Holly Smith, who had never ridden in a puissance competition until this year, and the teenager from Ireland, Christopher Megahey, 18, a first-timer at Olympia, The London International Horse Show, shared the spoils in a thrilling finale to the Cayenne Puissance.
With The Duchess of Cornwall – who was paying her annual visit to the show – looking on, the pair both cleared 7ft 1in in the fifth and final round.
Holly (nee Gillott), riding the huge bay Irish sport horse Quality Old Joker, showed all her experience from the hunting field, saw the perfect stride and cleared the massive wall in superb style:
But then the young Irishman matched her for nerve and pinged over on another Irish-bred horse, his brother’s former eventer Seapatrick Cruise Cavalier, in a result that will thrill fans of horses from the Emerald Isle:
Norwegian rider Rebekka Lie Andersen finished third, having retired in the third round on Want To Do, and Britain’s Laura Renwick, who withdrew from the third round, was fourth on Top Dollar Vl.
“It’s fantastic,” said Holly, 27. “All my friends are here to watch. I tried to treat it as a normal show, but it’s just got such an amazing atmosphere. The first three rounds didn’t actually go that well, but then I managed to see a forward stride in the fourth and he jumped brilliantly.”
Christopher was equally thrilled. “I loved it – it didn’t faze me at all. It’s just brilliant being here, being around top riders like Marcus Ehning and Scott Brash.”
Earlier on in the day the Stephex Stables enjoyed a fantastic start to the show, with its riders claiming the first two international Show Jumping classes.
The initial victory came from Germany’s Daniel Deusser, who took the Santa Stakes with nine-year-old stallion Hidalgo VG.
“It’s great to start with a win as it gives you confidence for the rest of show,” said Daniel, who beat 11 rivals in the jump off and relegated Britain’s Ben Maher (Don Vito) to second.
Italian rider Lorenzo De Luca took the Christmas Pudding Stakes, a speed class, riding Halifax van het Kluizebos, one of the Belgium operation’s nine-year-old stallions.
“He’s a very good horse now, having continued to improve and become more competitive in bigger classes,” said Lorenzo, who is an Olympia first-timer. “Getting the invitation to compete here was a dream come true,” he said. “To win on the first day is just fantastic.”
Lorenzo de Luca. Photo credit: Imagess
In the 1.40 Warm-Up class, Anthony Condon of Ireland claimed the top spot on Fiona v/h Kemmenshof just in front of hometown girl Laura Renwick and Dominant H in second and German legend Marcus Ehning on Comme il Faut in third. Penelope Leprevost on Nice Stephanie and American Laura Kraut on Constable II rounded out the group in fourth and fifth respectively.
Olympic champion Nick Skelton spent the day being feted by journalists and the crowd, who will no doubt be voting in their thousands for him on Sunday night in BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Speaking of his Olympic Gold Medal, Nick said “I never thought it would happen – I’d tried and failed so many times, but I think it means more to me winning a gold medal at my age than it would have done if I was younger”.