Dubai-based Irish rider Marion Hughes finished second in a nail biting FEI World Cup qualifier in Chengdu in China on Saturday.
After her Chinese horse was declared lame just before the Red Mills sponsored event, fellow equestrian Miguel Bravo (Portugal), who was unable to compete, offered Hughes his own horse to ride instead, with the permission of the FEI officials.
Competing ninth in a field of 14 international riders, Hughes, who had never ridden the horse before, steered him to a magnificent clear round to tumultuous applause from the Chinese spectators.
This was the third leg of the Red Mills Chinese FEI World Cup Qualifiers and was hosted in a brand new €20m stadium by the city of Chengdu in Sichuan province.
Irish Olympian Cian O’Connor also won for Ireland in an earlier leg of the competition in Beijing, underlining the dominance of Irish equestrian sport in the emerging Chinese industry.
Victory for O’Connor was all the sweeter as the horse was trained by China-based Galway man Austin Melia, manager of China’s premier Equestrian Club, BIEC, and coach to the junior Chinese equestrian team.
Ireland’s involvement was complete as the event was sponsored by Kilkenny company Connolly’s Red Mills – the first and to date only foreign horse feed company to have secured the stringent import registrations and licences for China.
Equestrian sports are new to China and this is only the second year this FEI competition has been held.