The British rider was the only person to finish on her dressage score, piloting the home-bred Chilli Knight, who belongs to Chris Stone to victory.
“It’s been a massive road to this point, I’m 36 years old and I’ve won a five-star,” said Gemma. “There was never a point when I thought Chilli Knight could win a five-star. If you’d asked me out of all the horses I’ve ridden if he could win my first five-star, I’d have said absolutely not, but he’s got all the heart in the world. I just want to say a massive thank you to my whole team, especially my amazing owners Chris and Lisa Stone.”
Pippa Funnell lay third overnight and put the pressure on the top two when she jumped clear on Billy Walk On, owned by Barbara and Nicholas Walkinshaw.
“When Pippa jumped clear, I thought, ‘There isn’t a hope I’m going to jump clear’ – he did feel a bit tired today,” said Gemma.
“I was nervous, obviously anyone can have a fence. I do a lot of showjumping so I cantered in and thought ‘I’m at Hickstead, at my home ground, where I jump all the time, in ring two with no one watching me. It doesn’t matter, I’m just going to jump a round like I jump all the time on lots of different horses’.”
Chilli Knight did rattle a couple of fences and Gemma worked hard during her round, but she managed to get a clear in the bag. This guaranteed her second place and meant Piggy March couldn’t afford a fence down to win.
Piggy and Trevor Dickens’ Vanir Kamira started out well, but the oxer at fence six fell – handing Gemma victory – as well as the spread fence over the water tray at number eight. Piggy’s eight faults moved her down to third, leaving Pippa Funnell second and Gemma first.
Bicton Horse Trials results: Brits take top seven places
Ros Canter held fourth on Pencos Crown Jewel, despite having fence six down and the upright at fence 11. Pippa Funnell moved up from eighth overnight to fifth with her second ride, Majas Hope, who just had fence six down.
Richard Jones kept sixth when Alfies Clover just lowered fence 11, while Oliver Townend dropped two places from fifth after cross-country with eight faults on Tregilder at the first and the upright at fence 10.
Padraig McCarthy had the first and last parts of the treble at fence nine down on HHS Noble Call for Ireland to finish eighth.
The oldest horse in the competition, Ringwood Sky Boy, had fences three and 11 down to finish ninth for New Zealand, with rider Tim Price saying: “He was full of exuberance, that’s what found us out. But he’s finished healthy and sound, not bad for an 18-year-old horse.”
Felicity Collins achieved her first five-star completion by taking 10th with RSH Contend Or, the pair jumping a beautiful clear round today to move up from 12th after cross-country.
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