‘He’s such a showman’: British teenager dances into dressage history books with double silver

  • Teenager Annabella Pidgley has sprung into the history books clutching a pair of silver medals as the first British rider to claim an individual podium place at the FEI junior European Dressage Championships.

    Annabella, 16, and Sultan Des Paludes were making their junior Europeans debut at the competition in Olivia Nova, Spain, as part of the British team.

    The pair produced personal-best scores in every test – topping the leaderboards in the team test on 75.45%, and going on to clinch double silver success in the individual and freestyle contests with scores of 75.38% and 80.11% respectively.

    Britain’s junior dressage sides have won team medals at European Championships in the past, but this was the first time a Brit had brought medals home as an individual.

    “I’m really overwhelmed and so happy,” said Annabella, who rode to music from Burlesque in her +80% freestyle. “Although I’d always dreamed of it, I never thought I’d get a medal in my first year of juniors.

    “He came out on team test day feeling the best ever, as if to say ‘we’re going for the win’.

    “He’s such a showman — he’s just amazing, and then to get a PB every day was incredible.”

    The French-bred Hanoverian gelding was bought by Annabella’s mother, Sarah Pidgley, this year on the recommendation of Annabella’s trainer, Cathrine Dufour.

    The 11-year-old (Soliman de Hus x De Niro) won silver at the seven-year-old World Breeding Championships with Dutch rider Kirsten Brouwer.

    “Due to coronavirus, we couldn’t travel to view him, so Cathrine rode him at Helgstrand and we bought him having just seen the video,” said Annabella.

    “Cathrine knows me so well and we like the same type in a horse; we really like them very similar. She knew straight away that he would suit me, and we put so much trust in her that we took the risk of buying a horse I’d never sat on.

    “He’s definitely a horse I’ve clicked with straight away. He’s such a good horse with a good brain — absolutely amazing in his mind.”

    The team of Annabella, Holly Kerslake (Extasia), Gemma Owen (Sirius Black) and Mette Dahl (Florina 146) finished sixth out of 16. Mette’s ride Florina 146 had a reaction to the sand and was withdrawn from the individual competition on veterinary advice.

    Caitlin Burgess and Chocotof were best of the Brits in the young rider European Championships, finishing 13th in the team test (69.23%) and 15th in the individual (69.61%), which earnt them a place in Sunday’s freestyle.

    Sadly, Chocotof did not make it through the final horse inspection.

    “He has been absolutely incredible this week and I’m so so proud of what we have achieved together. To come in the top 15 twice with a horse I trained myself, at both of our first European Championships, is beyond what I could have ever asked for! He has made my dreams come true and I will for ever owe everything to him,” said Caitlin.

    The team of Caitlin, Jessica McConkey (Lady Gaga) and Charlotte McDowall (Alivia) finished seventh out of 14.

    • What is your favourite history-making moment in equestrian sport? Let us know by writing to hhletters@futurenet.com for a chance to see your views in H&H magazine and you could win a bottle of Champagne Taittinger (please include your name and nearest town and county; letters may be edited).

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