Event rider Lauren Shannon will be back competing among the elite this autumn after her new star mount qualified for the Burghley International Horse Trials.
The Wymeswold-based rider enjoyed one of the best results of her career in finishing second with Quality Purdey at the Bramham International Horse Trials, in Yorkshire.
Only three-time Olympic medallist Andrew Nicholson could outdo the Leicestershire combination, the New Zealand rider finishing just 0.6 of a mark ahead.
The result was good enough to lift the 10-year-old mare into elite four-star competition and opened the door to entry to Burghley in September.
For Lauren, who moved to Wymeswold from the United States 12 years ago, it will end a three-and-a-half year wait to return to eventing’s biggest stage.
“When the previous group retired we started over and have been building up another team of horses,” she said.
“The last four-star was Badminton in 2013 so it’s nice to be back at that level. I’m really pleased that’s it’s Burghley because it’s my favourite event.
“We are not a big operation and it does seem like ages in between. It’s easy to get demoralised sometimes, but working with the young horses is just as exciting as with the older ones.”
Lauren has spent the last few years establishing her own livery yard just outside Wymeswold at the same time as bringing on her next crop of horses.
She has been developing Quality Purdey for the last four years since her owner, Claire Poole, spotted the talented young rider performing at Burghley.
The horse had previously failed to impress on the show jumping circuit, but has adapted brilliantly to life as an eventer.
Claire said: “Other than watching Burghley one weekend a year I didn’t really have a clue about eventing at the time.
“Having seen Lauren compete at Burghley and wanting to support a young, local professional rider, I asked if she would consider taking Purdey on.”
Lauren has twice ridden in Burghley’s blue riband class, finishing top British Under 25 rider and leading debutant in 2010 when finishing 12th.
She returned to the iconic Lincolnshire setting 12 months later with Zero Flight and broke into the top 10.
The pair narrowly missed out on the 2012 Olympics after being on the shortlist for the British team, but the new stable star has re-ignited her international ambitions.
At 10, Quality Purdey will be one of the youngest in the Burghley field and potentially has plenty of time left in the four-star arena.
“She was six months late for being in the running for Rio,” Lauren added.
“If we had qualified earlier, I’m sure we could have been in the running, but there’s no reason why she won’t be in contention for championship teams in the future.
“You can’t quite do a four-year Olympic cycle like normal athletes because our unknown variable is the horse. They are hard to predict!”