Foot-perfect Pidgley becomes double European Champion

  • Written By: British Dressage
  • Published: Mon, 17 Jul 2023 10:05

After producing her third personal best score of the week, 18 year old Annabella Pidgley secured Freestyle Gold to become double FEI Young Rider European Champion in Pilisjászfalu, Hungary. 

The freestyle to music final is always a highlight at the end of a fierce week of competition for the talented riders contesting the FEI Youth European Championships, and yesterday's Young Rider decider was no exception. High scores and high standards were the theme, as the 18 top performers from the Individual competition stepped forward to have a shot at freestyle glory. 

Riding her mother Sarah Pidgley's exquisite mare Espe (Escolar x Dimaggio), Annabella rode to a third personal best score at the FEI Young Rider European Championships, achieving 80.505% in front of Gabriela Valeriánová (CZE), Olivier Smeets (BEL), Dr. Vincenzo Truppa (ITA), Elke Ebert (GER), Eva-Maria Vint-Warmington (EST). Riding to a beautifully arranged compilation of instrumental Taylor Swift tunes, Annabella displayed all of the quality that delivered the history making Individual gold medal, to repeat the feat in the Freestyle test. Annabella once again displayed unfaltering confidence and mettle under the highest of pressures to show her light-footed dancer at her best; the eight year old mare displayed stunning highlights in the half passes, canter pirouettes and extended canter, all the while achieving the perfect balance between power and harmony. 

The winning margin would be 0.85% between Annabella and her boyfriend Alexander Yde Helgstrand (Denmark), who made it a power couple podium in rising to silver medal position with Madeleine Winter Schulze and Helgstrand Dressage's 14-year old Brandenburg gelding Belantis scoring 79.645% (by Benetton Dream x Expose). The final spot on the rostrum belonged to German talent Jana Lang, who secured her second bronze medal of the week on board the powerhouse Baron (by Johnson x Krack C); the combination earned 78.920% for their efforts. 

Summarising her week, Windsor-based Annabella concluded: "Espe did it again and got the Gold in the Freestyle today here in Hungary, against a brilliant field of riders. I could not have imagined we would have these results here at the Europeans in our first year at Young Riders, but she deserves it all. A very special feeling to achieve a PB of 80.505% today. She’s such an incredible mare with a beautiful heart and I’m so grateful to her for being so amazing over the last week."

It was fine form on the final day for all three of the Brits in action in the freestyle competition. Jessica McConkey achieved her highest placing of the week, with a fantastic floor plan and assured performance duly rewarded with 73.865% for ninth. In their fifth European Championships together, Jessie and Lady Gaga (Quaterback x Solos Landwind) have delivered outstanding consistency in all three tests, with a top ten finish in the freestyle final a just-reward for their skills. India Durman-Mills completed her debut Young Rider Europeans on 71.075% with the 14-year-old KWPN gelding, Escade. The combination made a successful step up from Juniors to Young Riders this year, and can be proud of their efforts in the freestyle final which resulted in 15th place amongst the top 18 – 21 year old riders on the continent. 

British Dressage congratulates double European Champion Annabella, her mother Sarah and their team at home on making history at this level on the European stage; as well as Jessie, India, Lily, Chef d’Equipe Tom Hobday, Coach Advisor Peter Storr, Performance Manager Caroline Bell and all the dedicated teams behind the scenes for a hugely successful week. Our thanks go to the FEI and the organisers at Unikornis Lovarda for running a superb event and providing the opportunity for upcoming dressage riders to shine and experience the highest level of competition. 

Freestyle top ten and British rider placings
1. Annabella Pidgley and Espe, 80.505% (GBR)
2. Alexander Yde Helgstrand and Belantis, 79.645% (DEN)
3. Jana Lang and Baron, 78.920% (GER)
4. Valentina Pistner and Flamboyant OLD, 78.850% (GER)
5. Sophia Ludvigsen and Blue Hors Elliott, 76.485% (DEN)
6. Shanna Baars and Farzana G, 76.145% (NED)
7. Frederikke Gram Jacobsen and Ryvangs Zafina, 75.610% (DEN)
8. Felicita Simoncic and Immowert's Ivar, 75.105% (AUT)
9. Jessica McConkey and Lady Gaga, 73.865% (GBR)
10. Anna Middelberg and Blickfang HC, 73.505% (GER)
15. India Durman-Mills and- Escade, 71.075% (GBR)