British rider makes history by being crowned double European champion

  • Annabella Pidgley has become the first British rider ever to win an individual medal at the Dressage European Championships for Young Riders – by claiming double gold in Hungary over the weekend (15-16 July).

    The 18-year-old rode her mother Sarah’s nine-year-old Escolar mare Espe to two huge personal best scores as they secured both the individual and freestyle gold medals.

    Annabella’s double gold came off the back of the British team winning the first British young rider team medal since 2005, as Annabella joined Lily Laughton (Skovborgs Romadinov), India Durman-Mills (Escade) and Jessie McConkey (Lady Gaga) to claim a brilliant bronze.

    Britain finished closely behind Denmark in gold and Germany in silver, with Annabella’s trainer Charlotte Dujardin joining them out in Hungary.

    Lily Laughton, Annabella Pidgley, Jessie McConkey and India Durman-Mills with Charlotte Dujardin

    The bronze medal-winning young rider team of Lily Laughton, Annabella Pidgley, Jessie McConkey and India Durman-Mills, pictured with Charlotte Dujardin and baby Isabella.

    Annabella finished top of the leaderboard individually in the team test and duly completed a clean sweep over the course of the weekend. She and Espe scored 76.94% for their individual test to knock Germany’s Valentina Pistner and Flamboyant OLD into silver, and leaving her “simply speechless”.

    Jessie and Lady Gaga finished 13th, with India 18th and Lily 19th for Britain.

    A new personal best for Annabella Pidgley and Espe

    A day later, Annabella and Espe recreated their magic once again, breaking the 80% barrier for the first time in their partnership to lay down an unbeatable score of 80.5%.

    Taking freestyle silver was Annabella’s boyfriend, Denmark’s Alexander Helgstrand, son of Andreas Helgstrand, riding Belantis. Jessie also secured a top-10 finish for Britain, in ninth, with India 15th.

    Annabella Pidgley and Espe en route to winning double gold at the young rider Europeans 2023

    Annabella Pidgley and Espe en route to winning double gold at the young rider Europeans 2023.

    “Double European champion… Espe did it again and got the gold in the freestyle today here in Hungary, against a brilliant field of riders,” said Annabella. “I could not have imagined we would have these results here at the Europeans in our first year at young riders, but she deserves it all.

    “She’s such an incredible mare with a beautiful heart and I’m so grateful to her for being so amazing over the last week,” added Annabella of Espe.

    “Thank you to my team, family, Charlotte, my sponsors and all who have supported me from home. Thank you also to my Team GB teammates.”

    This is not the first time Annabella has made history for British dressage – in 2021 she became the first British rider to claim an individual podium place at the junior Europeans, when she won double silver on Sultan Des Paluds. Riding Espe, she added more medals to her haul in 2022 when they led the British junior team to silver and also scooped individual silver and bronze.

    This is Annabella’s first year in young riders, and with these medals she has become the first British rider to win gold in any youth (under-21) section since Phoebe Peters took double gold at the pony Europeans in 2015.

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