his life with Charlotte, back under his birth name.

    February 2017Charlotte quietly debuts Gio at his first UK show at Hunters Equestrian. The six-year-old gelding scores in 74.4% in elementary 44 and 77.94% in elementary 53.

    September 2017 – Charlotte qualifies and competes Gio at the National Dressage Championships at Stoneleigh, where he is crowned national elementary champion, and also wins the six-year-old young horse final.

    Gio and Charlotte Dujardin at home

    Gio at home at Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin’s base in early 2018

    2018 – a year of training results in Gio shooting up the levels, becoming reserve national champion at advanced medium at both the Winter Dressage Championships and the National Dressage Championships.

    September 2019 – Gio makes more startling progress, bypassing prix st georges and inter I to be crowned inter II national champion at the National Dressage Championships.

    “I thought, ‘What is the point of doing PSG and small tour with him as he is so talented at the piaffe and passage’,” said Charlotte. “He is just phenomenal; the bravest little horse and so genuine.”

    January 2020 – Charlotte squeezes in Gio’s much anticipated grand prix debut before the coronavirus lockdown, and gets plenty of tongues wagging with a staggering 79.57% at Addington Equestrian.

    “With most horses his age you have to hold their hand, but he felt so easy — I didn’t even go full power,” said Charlotte.

    October 2020 – Charlotte and Gio return to the arena after lockdown, with the nine-year-old making his international debut at Keysoe CDI. He scores 79% once again in the grand prix, finishing second behind Charlotte’s more experienced grand prix ride Mount St John Freestyle, and winning the grand prix freestyle with over 83%, fuelling speculation that he could be a championship horse of the future – and leading to his first H&H cover.

    Spring 2021 – Excitement over Gio’s team prospects builds as he garners great results during his first full season of grand prix, including a double win at Hagen, Germany, in April, and victory at the Wellington CDI in Hampshire in May.

    Charlotte Dujardin and Gio at Wellington CDI in May 2021

    Charlotte Dujardin and Gio at Wellington CDI in May 2021

    1 July 2021 – the British team is announced for the Tokyo Olympic Games, and Charlotte Dujardin is selected on Gio, coming as a surprise to many who assumed she would opt to ride the more established Freestyle.

    “I chose Pumpkin because I felt it would suit him a bit more with the climate out in Tokyo,” Charlotte explained to H&H.

    27 July 2021 – Gio becomes a British national hero as he and Charlotte lead the team, also featuring Carl Hester and Lottie Fry, to a fantastic team bronze medal in Tokyo, with 79.54% in what was only 10-year-old Gio’ second competitive grand prix special test.

    28 July 2021 – Charlotte and Gio exceed all expectations by producing a grand prix freestyle of dreams and clinching individual bronze with a massive 88.54%.

    “I just went out there knowing I wasn’t going to go down without a fight,” said Charlotte, who briefly became the most decorated female British Olympian in history with six medals from three Olympics. “But I also wanted to enjoy it and have fun, and I really did. This might be bronze but he gave me absolutely everything and he’s a winner in my eyes.”

    A delighted Charlotte Dujardin wears her Olympic bronze medal onboard Gio in the Tokyo individual dressage medal ceremony

    Charlotte Dujardin and Gio collect individual Olympic bronze at the Tokyo Games in 2021

    September 2021 – Charlotte and Gio return to the championship arena, this time at the European Dressage Championships in Hagen, Germany. They produce yet more superb performances to help the team claim silver, and to win another individual bronze medal. It brings Gio’s medal tally for 2021 to four – more than any other dressage horse this year, bar Jessica von Bredow-Werndl’s Olympic and European Champion TSF Dalera BB.

    “I’m delighted with him – he tried his heart out and I couldn’t have asked much more,” Charlotte said after her freestyle test.

    October 2021 – News breaks that Gio has been sold to upcoming British rider Annabella Pidgley, with Charlotte confirming that she will be training the new partnership going forward.

    “Having taken some time to see [Annabella] ride Pumpkin and fall for him as much as we have, I know a wonderful new chapter awaits him,” said Charlotte.

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