Holly Browne and Sigurd (pictured) were the first winners on day two of the Petplan Equine Area Festival Championship.

The pair were almost 3% clear of second placed Jane Lavington and Boston Deluxe, finishing on 68.07% in the inter I bronze area festival class.

“‘Smurf’ was a dragon during the arena walk this morning, so it was great that he went so well and that we achieved a ‘clear round,” said Holly, who is undertaking a law conversion course at Exeter University. “I’ve had him since he was five and he finds big shows nerve-wracking and can go a bit quiet in the ring, but we’ve combated that with competing him frequently and it seems to have worked.”

Holly’s father, Simon, was stepping in as her groom for the first time today (12 April).

“Mum, who is my usual groom, broke her wrist in the icy conditions, so dad, who isn’t horsey at all has had to step in and he’s been amazing,” smiled Holly, who is 23 and hopes to take this 12-year-old horse to grand prix.

The first horse into the arena at 7.57am in the elementary bronze area festival championship ended up winning the class. This was Eminence, ridden by Nicola Grainge.

“I’m so pleased — we finished stone dead last in yesterday’s class,” said Nicola, referring to their 63.07% score in the elementary silver championship. “My mother broke her leg twice in two separate incidents last week so I didn’t manage to arrive here on the day I wanted, which is why yesterday didn’t go to plan.”

Nicola, who owns her own dental practice in East Sussex, credited her win to the fact she felt she performed an accurate test with no mistakes.

“I’ve owned ‘Ralph’ since he was five and my aim is to get to a level where I can compete in a tail coat!”

Paula Holden reigned victorious in the elementary silver area festival championship with Jane Lock’s Eberhard.

“Jane was crying when I came out of the arena — he did a good test and stayed with me the whole way through,” said Paula, who runs a yard in Lancashire. “I knew once we got through our rein back that we could stand a chance of doing really well as his walk is so strong and that was the next movement before the final centre line.”

Paula said she has trained “really hard over the past three weeks” with Joanna Jackson.

“She has been amazing and we’ve worked so hard on getting ‘Joseph’s’ frame open and soft.”

This nine-year-old by Viagro, will now return home to his owner, who bought him when he was five.

“I’ve just retired from a very busy job in clinical research and have moved into a new house where I’m building some stables and an arena for Joseph to move into,” said Jane. “He’s such a safe, kind horse and I’m looking forward to getting him out competing.”

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Catrina Leckie made her eight-and-a-half hour journey from central Scotland worthwhile when taking the Inter I silver area festival championship riding the 18hh Adventure.

“I only passed my HGV test a couple of weeks ago so this was my first long trip driving the lorry,” said Catrina, who has owned her Dutch-bred gelding since he was five. “I was pleased with my test bar a couple of results, and especially as we have had terrible preparation battling the snow.”

For a full report from the British Dressage Winter Championships and Area Festival final – as well as news, views and expert comment – don’t miss Thursday’s (19 April) issue of Horse & Hound