Rosalind Canter admitted she had to conquer a serious bout of nerves to be crowned leading debutant at the Burghley Horse Trials.
Riding Allstar B, the Louth eventer produced a brilliant dressage test to score 40.2 and find herself 10th after the first phase of the three-day event.
And she overcame the tension to leave all the fences up in the show jumping finale, scoring a solitary time fault to secure an excellent 37th place finish.
Just 49 of the original 74 horse and rider combinations made it through all three disciplines with some of the world’s leading riders failing to make it through.
“I was over the moon really,” she said. “It’s actually horrible and quite nerve-wracking going in there.
“I don’t think the time was particularly tight; I was just a bit slow.
“He’s given everything this weekend and I’m delighted just to finish.
“I’m quite proud of myself how I’ve dealt with everything this week. It’s a big deal to come and compete here.
“It’s been an incredible experience and I’m quite sad it’s over because it went by so quickly.”
For Canter (29), the experience of a gruelling Burghley course and world-class field on a very young horse was invaluable.
“We’re both first-timers and he’s only a 10-year-old, so hopefully there’s a lot more to come,” she added.
“We almost did PBs in every stage, and a couple of mistakes have pushed us out of the top 10, but we can iron those out and crack on for the future.”
The competition was led from pillar to post by world number one Michael Jung, but even the world number one came a cropper on a fiendishly tough cross country course.
He fell off Fischerrocana, who led after dressage, but produced a brilliant ride on his second mount, Sam, to retake a lead which he never relinquished.
And it was the Captain Mark Phillips-designed course which did for Canter’s hopes of a higher finish as 20 faults and 36 time faults left her down in 41st going into the final day.
But the pair recovered superbly to add just one show jumping fault to her final score and lift her back up the final standings.
She said: “I’d love to bring him back next year for the four-star again. He finished the cross-country really well.
“Having not done this before I didn’t quite know if I’d got him fit enough, but he definitely was more than fit enough the way he kicked on.
“He dealt with the pressure brilliantly as well. I don’t think he really woke up to what the occasion was until about Saturday night.
“For the most part he’s quite a laid-back horse, and he’s been snoozing in his stable most of the week, but after the cross-country he was quite bright.”
* The multi-award winning Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials has been established as a major international equestrian and social event in the Autumn Sporting Calendar for more than 50 years. For more information, visit www.burghley-horse.co.uk