Widdowson, Whitaker, Breen: seven-year-old rider wins battle of the future showjumping stars at Hickstead

  • A seven-year-old showjumper who enjoyed a win at Hickstead has her eyes set on a bright future training with her hero Nick Skelton.

    Annabel Widdowson won the under 10 mini challenge last weekend with her 25-year-old pony Another Victory, known at home as Victor. The young rider faced stiff competition in the 60cm class from riders including Evie Whitaker – daughter of Robert Whitaker – and Breen children Dougie and Wolfe.

    “Victor was gifted to Annabel as her starter pony and she adores him. It was quite a competitive little class, they all went so fast. Annabel was determined to win the rug!” Annabel’s mother Kathleen told H&H.

    “This is the last year she’ll be jumping him competitively as she’s started to outgrow these classes and Victor is 25 now. He’s been there, done that and been the kindest pony.”

    Annabel started riding from a young age and is no stranger to Hickstead, having jumped in a lead-rein class aged four. The young rider’s grandfather Gary is the owner of Olympic champion Big Star and Annabel has grown up supporting her “hero” Nick Skelton.

    “Annabel got the bug and is pony mad. She watches video of Nick on YouTube on repeat and has massive aspirations to be just like him,” said Kathleen.

    “I train her at the moment, and we’re very mindful of how young she is and that she’s having fun and it doesn’t become too crazy or competitive. Nick has watched some of her videos and said let her have loads of fun and enjoy it over the next few years – and when things get a bit more serious she’ll go to him for training.”

    Annabel, who spent a month in Wellington, Florida, earlier this year where she won the Short Stirrup Hunter Championship, has an exciting summer ahead. On Sunday she will compete in the Bolesworth mini major, and she has also qualified for a number of classes at the British Showjumping national championships.

    “Earlier this year we took out a lease on the famous 128cm JA pony Bunbury Conquest who is an absolute star. Annabel said she hopes to be in the main ring at Hickstead with him next year,” said Kathleen.

    “They were placed in the 11 and under grand prix at the Pony of the Year Show in April. He’s 21 and she will be his last rider before he retires, so it’s really special.”

    And Annabel also has her eyes on the much-loved Big Star.

    “She’s met him and is always asking her grandfather for videos of him and asking how he is getting on at stud. She’s so interested in everything, it’s lovely,” said Kathleen.

    “She has aspirations that one day she’ll have a Big Star foal for her future horse.”

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