Abi Leadbetter of Darlington hit top gear to win a title at the annual British Showjumping National Amateur and Veterans Championships.

She won the the British Showjumping 1.10m category with Hearts Cruise at the hugely popular competition, held at Aintree International Equestrian Centre.

Abi said: “She’s been incredible and jumping out of her skin the entire week and we were in the 1.05m Final jump-off earlier but I messed up and let her down by adding a stride. I wanted to put it right jumping the 1.10m Final.

A total of 36 competitors came forward over a 10-fence 1.10m track with 12 supplying all the answers to access a thrilling, edge-of-your-seats jump-off with shorter and shorter times recorded as riders dared to cut corners to the max.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Abi Leadbetter and Hearts Cruise on their way to victory   Picture: Majestic Photography

Abi and her eight-year-old mare had already recorded wins: the Saddles Direct Accumulator with Joker and the Synovium Horse Health 1m Challenge Final. They were seriously out to claim their third win and made it a championship title, winning from mid-draw with 0.74 seconds to spare.

She added: “I walked the 1.10m course and thought it was less technical than the 1.05m, and when I looked at the jump-off [on the course plan] it suited us. She’s only little – 15.1hh – and doesn’t have the stride to win at a gallop, but there were some nice rollback turns; I just had to ride her correctly.

“She loves Aintree and lights up in the atmosphere and won two qualifiers here last year. She knows where she is as soon as she puts her feet on the walkway, she becomes a bouncing ball.”

The feisty mare was purchased as a an inexperienced five-year-old and won the Senior British Novice Final and finished second in the Senior Discovery Final at the British Showjumping National Championships a year later.

“We always knew she was going to be quick and she’s perfect for the Amateur Bronze League – we like to keep her in her comfort zone and I’m only an amateur; we do this for fun,” said Abi. “She’s very intelligent and she knows the music as soon as it starts at Aintree; it’s her time and she’s immediately on her toes. We have such a connection and trust each other completely – it does feel like she speaks to me.

“She’s pretty buzzy and sharp and a different horse at home – she spins and spooks at everything, always finding something new to spook at each day and sometimes she’ll catch me and have me off!”