Emma Oakden was rewarded for her perseverance with a class win at the SEIB Trailblazers National Championships.
The Queniborough rider claimed the Countrywide Senior 85cm Championship at Stoneleigh Park, in Warwickshire, having qualified for the finals for the last decade.
Having come through two rounds of qualifiers, Emma won the championship aboard her 15.2hh thoroughbred cross mare, Lily May.
She bought the mare as an unbroken two-year-old, and broke her in at four.
Now 12, Lily May has had many wins in show jumping classes, from riding club through to affiliated level.
“I have been competing at the final for more than 10 years, so it was such a good feeling to have finally won the title after all this time,” she said.
“I came close to it last year as Lily May was reserve champion in the 95cm class, but I started to wonder if I’d ever actually win it!
“Lily seems to like competing at Trailblazers and I feel she really tries and gives it her all. I think she knew we needed to do one better this year and she gave it everything she’d got.”
Emma runs Queniborough Equestrian Centre, so riding and competing her own horses is a delicate balancing act.
“I only get Sundays off, so that is my show day,” she added. “I have two amazing friends – Heather Sharman and Amy Jaggard – who give up their Sundays and come to the shows with me as my grooms and as my loyal supporters.
Emma’s passion is show jumping, and she has bought a young Dutch Warmblood who she hopes will take her onto a higher level.
“She is already looking good, as she has already qualified for a few finals. Fingers crossed she’ll make her debut at Trailblazers next year,” she said.
Classes at the Trailblazers Championships include showing, dressage, show jumping and combined training with no registration fees for horse or rider. Qualifying competitions are already under way for the 2017 championships.
* For more about qualifying dates and venues, visit www.trailblazerschampionships.com