‘The biggest mover I’ve ever sat on’: massive personal bests for Brits in Aachen bodes well for European Championships

  • It was a super week for British riders in the CHIO Aachen dressage, with Charlotte Dujardin, Lottie Fry and Annabella Pidgley all picking up wins or personal bests, and with Laura Tomlinson also helping the British team finish on the podium in the Nations Cup.

    While Germany claimed the team victory on home soil, Britain and Denmark tussled for second spot. In the end, Denmark finished a smidgeon ahead, leaving Britain in third but with high hopes for team medal chances at the European Dressage Championships, to be held at Riesenbeck, Germany, in September.

    Reigning Olympic and European champions Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and TSF Dalera BB triumphed in every test, leaving viewers in no doubt about their form as the Europeans draw closer, nor their place on the German team, for which Aachen is a mandatory selection trial. The Germans were generally dominant, particularly in the special, in which none of the home side finished outside the top 10.

    But team gold on home soil come September is far from guaranteed as the Danish and British quartets proved this week. Excitingly for Britain, while Denmark fielded four of its top five combinations in Aachen – with Nanna Merrald Skodberg and Blue Hors Zeptor showing real medal potential – the British team included just one horse-and-rider combination who would be considered a shoe-in for Riesenbeck.

    Charlotte Dujardin and Imhotep at CHIO Aachen 2023

    Charlotte Dujardin and Imhotep at CHIO Aachen 2023

    And that pair, Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester and Coral Ingham’s 10-year-old Imhotep, were the best-performing British combination across the five-star Aachen dressage competitions. The chestnut gelding, known as Pete, is getting better and better with every outing in 2023, and he scooped the runners-up spot in both the grand prix and special behind Jessica von Bredow-Werndl.

    Charlotte and Pete then produced a massive personal best score – the highest of Pete’s career – in the grand prix freestyle, with 88.41% riding to Valegro’s old How to train your dragon music.

    “Pete is a ball of energy,” said Charlotte, who also confirmed that Pete will have his own music in time for the European Championships. 

    “His piaffe is one of the best and he’s the biggest mover I’ve ever sat on. He wants to do everything so much bigger than he’s ready to do. So I’m trying to make it smaller, but one day when I can let him do what he really wants to, he’s going to be really exciting.”

    With Pete’s top scores now just fractionally behind the best achieved by Charlotte’s most recent individual medallists, Mount St John Freestyle and Gio, this young gelding is truly stepping into medal-winning territory himself. Watch out Riesenbeck.

    Imhotep and sire Everdale neck-and-neck in Aachen dressage

    Pete had the edge over his sire, Lottie Fry’s ride Everdale, finishing just ahead of him in each class. But Everdale banked a hat-trick of his own personal records, laying down his best ever versions of every test, including over 87% in the freestyle.

    “I know Everdale is capable, but producing it all on the day and in the arena is another thing,” Lottie said after their 78.91% grand prix. 

    Everdale is widely expected to be Lottie’s reserve ride for the Europeans, behind world champion Glamourdale. And Lottie has even more exciting horses coming up the ranks. She was the busiest Brit in Aachen, with three rides across the grand prix and small tour sections.

    In the CDI4* tour, she and the 12-year-old Negro son Lars Van De Hoenderheide twice finished second to Germany’s Frederic Wandres (Duke Of Britain FRH), both times with plus-75%. Lottie also piloted the eight-year-old Glamourdale son Kashmir on their first international outing together, scoring a fraction under 70% at prix st georges (PSG).

    Meanwhile, Charlotte Dujardin was the undisputed queen of the small tour, riding the delightful mare Times Kismet on her first time overseas. The pair won both the PSG and inter I with super scores, Kismet gaining much admiration and many new fans along the way.

    Annabella Pidgley also had a week to remember. With Vamos Amigos she helped Britain clinch their spot on the Nations Cup podium, while also dominating the young rider classes with Espe.

    Annabella Pidgley and Espe at Aachen 2023

    Annabella Pidgley and Espe win both young rider classes at CHIO Aachen 2023

    The 18-year-old dedicated her 78.6% freestyle win to her late father, Tony.

    “Today Espe gave me the most incredible feeling, dancing in the big arena with a fantastic audience,” said Annabella. “Thanks to everyone who makes this possible; I am so grateful. To my dad, who we lost three years ago this week, this one was for you.”

    Aachen proved a useful learning curve for Laura Tomlinson’s Nations Cup ride, DSP Rose Of Bavaria, who suffered a little with tension in the contact during the grand prix, but was much improved in the special for 70.83%, leaving Laura “thrilled”.

    Laura also brought 13-year-old gelding Fallatijn to contest the Aachen dressage, and he posted one of his best-ever international grand prix scores in the CDI4*, 71.59% for 13th.

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