Sarah Bullimore defied injury to post the joint-third highest dressage score ever seen at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials and finish day one at the top of the standings.
Bullimore, on 11-year-old gelding Corouet, earned a stunning 22.5 in their dressage test to edge out Piggy March on Vanir Kamira for top spot.
The 49-year-old suffered a fall on Monday that left her knee badly bruised, but the pair showed little sign of pain when in the arena.
And the Bedfordshire rider insists there is still more to come for the duo despite their lofty score.
“He was amazing,” beamed Bullimore. “He really listened, he was really onside and actually looked after me.
“We’ve not come here in the best state to perform but he was great in there and that was probably the best test we’ve performed all year.
“He’s been a little bit tricky this year, he thinks I’m a bit of a hindrance at the best of times, so with a dodgy knee as well I think he thought I’ll just carry her.
“There’s still more in there, we’ve got better dressage scores at 4* level and we can easily reproduce that at 5*.
“We had a couple of silly little mistakes that still could be better but on the whole, I am over the moon with him – he’s a little superstar.”
It was a dream start to Bullimore’s Burghley campaign, as the event returns bigger and better than ever for 2022 after two missed years due to Covid-19.
The 49-year-old left the arena smiling from ear to ear as the sun beat down in Stamford, Lincolnshire but Bullimore admits it could have been very different after Monday’s fall.
“I actually got studded in the knee,” she added. “It wasn’t the best preparation.
“I’ve been quite lucky as to where it is, it could’ve fractured something.
“It’s quite stiff and sore and quite bruised at the moment, it’s quite a pretty picture but it is getting better daily.”
The equestrian now has a day to rest before tackling Burghley’s famous cross-country course, which is widely regarded as one of the toughest on the circuit.
A new designer, Derek di Grazia, has replaced long-time curator Captain Mark Phillips and Bullimore is intrigued to tackle the test the American has set out for the riders.
“We’re taking one day at a time,” insisted Bullimore. “I’ve been round and had a look; it’s big and bold with serious questions early on.
“I need to go and have a better look and make some decisions on what routes to take.
“Derek has been really clever with making you commit to a line; if you’re going straight, you’re going straight there’s no changing your mind halfway.”
Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (1-4 September 2022) returns after a two-year hiatus, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. A major international sporting and social event for over 50 years it attracts 80 of the world’s top equestrians and over 170,000 visitors. For more information visit www.burghley-horse.co.uk