Paula Jane Holden and Falco II head the 100cm-section leaderboard following day one of the inaugural Horse & Hound Grassroots Eventing Championships (27-29 May).

It’s all been about the preparation,” said the Preston rider after posting an impressive 25.75 score to top the class overnight.

This was the seven-year-old Dutch gelding’s first competition staying away from home and his owner/rider made sure he was ready for the occasion.

“I took him for sleepovers at friends’ yards three times before coming here because he can get anxious and I wanted him to be used to it,” said Paula who runs a yard near Preston. “He can be sharp but is very talented and I was so pleased with his test today.”

The flashy grey is sired by Dutch jumping stallion Zirocco Blue and he’s clearly taken to the dressage white boards well.

“I bought him as a three-year-old unbroken — although I wasn’t that impressed when I first went to see him,” explained Paula. “I got him anyway and then broke him in myself.”

The pair has enjoyed recent success competing affiliated at British Eventing as well — they finished second at novice level last weekend (20 May) at Warwick Hall.

Falco also benefits from canters on the beach near to Paula’s base close to Preston.

“I always take him for a gallop along the beach before he competes, it just seems to chill him out,” she added.

Purchasing Falco was the end of a ten-year eventing hiatus for Paula and the gelding has helped the rider get back out competing once again.

“I had been so busy helping other people with their riding, then I realised I was, in fact, getting older and it was about time I got my own horse,” she said. “I saved up for him and I was in a better position whereby I could afford my own horse.”

Read the full report from the Horse & Hound Grassroots Eventing Championships in H&H — on sale Thursday, 1 June.