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Donna Clayton won her first prestigious rider of the year title at last weekend’s National Side Saddle Championships after working her way up the ladder for the past 13 years.

Donna, who works full-time as a buyer for Lotus in Norfolk, triumphed after gaining the highest overall placing in exacting equitation and jumping tests, before competing against the three other top riders — Harriet Miles, Helena Hogarth and Lisa McCulloch — in a ride-off, performing freestyle displays on four unfamiliar horses.

Donna, along with Lisa, had taken part in one previous ride-off, but the comparatively fresh faces made for an exciting final after a select band had dominated the title in recent years.

“The first time I made it to the ride-off, I was terrified,” admitted Donna. “But this time, as the big names weren’t involved, I thought I had a fighting chance. I enjoyed riding all four horses, but Hazel Allin’s Fools Rhyme was my favourite.”

On her own horse, the lovely skewbald mare, Wishes To Be, Donna was one of just three clear rounds in the equitation jumping phase.

“My mare has competed to advanced medium, but finds the jumping very easy, which helps me because I get very nervous,” said Donna. “But on this occasion, nerves made me really attack the course, which is what I think was needed.”