Horsham dressage rider Fiona Bigwood put in a stunning performance with the British Dressage team at the FEI Dressage European Championships in Aachen, Germany.
Riding her comparatively inexperienced 10-year-old Danish bred mare Atterupgaards Orthilia, affectionately known as Tillie, she helped ensure that the British team achieved the silver medal, having been in bronze position overnight.
Her performance was only 0.01 per cent adrift of the leader Diederik van Silfhout and was a great challenge for individual lead, when she finished on 75.8 per cent, well ahead of Britain’s top team member, Charlotte Dujardin, whose couple of small mistakes in the team event gave her a final score of 83.029 per cent.
Bigwood said: “I am on cloud nine. I knew we had to score top marks to be in for a chance of a medal. This is Tillie’s first season at grand prix level and I couldn’t have asked for more.
“I knew I had to pull out a mark to get a medal. This was only the sixth international for my horse and she is not that experienced, so we are over the moon with her result.
“She was nervous in the 10-minute box and my main aim was to have a clear round and we achieved that, putting down a good score for the team.”
The 39-year-old wears a patch over her right eye when competing, following double vision in it following an horrific fall from a young horse last year.
She added: “It is harder to judge the bend to the right, and I cannot always see where the horse’s neck should be.”
She has clearly built on her achievements with Tillie in the CDI at Barcelona some months ago, when the duo won the Grand Prix Special with scores that led to her selection in the British team for the European Championships.
Her performance gave the British team a solid base to achieve silver in the team competition and there were high hopes for another outstanding performance in the individual Grand Prix Special.
But Bigwood had the misfortune of having to ride in torrential rain and this undoubtedly affected their performance, where they finished with 74.510 per cent in ninth position, with the gold medal going to Charlotte Dujardin who rode later.
Then in the freeestyle competition in the afternoon Tillie had a slight skin reaction causing sensitivity and had to withdraw.
Chef d’Equipe for the dressage team Richard Waygood said: “What a fantastic day for the sport. It was very exciting right up until the end and we are very proud of all our riders.
“We’ve got some great potential for next year and it’s going to make the Olympics very exciting.”
With such a successful championships, Bigwood now has her sights firmly set on the Olympics next year in Rio.
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