‘Charlotte told me to go for it’: Annabella Pidgley and Gio make winning international grand prix debut

  • The Olympic medal-winning gelding Gio and British 18-year-old Annabella Pidgley have made a winning international grand prix debut together, at Kronenburg CDI3* in the Netherlands.

    Annabella Pidgley and Gio have been together for a year, after Charlotte Dujardin’s high-profile sale of the Apache x Tango gelding, with whom she won four championship medals, to the Pidgley family in 2021. Junior European medallist Annabella made her grand prix debut with “Pumpkin” a matter of weeks ago, and the pair have quickly stepped up to international senior level.

    “I always have high expectations of myself to perform but I didn’t really know what to expect at Kronenburg because I’d never competed at that level, not at senior international level with riders who have done multiple Olympics,” said Annabella, who finished third in the grand prix behind Marlies van Baalen and Patrik Kittel, and then went on to win the grand prix special on 75.09%. Britain’s Emile Faurie was also in action at the show, finishing 20th in the large grand prix class and fifth in the freestyle with the 11-year-old mare Bellevue.

    “These are riders who I watched at the world championships in Herning this year, and thought, ‘Wow’. To end up beating some of them was just amazing,” Annabella told H&H.

    “Pumpkin is just the coolest horse ever. He loves the audience and he loves competing. A few people did come to watch us but he always had his ears forward and he knew he did a good job.

    “In the grand prix I was nervous as I didn’t know what to expect, and I’ve definitely ridden better tests. But in the special I found more confidence in myself and I really gave it everything. I felt very emotional afterwards as I knew it was a good test,” added Annabella, who had never ridden the special in competition before this weekend.

    She was supported at the show by Charlotte Dujardin, who trains her on Pumpkin, and is expecting her first child in a few weeks’ time.

    “Charlotte was so supportive and always wants me to do well. Before my tests she said, ‘Go for it girl, you’ve got this’,” said Annabella. “I was last to go in the special and so when I finished and my score went up we knew I’d won, and I could just hear Charlotte celebrating.”

    Annabella and Pumpkin have had an incredibly successful first year together, having been crowned inter II national champions in September before moving up to top level, and Annabella confirmed that they will be aiming for more internationals in early 2023.

    “I’m just enjoying this so much, and I feel so lucky to be able to learn from Pumpkin. What an opportunity it is to compete alongside so many of my role models,” she said.

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