Rider Bella Innes Ker, daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Roxburghe, is celebrating a career-best victory after the SsanYong Blenheim Palace Horse Trials.
Bella (24) won the CCI3* (Concours Complet International three-star) stage of the event on board Carolyn, a 14-year-old-mare owned by her mum.
As well as being her biggest win to date, it was also regarded by equestrian experts as an incredible victory in its own right, with a large field of 101 horse-and-rider combinations vying for the title at Britain’s foremost autumn event.
Bella and Carolyn, whose riding partnership has lasted seven years, led from start to finish, posting a 24.4 dressage – a personal best at the three-star level, and equal to their personal best across all levels.
They maintained their lead on the Saturday and came home exactly on the optimum time, to lead without a pole to spare on the final day.
After the cross-country phase, a very testing show jumping course awaited, with tight times, up-to-height fences, and related distances and combinations which did not allow for a moment of lost focus.
However, Bella entered the ring with a fence in hand and, despite adding four penalties, powered on to victory.
She told the Eventing Nation publication she was thrilled for the whole team.
“Carolyn has done her best all week and has outdone every expectation, and I knew I just had to keep my cool in there,” she said.
Bella admitted she’d taken a moment to dream earlier in the week when she spotted one of the prizes on offer for the eventual winner.
“I looked at the winners’ rug and wondered if I’d ever get my hands on it,” she said. “Now it’s mine!”
It was a fitting end to Bella’s time in the UK – she heads to Ireland to start a new job on an eventing yard this autumn.
With a CCI3* victory and the fresh start of a new home and new job awaiting her, what would be next?
“We’re going to regroup and maybe think about Badminton in the spring,” she said.