Rising event rider Heidi Coy smashed her own expectations as she earned a brilliant medal double at the FEI Junior European Championships.
Competing among the 67 best young riders in Europe, the Harby rider and her star mount Royal Fury stormed to a double clear at cross country and show jumping to win the individual silver medal.
Their results also lifted the five-strong British squad into silver medal position in the team competition, behind hosts France.
It also erased the disappointment of missing out on the British squad for last year’s championships, having been cut after making the initial shortlist.
“I wanted to show them that they should have taken me last year and I think it might have proved that to them a bit,” she said.
“I went there thinking I’d be happy to finish in the top 20, and a top 10 would be a bonus, but knew it would all have to come together.
“I knew he could do it and had good form, but I was worried because there were a lot of horses there and we were competing against the best in Europe.”
With the junior and young rider championships this year combined, on top of the individual competitions for each of the three disciplines, more than 600 horses made for a hectic scene at Fontainebleu.
There were a few concerns of how Royal Fury, the youngest horse in the squad at just eight-years-old, would cope with the bustling atmosphere and the heat, particularly in the opening dressage test.
“We were the second to last dressage test to go so we had a long wait,” Coy added.
“But he’s not really bothered by the heat and did one of the best tests he had ever done.”
The personal best score of 28.30 left them as the leading British combination after the first phase in sixth overall, and helped the team into fourth place.
And there was more to come in the following day’s cross country.
The duo were once again the penultimate combination to go, with plenty of time to see the difficulties others faced on a tough technical course.
But again the long wait had no adverse effect as a clear round within the time limit lifted them and the team into the medal positions in third.
“It was a long test and asked lots of questions at the end as the horses were getting tired,” she added.
“So the riders had to be on their guard all the way through and the horses needed to be fit.
“Some of the leaders had problems and that worked in our favour.”
As the leading British rider in the standings, Coy was last to go for the team in the show jumping finale, but the pressure was lifted by her team-mates.
“There were only 16 clear rounds in total, but all of our team had gone clear which gave me confidence,” she said.
“I knew I didn’t need to go clear because we were guaranteed the bronze.”
Coy kept her cool to jump a faultless round and heap the pressure on France’s Anouk Canteloup, in gold, and second-placed German rider Alina Dibowski.
Dibowski duly lowered a pole to slip to seventh place, lifting the Leicestershire rider into second, but Canteloup went clear to hold on to gold, with just 2.4 fewer faults.
“We knew we were going to win bronze so didn’t really pay any attention to what came after,” she said.
“It didn’t feel quite real, and we both burst into tears. You always dream of times like this, and then it happens!
“It makes it really special because we have had him (Royal Fury) from the start.”
The performance will not have gone unnoticed by overall team manager Darrell Scaife, but would have been no surprise to the British junior team coach, Caroline Moore, who is also Coy’s full-time coach at Old Dalby.
Their next aim will be the British Young Rider team, for ages 18 to 21, and she travels to Ireland later this summer to try and elevate her stable star to the necessary two-star level.