Bella Innes Ker and Carolyn (pictured), a 14-year-old owned by Bella’s mother, the Duchess of Roxburghe, have a commanding lead in the CCI3* at the SsangYong Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials (13-16 September) after the dressage phase. The pair scored 24.4 to sit 2.3 penalties ahead of second-placed Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street.

“I’m shell shocked,” said Bella, who is just 24. “Carolyn, or ‘Princess’ as we call her at home as she is quite a sassy mare, is a great dressage horse — she makes my job easy.

“I had high expectations for us in this phase and it’s lovely when that expectation turns into this sort of result.”

Bella, who is based in the Scottish Borders at Floors Castle, but is moving to Ireland in a month’s time to train with an event rider, said that she has been training hard with dressage rider and judge, Harry Payne.

“Working with Harry has really benefited my dressage riding,” explained Bella. “He has given me a great insight into what the judges are looking for — it has taught me how to try and ride for every mark.”

Bella, who recently graduated from university with a degree in sports management joked she is “now walking the cross-country course 1,000 times”.

“Carolyn isn’t the speediest of horses out there, so I’m trying to work out how I can get the best round possible from her. It feels really special to be competing here and we’re going to go for it.”

Kitty King is in third with Ceylor L A N on 27, while Oliver Townend is fourth with Ulises. Nineteen-year-old British rider Richard Coney is fifth with Kananaskis. It’s tight at the top, with just 5.2 penalties separating the top 10.

The CCI3* cross-country gets underway tomorrow at 11.30am.

Keep up-to-date with all the latest reports from Blenheim via horseandhound.co.uk and don’t miss the full report in next week’s issue of Horse & Hound magazine, out on 20 September