‘I can’t believe it’: Annabella Pidgley leads British juniors to a trio of European Championship medals at Hartpury

  • Britain’s juniors claimed a first dressage team bronze medal since 1998 when they finished on the podium at the junior and young rider dressage European Championships, held at Hartpury, Glos.

    Spearheaded by 17-year-old Annabella Pidgley, last year’s double individual silver medallist, the junior team took the European bronze medal behind Germany in gold and the Netherlands in silver. The home side’s achievement was all the more impressive considering the other three members of the British team  –Myles Graham (Nibeley Union Hit), Sophie Wallace (Rosalie B) and India Durman-Mills (Escade) – were all riding at their first championship. 

    Annabella also secured individual bronze and freestyle silver riding Espe. The eight-year-old Escolar x Dimaggio mare was bought as a six-year-old and spent two years with Annabella’s trainer Cathrine Dufour before returning to Annabella in March.

    “I couldn’t have asked for more from her,” Annabella said after her team test, in which she scored 75.15%. “We’ve only had this short season together, and this is her first Europeans. She just performed and exceeded all my expectations, and I couldn’t be prouder.”

    Following her 77.6% freestyle performance, Annabella added: “She really pulled it out of the bag. She’s the sweetest horse and always gives her all. I can’t believe we have a silver medal!”

    It was only eight months ago that former showjumper Sophie took over the ride of Ursula Bechtolsheimer and Laura Tomlinson’s mare Rosalie B, a Westphalian by Rubin Royal out of a Newcastle mare.

    “It’s been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster and feels unreal,” said Sophie of her team’s bronze medal. “I never imagined I’d get selected for my first Europeans in my first season of dressage. I’m so thankful to Mrs Bechtolsheimer and Laura Tomlinson for letting me have the ride on Rosie. It’s been an amazing experience.”

    Germany’s Allegra Schmitz-Morkramer spearheaded the German team to gold riding 10-year-old Hanoverian stallion Libertad, and also became the junior individual champion. But it was Denmark’s Sophia Boje Obel Jørgensen and Brilliant who upgraded their individual silver to freestyle gold, ahead of Annabella. 

    British junior team chef d’equipe Tom Hobday said: “It has been the most incredible week of competition and the teams have put in an astonishing amount of effort over the year to get here.

    “We’ve had some very impressive results, including quite a few personal bests, some from riders making their championship debut. To come away with two bronzes and a silver medal is incredible.”

    Young rider dressage European Championships: ‘It was a nail-bitingly close competition’

    Germany asserted their dominance once again to add young rider team gold to their junior team gold at the junior and young rider dressage European Championships, with Denmark in silver and Sweden in bronze. Meanwhile the Brits did brilliantly to finish just off the podium in fourth.

    It was the turn of Allegra’s sister Helena Schmitz-Morkramer who produced an impressive 75.21% for gold riding 12-year-old gelding DSP Lifestyle (Lord Fantastic x Samba Hit).

    “He was absolutely amazing – he performed a great test and although there’s always something to improve on, I’m more than happy with him,” said Helena about DSP Lifestyle, whom she has had for 18 months. “At the beginning, it was really hard, but we found our way and now he means the world to me. This medal is the highlight of the year.”

    The British young rider team was made up of Caitlin Burgess and Chocotof, who finished eighth, ninth-placed Jessie McConkey and Lady Gaga, 16th-placed Anna Dalrymple and Vagabond De Massa, and 21st place for Maddy Frewin with Eagle Nouvelle. 

    Jessica and Lady Gaga also finished fourth in the individual competition, with 74.04%, before rising to the occasion once more to take fifth in the freestyle with a hugely impressive personal best of 77.38%.

    “She got better and better – we gained two or three per cent each day,” said an overwhelmed Jessica, who has had the mare for six years. “On the freestyle I just wanted to have fun. I’d only ridden that freestyle once before, but luckily it paid off. I never used to be able to get her round the freestyle and we’d end up having to retire, but now I can channel that energy and she just feels electric.”

    British young rider chef d’equipe Nina Boex was thrilled with the team’s performance.

    “It’s been an absolutely fantastic championship for us,” she said. “The young rider team is such a close team and it was a nail-bitingly close competition – they rode their socks off. The standard of riding this year was a cut above and our riders really stepped up. It’s the best Europeans we’ve been to in many years and Hartpury has really pulled out all the stops. Next year we’ll come back from it even stronger.”

    Additional reporting by Stephanie Bateman

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