Britain’s Young Riders secure team bronze in gripping showdown
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Great Britain has secured the team bronze medal at the FEI Dressage European Championships for Young Riders, taking place this week in Budapest region - Pilisjászfalu, Hungary. Four fantastic rides, including a PB by Annabella Pidgley and Espe who top the individual standings, put the bright British team firmly on the podium to achieve the first Young Rider team medal for GBR since 2005.
The two-day Young Rider team medal contest got underway yesterday, with the first two rotations of riders competing in 30°C+ temperatures. The opening day's action saw a confident start by the British quartet. With GBR drawn first to go of the 13 teams, pathfinder Lily Laughton was not only the first Brit down the centre line, she was also the first rider of the entire Championships to take to the stage in the Unikornis Lovarda arena early yesterday morning.
Nineteen-year-old Lily, competing at her first FEI European Championships, set the competition rolling aboard Alicia Laughton’s talented 17-year-old Danish gelding, Skovborgs Romadinov, pictured below. This exciting, relatively new partnership delivered a convincing British start with a score of 69.412% towards the team total.
“It was a debut Europeans, which is a very big day for us as he’s still quite new to me. We scored 69.4% and were sitting in tenth overnight, which I couldn’t really believe,” commented Lily. “He was amazing. We still had some expensive mistakes, but, considering that, I was really happy with the score. We were first on, which I was quite nervous about, but he really helped me out… I was really happy.
“Romadi travelled five days to Budapest. He coped with it really well considering it’s been really hot every single day, and he came out the first day really fresh,” added Lily. “The team spirit’s been really good - everyone’s been so supportive.”
Next up for GBR yesterday, the 2022 Junior team bronze medal combination of India Durman-Mills and the 14-year-old Jazz son, Escade, owned by Verity Saul, made an impressive Young Rider team debut. A well-presented, stylish performance, with a costly mistake in the three-time tempi changes, resulted in a final score of 69.029% from judges Olivier Smeets (BEL), Vincenzo Truppa (ITA), Elke Ebert (GER), Eva-Maria Vint-Warmington (EST) and Gabriela Valerianova (CZE). India and Escade, pictured below, successfully stepped up to Young Riders in December of last year.
“I was really pleased with the test, Eddie felt really good,” commented India after her test. “He was definitely on my side – he put in loads of effort. I was really pleased with all the movements, except for when I forgot to count my threes! But it was totally not his fault at all, and we managed to finish the test on a high with a big extended canter so overall I was really pleased.
“I’ve really loved the trip out to Hungary. I’ve travelled all the way from home with the horses, which was a phenomenal experience. It’s been quite tough with a lot of driving - my aunt Verity (Saul) has done all of it – but all together we’ve worked as a team and the horses managed really well, even with the heat.
“The show centre is lovely, they’ve done a really good job and we’ve made camp just like home,” she continued. “We’ve got a little white picket fence with flowers and loads of bunting, so they definitely know the GBR team is here!”
Going into day two, with Great Britain lying sixth and within sight of the top three, there was everything to play for in today’s scintillating team medal decider. The third rotation of riders, led by the experienced British combination of Jessie McConkey and Lady Gaga (Quaterback x Solos Landwind) - pictured above, was scheduled to start at 8:00 local time; however, a delay to competition as a result of torrential overnight rainfall pushed the start time back by three hours as the Unikornis Lovarda team worked hard to ready the arenas.
As the skies brightened, Jessie and ‘Millie’, as 14-year-old Lady Gaga is known at home, entered the arena full of confidence and rode an expressive test full of positive energy. The pair, who were fourth in the individual competition and fifth in the freestyle at Hartpury last July, were awarded a score of 70.914% to help lift the Brits up the team rankings going into the fourth and final rotation of riders.
With Germany’s Valentina Pistner and Flamboyant OLD occupying the top of the overnight individual standings after setting the benchmark at 73.559%, they held the lead until the turn of Annabella Pidgley with Sarah Pidgley’s nine-year-old mare, Espe (Escolar x Dimaggio), pictured below. The British pair, who won team bronze, individual bronze and freestyle silver at the 2022 Junior Europeans, have made an immaculate step up to Young Riders. Unbeaten at Addington, Le Mans and Wellington CDIs, as well as in the CDIY at CHIO Aachen earlier this month, today they rode out of the starting blocks in confident style.
A beautifully presented, seamless performance showcasing great harmony and expression was awarded a new PB of 75.147% to propel them to the top of the individual standings and put Great Britain within touching distance of a medal. A strong performance (74.382%) from the world number one combination of Jana Lang and Baron sealed a podium place for Germany (silver), with the last combination to go, Sophia Ludvigsen with Blue Hors Elliott posting 73.118% to help take gold for Denmark, with Great Britain landing in bronze.
"What a day for myself and the team here in Hungary, securing a bronze medal," commented Annabella on social media. "Espe really stayed with me today and rose to the occasion to secure a 75.14% and the top spot individually. This is such an amazing team to be a part of and I'm just so happy that we will be bringing home a medal. Still more to come, but feeling so proud today of Espe, my teammates and all the behind the scenes who are such a big part of this achievement with us."
The Young Rider Individual Test occupies the next two days of competition, with a set of individual FEI medals awarded on Saturday plus the chance to make the top-18 who qualify for Sunday’s Freestyle.
Lily and Skovborgs Romadinov are drawn to ride their Young Rider Individual Test tomorrow at 09:48 local time (08:48 BST) followed by Jessie and Lady Gaga at 10:28 (09:28 BST). India and Escade are drawn to ride on Saturday at 10:44 (09:44 BST), followed by Annabella and Espe down the centre line at 11:48 (10:48 BST).
Congratulations to the riders, owners, grooms and the team behind the scenes for a fantastic result; and we applaud the Unikornis Lovarda team for working so hard to get the competition underway following the overnight downpour.
1. Denmark – 218.618
2. Germany – 218.529
3. Great Britain – 215.500
4. Netherlands – 214.500
5. Sweden – 211.676
6. Austria – 208.765
7. Switzerland – 204.000
8. Italy – 203.353
9. Belgium – 203.176
10. Hungary – 202.735
11. France – 202.206
12. Spain – 199.441
13. Czech Republic – 197.882
Individual top ten and British rider placings
1. Annabella Pidgley and Espe, 75.147% (GBR)
2. Lana Jang and Baron, 74.382% (GER)
3. Valentina Pistner and Flamboyant OLD, 73.559% (GER)
4. Sophia Ludvigsen and Blue Hors Elliott, 73.118% (DEN)
5. Alexander Yde Helgstrand and Belantis, 72.853% (DEN)
6. Frederikke Gram Jacobsen and Ryvangs Zafina, 72.647% (DEN)
7. Kristian Würtz Green and Bovbjergs Zhivago, 72.118% (DEN)
8. Hedda Thunberg and Diva, 71.912% (SWE)
9. Shanna Baars and Farzana G, 71.706% (NED)
10. Rowena Wegelaar and Don Quichot, 71.676% (NED)
12. Jessica McConkey and Lady Gaga, 70.941% (GBR)
21. Lily Laughton and Skovborgs Romadinov, 69.412% (GBR)
23. India Durman-Mills and Escade, 69.029% (GBR)
Photo © Łukasz Kowalski