Eventing talent Heidi Coy marked herself out as a rider to watch after an impressive medal-winning performance on the European stage.
A stunning cross country clear round with Royal Fury helped propel the Harby rider towards the individual bronze medal at the European Young Rider Championships, at Maarsbergen, in the Netherlands.
It was a brilliant start to life in the British under 21s squad for the 19-year-old who won individual and team silver at last year’s European Junior Championships.
“I thought last year would be tough to beat, but to move up a level and win a medal is such an achievement,” she said.
“To do it with the same horse, I don’t think many people have done that before – that’s an achievement in itself.”
She moved into the medal positions with the very last jump of the competition when leader Morgane Euriat, of France, had her third pole down in the show jumping arena, dropping her out of the top-three and elevating Coy onto the podium.
“I went clear and then the girl in fourth had a pole down which put me up to fourth,” she said.
“The leader was allowed a couple of poles and when she hit the final fence, I went ‘oh my god, I’ve just won a bronze!’ It was surreal.”
But the defining moment of Coy’s weekend came on the second day.
Lying 26th after a pleasing dressage score of 32.6, she faced a stern cross country test in appalling conditions.
“It absolutely chucked it down with rain and it was probably the biggest course I have done on him or any horse so I was quite nervous,” she explained.
“The ground was slippy, everything was soaking, and even seeing in the rain is quite difficult when it’s horizontal.
“The time limit was really tight and we knew no-one had made the time in previous events there.”
But the Leicestershire combination, 14th out, were first to go clear under the time limit through the twisty, hilly course.
Just four managed a clear round without time penalties, while 24 were eliminated.
“I know he is a brilliant, brave cross country horse and it’s his best phase, but you never know quite what to expect,” Coy added.
“He really flew in the last couple of minutes and galloped on well.”
The performance put Coy firmly in medal contention in fifth place and set up the dramatic show jumping finale.
As well as the medal, the result in the three-star competition brought more reasons to smile, with qualification to four-star level for Royal Fury, known in the yard at home as Rory.
It has taken her just five years to develop the nine-year-old into a four-star eventer, opening up entry in the near future to elite international competition such as Burghley and Badminton.
“I really wanted to move him up a level to four-star and after that he is definitely within reach,” said Coy who is coached by Caroline Moore and Ian Woodhead (dressage) at Old Dalby.
“I would really like to get to Blenheim in September which has a four-star class for eight and nine-year-olds.”
Though part of the six-strong British squad in Holland, the Vale of Belvoir rider competed as an individual and not in the four-rider team which eventually won gold.
But as the second-best performing British rider behind silver medallist Bubby Upton, she has already put forward a good case for promotion next season, with two more years still left in the age group.
“I was riding as an individual because it’s my first year in Young Riders and I was a bit inexperienced compared with the others – I was just thrilled to be in the squad.
“It does stand me in good stead, but it’s another year away and anything can happen with horses.”