Devon dressage rider Lucy Baker rode Shirley Tibb's Llancloudy Phantom Menace to victory in the Petplan Equine Advanced Medium Restricted Area Festival Championship, almost two years to the day since they took the Medium title.
The finals were held alongside the prestigious Winter Dressage Championships at Hartpury College, Gloucestershire.
"The Menace strikes again!" said a delighted Lucy. "It's pretty exciting to come back and win. You train and do your best and while you may do well at local level you don't expect to do so well at the nationals – I can't stop smiling!"
The pair fought off some classy opposition in a 21-strong class to win on a score of 69.85%. "The horse worked in really well and it felt like a good test," added Lucy, who noted it all went to plan with no awkward movements. "Our marks put us into the lead and we held on to it!"
Lucy's grey mount is by the prolific stallion Roma Diamond Skip. "Shirley hunts her in the winter and does most of the riding club activities while I take her over part-time to turn her into a smart dressage horse."
Lucy's ultimate aim is to move up to Prix St Georges level. "We'll take every day as it comes and keep on training."
Runner-up in this class was Beth Barnett riding Sheepcote Delight (67.35%), but the judges just couldn't separate the third-placed riders – Izzy Laurence and Ballebo and Susie Cullen on Wind Dance had to share the spoils on 66.76%.
Winning four elementaries on the trot before going to the championships proved a good omen for Alison Luscombe and her black Oldenburg mare Sienna Sunset, who won the coveted Petplan Equine Elementary Restricted Area Festival Championship. After missing the ride-off last year by just one place – through her own mistake, Alison admits – she was more determined than ever to get it right this time.
The pair posted a score of 68.10% in their group, securing a place in a nail-biting second-round. In the 30-horse ride-off, their performance was awarded a winning score of 69.66%.
"I'm thrilled with her as we spent the whole of last year dealing with niggling medical issues which we appear to have got over now," said Alison, of Doddiscombsleigh, Exeter.
"She went really well on the day – you could always ask a bit more but you tend to ride in safe mode in a championship – and I feel our relationship is a lot stronger," she added of the 17hh mare by Sunny Boy.
Alison, who combines her love of dressage with running the busy Haldon Plant business with her husband Graham, has high hopes of qualifying for the summer regionals at elementary level with the nationals in mind. "I hope to do work at medium too, but it's fitting it all in, especially with a pony-mad three-year-old!"
She added: "We'll be moving up the levels together which I'm really looking forward to. Certainly the mare has got it all and it's a case of unleashing her potential."
Attending the prestigious Winter Dressage Championships at Hartpury for the first time was Annie Brooker, who was narrowly beaten in the Blue Chip Novice restricted by less than half a percentage point. Annie, of Kingsbridge, South Devon, rode her own German Donnerhall Warmblood, Likoto's Luke, to a score of 67.47% to finish hot on the heels of Claire Harrison and Royal Duchess.
"We weren't expecting to be placed as high as we were," said Annie, "I was just thrilled he behaved himself as we've spent months working on his temper tantrums.
"I feel that he has finally started to grow up."
On her eight-year-old's pleasing test, she added: "He could not have done any better. He took it all in and just got on with the job."
Annie puts down her success to the help and encouragement from former boss Alex Farleigh, of Dittiscombe Equestrian Centre, and latterly from event rider Helen West, who she now works for.
"I'm hoping to qualify for elementary at the summers as we have already qualified at Novice," said Annie, who is still reeling from achieving a score of 78% at Bicton the week before. "It's great encouragement for the both of us."