WORCESTERSHIRE event rider Nicky Hill made a winning debut in the Longines International Arena in her first time competing at Hickstead.

Despite being drawn first to go in the MS Amlin Eventers’ Challenge she set such a quick time that no one could challenge her lead, not even dual champion Paul Tapner.

Riding Kilrodan Sailorette, an 11-year-old chestnut mare, Hill completed on a time of 121.65 seconds including a four-second penalty for knocking down one part of the Devil’s Dyke.

She then had a long wait to see if anyone could better the time, especially with the 2017 and 2018 champion Tapner drawn second last to go.

But when he knocked down the same fence that caught Hill out the pressure was on and he crossed the finish in 122.80 to slot into second and narrowly miss out on his hat-trick.

Last to go in West Sussex was Gemma Tattersall, a team gold medallist at last year’s FEI World Equestrian Games.

She gave it a good go on Chico Bella P but despite jumping clear her time of 125.03 was not quite enough and she had to settle for third.

Despite it being her first attempt at the class and at arena eventing, former University of Worcester student Hill rode into the arena in a determined mood.

Hill, who is based near Himbleton, said: “I hoped she’d have a chance of doing quite well and I went in there hoping I could give it a good shot.

"I was thinking ‘I’ve got to go for it, set the bar high and give everyone something to ride for’.

"She’s awesome but she’s so bold — too bold sometimes. I was worried she might try to jump from the top of the bank!”

Although Hill’s mare is small, she made light work of the tricky course of cross-country fences and show jumps at the Longines Royal International Horse Show.

The rider continued: “She’s tiny, only about 15.1hh, but she’s got a serious jump on her.

“She’s the definition of chestnut mare — she’s harmless but a real diva.”