Fabulous Phoebe Creates European Pony Championship History One Week Before First Anniversary of Britain’s Olympic Glory

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Great Britain's European Pony Championship team showing the flag like their grownu compatriots at the London Olympics a year ago. © 2013 Arezzo Equestrian Center/Digital World
Great Britain’s European Pony Championship team showing the flag like their grownu compatriots at the London Olympics a year ago. © 2013 Arezzo Equestrian Center/Digital World

AREZZO, Italy, July 28–One week before the first anniversary of the Olympics that brought gold to British dressage for the first time that inspired Phoebe Peters, the 14-year-old wrote her own chapter in the history books with the nation’s first individual medals at the European Pony Championships, two golds.

Phoebe and SL Lucci that her mother bought 18 months ago, won the European Pony Championship Freestyle with a world record score of 84.000 per cent and placed first in the Individual competition with a personal best score. The individual honors came after the pair led the British team to the bronze medal for the first time since 2007.

The competition for Phoebe and the 11-year-old Danish-born German Riding Pony (Lukas x Bazar) was stiff for gold, the exclusive domain of German and Dutch riders since the championships were inaugurated in San Remo, Italy in 1986. In the 27 years of existence, for instance, Germany has taken the team title 23 times, including this year.

Semmieke Rothenberger and Deinhard B. © 2013 Arezzo Equestrian Center/Digital World
Semmieke Rothenberger and Deinhard B. © 2013 Arezzo Equestrian Center/Digital World

Among the 55 horses and riders that included 13 national teams to start in the dressage competition–the jumping and eventing championships were held at the same event–was Germany’s Semmieke Rothenberger dubbed “the Queen of Pony Dressage” and Deinhard B that she rode at the Hagen, Germany qualifying event in June for victories in all three competitions, creating new records all above 80 per cent in each test.

This year was different and the Brits were not intimidated.

Inspired, Phoebe said, by the Olympic team and individual gold medal performances of Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro and the team gold of Carl Hester and Uthopia who are based in Newent only an hour away from Phoebe in Moreton-in-Marsh, both in Gloucestershire.

Charlotte and Carl, she said after her gold medal performance, “have paved the way for us all now.”

The road paved by Charlotte, Carl and team mate Laura Tomlinson (Bechtolsheimer before her marriage after the Games) and Mistral Hojris took them to Greenwich Park in London. There, in the first few days of August, 2012, they won gold in the Nations Cup, the first dressage medal for Britain in 100 years at the Olympics, while Charlotte won individual gold and Laura individual bronze.

On the European Pony Championship Freestyle medals podium. © 2013 Arezzo Equestrian Center/Digital World
On the European Pony Championship Freestyle medals podium. © 2013 Arezzo Equestrian Center/Digital World

Phoebe set the bar highest the first two days in leading Britain to their team bronze behind Germany on gold and Netherlands on silver.

Their score of 77.795 per cent put them at the top of the individual rankings in the team competitions and beat their previous high of 76.410 per cent in the Nations Cup at Compiègne, France in June. Semmieke Rothenberger and Deinhard B did not fare well and their score was the lowest of the four combinations on her team, but Germany did not need it to win again.

Then, the individual competition and a score of 79.049 per cent for Phoebe and Lucci, another personal best–their previous high being 76.536 per cent in Saumur in May–and history was made with Britain’s first individual gold.

The top 15 horses and riders advanced to the Freestyle on Sunday.

Phoebe and Lucci scored 84.000 per cent earning gold for Britain and breaking the world record that Semmieke and Deinhard had set two months earlier. And far exceeded the 80.330 per cent that was the pair’s previous Freestyle best they set at Vidauban, France in March.

“I can hardly believe it!” Phoebe said afterward.

Great Britain's Phoebe Peters on St. Lucci at the European Pony Championships. © 2013 Arezzo Equestrian Center/Digital World
Great Britain’s Phoebe Peters on SL Lucci at the European Pony Championships. © 2013 Arezzo Equestrian Center/Digital World

This year has been a breakout for the partnership that began early in 2012 after Lucci was bought by Phoebe’s mother for Phoebe to compete.

Lucci had been ridden by Caroline Aarosin on the Danish gold medal team and won bronze in the Freestyle at the 2011 Nordic Baltic Championships and team bronze at the 2011 European Pony Championships in Fontainebleau, France.

Phoebe rode Lucci at the 2012 Europeans, finishing 14th in individual and freestyle and Britain was 4th in the team competition.

The rider made her international debut at FEI pony level in 2011 with Hillmen.

While she was waiting to go into a medal ceremony, SL Luccia was standing sleepily, seemingly unaware of the historic moment.

“He’s always like this” Phoebe said, “but when he goes into the arena he really lights up, that’s one of the great things about him. He’s the best, he amazes me.”

The senior Britons who inspired Phoebe get another shot at glory next month when Charlotte, Carl and Laura compete for Great Britain among the 15 teams at the grownups European Championships, to be held at Herning, Denmark. Britain is the defending champion, having won gold for the first time at the previous Europeans in Rotterdam in 2011.