Royal Dickens of a weekend for Ruth at Gatcombe event

So they did not win but South Yorkshire police officer Ruth Dickens will not forget her trip to Gatcombe for the biggest challenge of her eventing career when she took part in the Military and Service section.

"We had a superb weekend away," she said.

"The weather was fantastic, and the event organisers had done a fantastic job with their farm machinery to improve the rather hard going on the cross-country. It is also not every day you see the Princess Royal acting as groom for her daughter.

"Old Springfield Amber did her best dressage performance for me yet, and we started with a score of 38.6.

"She was then a little unfortunate in the show-jumping to roll four poles.

"She came back, however, with a clear cross-country round and only four time penalties, which were due entirely to her mother taking an unnecessarily cautious long route between fences.

"Our aim was to complete and enjoy, which we did. We now go to Oasby on October 3 and then, hopefully, to our first two-day at Aldon to finish the season.

"If all is well at these two events we will be qualified for our first international next year.

"Everyone needs a dream."

The Whitakers scored at the Horse of the Year Show with William Whitaker, 14, riding John Oversby's 10-year-old clack gelding Devlin, winning the Squibb and Davies Junior Foxhunter, with two clear rounds, beating their nearest rival by 1.83 seconds.

Louise Whitaker, riding Pro Horse International's Pamone won the Thomas Bates and Son Seven-year-old Championship from international opposition with two clear rounds and a whopping three seconds in hand over her nearest competitor.

Ellen Whitaker with Quinten II won the Speed Horse of the Year competition, her cousin Robert Whitaker won the Finn Forest Hunter Woodshavings Cup with Karina.

Northallerton-based rider Paul Barker won the Rexton Speed and Power Championship on Blue Chip Quinton.