‘The ride of my life’: Britain’s golden girls set European Championships freestyle alight

  • They may not have quite managed to pip Germany’s Jessica von Bredow-Werndl to gold in the European Dressage Championships freestyle, but Britain’s Lottie Fry and Charlotte Dujardin each produced sensational rides to share the podium with silver and bronze medals respectively.

    In what she described as an “unreal” day of sport, Lottie had been set an enormous challenge by Jessica and TSF Dalera BB, whose 92.82% was a personal best and a new European Championships record. But Lottie is the reigning world champion for a reason, and she showed that this afternoon, responding with her own personal best – 92.38%.

    Her rousing “Best of British” routine, created by Joost Peters, is always a crowd pleaser and it certainly proved so today. Glamourdale adores the freestyle, as does Lottie, and they were on tip-top form, bouncing through high-quality passage and showing better piaffes than in their previous two tests, for eights and nines.

    But it’s in the canter work where the 10s come for this pair, and come they did. Lottie says she is so used to the gasps and cries from the crowd when she unleashes Glammy’s monumental extended canter that she no longer hears them. But they were there alright. Their extended canter received straight 10s across the board from all seven judges.

    Many might say it was the tempi changes that were the highlight of Glammy’s test today, and they were without the mistake that had ever-so-slightly blighted their world championship test last summer. Gorgeously fluent, hugely expressive and with such ground cover that Lottie can hardly squeeze them into a diagonal line, they also garnered 10s today.

    And in a nod to this partnership’s overall quality and talent, they received at least one 10 for every single one of the collectives – the only pair in the class to do so. There were straight 10s awarded for the music and interpretation, and Lottie says that the music, featuring Queen, Robbie Williams, Genesis, The Verve and The Beatles is “incredible to ride to”.

    “He was just loving that so much, and I felt like we were really back on track today; it went so, so well,” she enthused afterwards.

    “I loved every single second of riding it. When the music starts, Glammy knows what to do and I feel as though I can just sit there and enjoy it. I had the ride of my life. Glammy also loves the crowd clapping him – it reminds him that there are lots of people watching him, and he finds it so cool.

    “The sport today was unreal and I’m so honoured to up there with the best.”

    European Dressage Championships freestyle: ‘I can’t believe how well we’ve done’

    Charlotte Dujardin and Imhotep at the European Dressage Championships

    Charlotte Dujardin and Imhotep at the European Dressage Championships 2023.

    As last to go, Charlotte Dujardin had to find another massive personal best for herself to make it back onto the podium and claim her second individual medal of the European Dressage Championships. But like Lottie, Charlotte has a knack for pulling out the stops when it really matters.

    This was the first time she and Imhotep (Pete) had ever ridden their brand new freestyle routine. In fact, she revealed that she and Tom Hunt had only finished working on it a few days earlier.

    “I just hoped I started and finished at the right time,” laughed a jubilant Charlotte after she came out of the ring. “How we went in there and did that I don’t actually know.”

    Their new programme was to music from Madagascar – Charlotte has long said that Pete reminds her of Alex the lion from the films – and it suited the springy chestnut gelding down to the ground.

    “It’s bouncy, joyful, happy and everything that Pete is,” agreed Charlotte. “It captures him and his personality and it was so much fun to be out there riding it today.”

    It really is remarkable how polished and precise Charlotte and Pete are in the ring, when you consider that the Everdale son is just 10. He really has no weaknesses – he scored at least one nine or above for every movement in the freestyle, bar the walk and the extended canter. Now his strength and balance is starting to catch up with his power, his exceptional ability for just about everything is really starting to show. Their piaffe-pirouettes in particular were wonderful, with fabulous lift and suspension.

    “There are many experienced horses here who have been doing it for years, and last year at nine Pete went to the worlds very green, and I can’t really believe how well we’ve done here,” added Charlotte. “For British dressage, going forward to next year, you can’t ask for more.”

    Their score was 91.4%, and for that mark only to be good enough for bronze just shows the eye-popping standard of this European Dressage Championships freestyle.

    It is also the first time Charlotte has broken the 90% barrier in international competition since riding Valegro. It almost certainly won’t be the last.

    You may also be interested in…

    Horse & Hound has a team of reporters covering all the European dressage action. To keep reading on our website after five articles, readers will need to buy a subscription. Visit horseandhound.co.uk/join to buy a Horse & Hound website unlimited subscription or, for great value, visit magazinesdirect.com for a combined magazine and website subscription. If you are already a magazine subscriber, the cost to upgrade your subscription to include full website access is minimal – call 0330 333 1113 to find out more.

    You may like...