Annabella Pidgley Makes it a Double, Kur Gold at the 2023 European Young Riders Championships

Sun, 07/16/2023 - 19:38
2023 European Young Riders and Under 25 Championships
The Kur podium with Helgstrand, Pidgley, Lang at the 2023 European Young Riders Championships :: Photo © Anett Somogyvari

- Text © Eurodressage (this article expresses Eurodressage's' eye-witness account and opinion about the competition)
- Photos © Anett Somogyvari  

British Annabella Pidgley could not be pried from that number one position and made it a double, winning her second individual gold medal at the 2023 European Young Riders Championships in Pilisjaszfalu, Hungary.

On Sunday 16 July 2023 she won the concluding class, the Kur to Music, and was joined on the podium by her boyfriend Alexander Yde Helgstrand who finished in the silver medal position after placing fourth in the individual test. 

Definitely Not the Anti-Hero

The 18-year old Pidgley rode a freestyle based on Taylor Swift hits. Nerves of steels, trained by the double Olympic champion Charlotte Dujardin, and riding Espe, a World Young Horse Championship finalist and Bundeschampion... no, Annabella Pidgley is definitely not the anti-hero in this tale. 

Annabella Pidgley on Espe
The mare Espe is a beautiful, elegant mover with a big motor behind, but she is not always fully carrying herself, which showed in a few unsteady moments in the head position in trot as reaction upon heavy half-halting and the mare leaning on the bit in the trot extensions. There was also a break into canter in one extension at the beginning of the ride. The halt at entry, by the way was not immobile, but earned her 8 and 8.5. The half passes were gorgeous with good cadence and there was one very nice shoulder in. One would like to see more flexion, particularly on the voltes left. The collected walk, Espe's weakest gait as she prances like in a parade walk, has three hooves overtrack instead of collecting, but was ridden very strategically on the centerline moving straight away from the judges. This prompted the judge at C to give the gait an 8, while the others were between 6 and 7.  The extended walk had  good relaxation and plenty of overtrack. The half pirouettes were really nicely ridden, the extended canter were uphill, the three tempi changes correct, the fours a bit laboured. 

Alexander kisses girlfriend Annabella
It rarely happens that a first placed pair in the first tests will not be the winner in the third round and this was also the case today. Pidgley shook off all the pressure, stayed ahead of the curve, and played her ace. She received a personal best of 80.505% from judges Gabriela Valeriánová, Olivier Smeets, Vincenzo Truppa, Elke Ebert, and Eva-Maria Vint-Warmington. Four had her first; one judge second. 

"Espe did it again and got the Gold in the Freestyle today here in Hungary, against a brilliant field of riders," Annabelle posted on Instagram. "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 80.5% 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."

Helgstrand Finds the Silver Lining

The 19-year old Dane Alexander Yde Helgstrand got a taste of European glory when he won the European Pony Champion's title with Adriano B in 2019 and ever since has been chasing renewed, individual glory as a junior and young rider. He had to wait and grow three years for that moment to come.... today. 

Alexander Yde Helgstrand on Belantis
Aboard Madeleine Winter Schulze and Helgstrand Dressage's 14-year old Brandenburg gelding Belantis (by Benetton Dream x Expose), Alexander rode to Robbie Williams' hits. The halt at entry was not square (7.5 - 8.0) and the trot was forward and energetic but at times not secure in the rhythm, in particular in the left shoulder in and volte. The half passes were really nice. The extended walk was good with enough reach and relaxation, but the collected a bit tense and Belantis jogged a step before canter strike off. In the canter part there was some tension on the right lead, first in the three tempi changes and pirouette and later on again in a right pirouette. The left half pirouettes were the better ones. There was a mistake in the four tempi changes (6.0 - 6.5)  and the downward transition to trot was difficult. Helgstrand, like so many of his peer, finished his freestyle with a trot extension on the final centerline. 

After winning team gold on Thursday, the Dane now picked up Kur silver with a score of 79.645%. Two judges had him first, one second; one third and one fourth. His marks ranged between 78.800% and 81.550%

The lap of honour
"I am so proud of Belantis today dancing with me through the freestyle," said Alexander. "I’m so pleased with how far we have come together. It has been a long week with amazing rounds in the ring against the best riders in the world."

The bronze medal went to Jana Lang on Baron with 78.920%.

No Third Podium for Pistner  

Germany's Valentina Pistner, who won silver in the individual test, landed off the podium in the freestyle today.

Riding though fun and current Top Gun inspired music, Pistner was not able to bring the same polish to the trot tour. Although  the trot extensions were big, one left half passes needed to be more balanced and her 15-year old Oldenburg gelding (by Fidertanz x De Niro) dropped in the poll in several trot movements.

Valentina Pistner on Flamboyant
The collected walk was good with a very clear 4-beat rhythm (7.0 - 8.0), the extended was outstanding (7.5 - 8.0). This extended walk scored only half a point more than the Espe's, which does not make much sense. Pistner rode big four and three tempi changes on a curved line. One left half pirouette was quite big. The pair finished with an extended trot on the centerline, a little ahead of the music. 

The judges scored the test 78.850% a personal best, to place fourth. 

"Two amazing silver medals and a lovely 4th place in today’s freestyle with another personal best," Valentina took to Instagram.  

Ludvigsen Completes Top Five

Danish Sophia Ludvigsen completed the top five. After a fourth place in the team test and a sixth in the individual test, she landed fifth place in the freestyle. 

Sophia Ludvigsen on Blue Hors Elliott
Aboard the 9-year old Blue Hors Elliott (by Erlando x Romanov) she rode to tunes from the movie Beyond Imagination as well to Irish melody and presented a very consistent picture through the test. Her tall bay gelding had good cadence in trot, produced fluent half passes, maybe one to the right was not so elastic.  There was a good clarity in the walk. In the half pirouettes, Elliott gets a bit long in the frame, especially to the left. All tempi changes succeeded/

They posted 76.485%.

The wildest week in the most wonderful company has come to an end," Sophia stated Sunday afternoon. "A gold medal with the best team was amazing! Elliott was a super star all days and we individual placings in the top 6."

- Photos © Anett Somogyvari  

Related Links
Scores: 2023 European Young Rider / Under 25 Championships
Eurodressage Coverage of the 2023 European Young Riders/Under 25 Championships