Bronze for Britain’s Juniors at FEI European Championships
- Written By:
The British Junior team have today secured a tremendous team bronze at the FEI European Championships for Juniors and Young Riders, taking place this week at Hartpury in Gloucestershire (25 – 31 July 2022), while our Young Rider quartet also did themselves proud to finish just outside the podium in a close-fought contest for team medal honours.
With Great Britain drawn second to go out of thirteen nations, our third team rider, India Durman-Mills with Escade, was the second Junior competitor down the centre line this morning at 09:08. Eighteen-year-old India rode Verity Saul’s attractive 13-year-old gelding with maturity and poise on her FEI Championships debut to post 71.455%. India and “Eddie”, as the bay Jazz son is known, presented an assured clear round in front of judges Elke Ebert (GER) at E, Kirsten Soegaard (DEN) at H, Lars Andersson (SWE) at C, Jean-Michel Roudier (FRA) at M and Isobel Wessels (GBR) at B, and was justly awarded solid scores throughout.
With the final rotation of riders coming forward and Great Britain sitting in the bronze medal position behind Germany and the Netherlands, all eyes were on fourth team rider and British anchor Annabella Pidgley (17) with Sarah Pidgley’s young mare Espe. Annabella has previously shown a great championship mindset, having won individual and freestyle silver at last year’s FEI Junior Europeans in Oliva Nova with Sultan des Paluds FRH, and she showed this approach once again today.
Her dance partner this year, the phenomenal Escolar x Dimaggio mare Espe, rose to the occasion with a balletically powerful performance to propel them to the top of the leader board on 75.151%. A total of 32 eights were awarded for the British pair, including eights across the board for general impression, plus a nine for extended walk and a nine for trot half pass.
Pipped only just, a short while later, by Germany’s Allegra Schmitz-Morkramer and Libertad (75.758%), the wait began as scores from the final rotation of riders gradually occupied the leader board, but Great Britain magnificently maintained a place on the podium behind Germany and the Netherlands, with Denmark taking fourth. This momentous day marks the first Junior team medal for Great Britain since 1998, when the team won an historic bronze at Hickstead.
With Annabella (Espe) second individually, India (Escade) ninth, and Sophie Wallace (Rosalie B) and Myles Graham (Nibeley Union Hit), who both competed yesterday, placing 17th and 22nd respectively, it’s all to play for going into the Individual medal competition taking place tomorrow and Friday, from which the top 18 individually placed combinations go through to Saturday morning’s Freestyle where another set of FEI medals will be awarded.
“It was amazing, I couldn’t have asked for more from Espe,” commented Annabella about her test. We’ve only had this season together, and this is our first Europeans. She just performed and exceeded all my expectations of her, and I couldn’t be prouder.
About the pressures of being team anchor-woman, she said, “I just focused on riding my own test and doing the best test I can do, because in the end I know that will be the most helpful for the team. And I like the pressure – I think it pushes me to ride my best and really deliver for the team, which we did manage to do today.
“There were so many people lined up on the fence, and the cheer at the end was incredible, and feeling the support from everyone at home – it’s just been amazing,” she continued.
“It was so fun to ride on the team today - they’re all amazing riders and amazing people. Everyone put in amazing scores, and that’s why we ended up with a bronze medal, which we haven’t for so many years, but I’m definitely excited to see what’s to come this week individually for us.”
India Durman-Mills reacted to the past two days by saying, “I really can’t put the feeling into words. It’s just been such an amazing experience. I’ve loved every second. The team has really come together, we’ve all supported each other – Juniors and Young Riders – and it’s been absolutely amazing. I couldn’t wish for a better first Europeans.
“It was a dream come true being able to be in such an amazing arena and having all the GB team around me, but I just focused - as soon I was in there I couldn’t see or hear anything.
“It was a clean test,” she continued. “Just knowing he was on my side, and really working as a team, was amazing. That final centre line and the massive cheer… I will never forget it. I’m honoured to be able to wear the flag that we’ve worked so hard for. It will be a memory forever."
“It feels unreal. I never imagined the team and I could do this,” was Sophie Wallace’s reaction after the team’s bronze medal success. “I’ve only been riding “Rosie” for eight months and it’s been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster.
“I did show jumping before, then eight months ago got the ride on Rosie from Mrs Bechtolsheimer and Laura Tomlinson, which I’m so thankful for. I never imagined I’d get selected for my first Europeans in my first season of doing dressage.
“For three of us (Myles, India and Sophie), it’s been our first Europeans and Annabella has been a great role model as well to teach us the ropes. It’s been amazing. Everyone has done amazingly.”
Myles Graham, pathfinder for the team yesterday said, “Wow wow wow. It’s an amazing feeling. I’m over the moon with Una (Nibeley Union Hit) and how she went yesterday. Wow, the last centre line… the crowd was amazing. It was the experience of a lifetime. We had a couple of mistakes, but it was just a really nice test and overnight I was so happy with how we had done as a partnership. It’s an unbelievable feeling.”
About his preparations and work in the run up to the Championships, Myles said, “It’s just practise, practise, practise – hours upon hours of practising flying changes, half passes – just practising. It’s all it comes down to. I am over the moon and can’t wait for tomorrow.
“I cannot thank Rebecca Bell (Nibeley Union Hit’s former rider) for this opportunity,” he added, before paying tribute to Una. “She is one in a lifetime, and I couldn’t do anything without her.”
Germany’s Allegra Schmitz-Morkramer who spearheaded the German Junior team campaign with Libertad on a score of 75.758% said, “My test was absolutely amazing. I’m really proud of my horse. At the beginning he was a little tense and excited, but throughout the test, he got more chilled and I’m really happy about it. I’ve practised a lot the extended canter and the medium trot and I think that went really well today.”
Talking about her Hartpury experience so far, she said, “It’s absolutely amazing. The conditions are great, the weather for me is the best weather you can have - it’s not too hot, not too cold - and I think all horses feel really comfortable in the stables. The arenas are really great as well, so all in all a really great competition here.
“To win a medal is awesome. Gold medals are always so special, and I have such a great team here. It’s really amazing.”
The first British Young Rider to take to the stage today in front of enthusiastic supporters on “Hartpury Hill” was FEI European Championship first-timer Anna Dalrymple (19), who with Maxine Vainio’s 13-year-old Lusitano gelding Vagabond de Massa added a fantastic 70.917% to the team total despite a costly mistake in the flying change at the end of the extended canter. Performing with great conviction, Anna and the stunning Vagabond de Massa earned plenty of eights, including for their powerful and composed lines of tempi changes, which are a real highlight for this pair.
With Great Britain sitting within reach of the medal zone, it was a wait for British anchor-woman Caitlin Burgess (21), and her 15-year-old Lord Leatherdale son, Chocotof, at the very end of the final rotation of riders. A superb ride and a new PB of 72.765% from the judges panel - Stephen Clarke (GBR) at E, Jane Weatherwax (USA) at H, Evi Eisenhardt (GER) at C, Alice Schwab (AUT) at M and Maarten van der Heijden (NED) at B - put them best of the Brits in eighth.
Competing under immense pressure as last to go, Caitlin and Chocotof earned no fewer than 20 eights throughout a harmonious, composed and secure display of dressage from this established pairing, to seal a final position of fourth by the slimmest of margins for Great Britain in the 12-nation team competition.
Top of the table individually, on 75.206%, was Germany’s Helena Schmitz-Morkramer who spearheaded Germany’s team gold medal triumph riding 12-year-old gelding DSP Lifestyle (Lord Fantastic x Samba Hit).
“He was absolutely amazing,” said Helena about DSP Lifestyle. “We had a lot of highlights. There’s always something to improve, but I’m more than happy with him. He showed a great test and he’s always on point.
“We’re a team for one and a half years now. At the beginning it was really hard, but we found a way with each other and now he means the world to me. Everything was great yesterday – he gave me a really nice feeling both in the arena and beforehand.
“I tried to stay relaxed, which was hard, but he’s a star. This medal is the highlight of the year. We worked hard and there’s no certainty that it would turn out like this, but now we’re more than happy with the result. It’s absolutely amazing and I can’t put it into words.”
About Hartpury, she said, “The conditions are perfect, everyone is so kind, and it’s really well-organised.”
British Young Riders occupy the following individual placings: eighth for Caitlin Burgess and Chocotof, ninth for Jessie McConkey and Lady Gaga (who rode yesterday), 16th place for Anna Dalrymple with Vagabond de Massa, and 21st place for Maddy Frewin with Eagle Nouvelle (who also rode yesterday) out of a total of 49 starters. This puts them in a promising position going into the Individual medal competition taking place tomorrow and Friday, from which the top 18 individually placed combinations go through to Saturday afternoon’s Freestyle finale where a further set of FEI medals will be awarded.
Junior team results
Competition sponsored by Andrews Bowen
1. Germany – 222.243
2. Netherlands – 218.576
3. Great Britain – 216.879
4. Denmark – 215.819
5. Switzerland – 210.788
6. France – 209.940
7. Sweden – 209.788
8. Portugal – 206.000
9. Poland – 202.212
10. Belgium – 200.606
11. Spain – 198.485
12. Ukraine – 193.848
Young Rider team results
Competition sponsored by Hartpury University
1. Germany – 223.294
2. Denmark – 217.382
3. Sweden – 216.764
4. Great Britain – 215.971
5. Austria – 212.971
6. Netherlands – 212.264
7. Belgium – 207.441
8. France – 206.970
9. Portugal – 206.323
10. Spain – 203.941
11. Italy – 199.646
12. Switzerland – 199.236
Photo © Camille Peters
Further photos to follow