Showjumper Harriet Biddick is aiming for a fourth British Speed Derby victory following a memorable tack malfunction during last year’s attempt.

In 2023, the Somerset rider was poised to set a new record in the class aboard Silver Lift. However, when Harriet was nearing the end of the course, her horse’s bridle slipped off as he landed after the Irish Bank.

They managed to jump through the treble of Hickstead planks despite having no bridle, and it looked like Silver Lift might continue on to jump the final spread, but unfortunately, the gelding cantered past the last fence and Harriet retired.

If Harriet had won the class she would have become the first female rider to do so four times, plus Silver Lift would become the only horse ever to win four times.

While Harriet didn’t manage to secure a record victory, a video of the incident was viewed more than 50 million times across social media, and a photograph of the pair taken by Tilly Berendt was later chosen as the British Equestrian Media Association’s Moment of the Year.

Credit Tilly Brent

NIKON D3 · f/2.8 · 1/6400s · 300mm · ISO320

As well as dealing with the disappointment of missing out on a record win, Harriet had the frightening moment of navigating a bridleless Silver Lift round the International Arena. Harriet was in the early stages of pregnancy with her second child, and so a potential fall was more concerning than usual. Fortunately, Silver Lift soon came to a stop at the entrance to the arena.

“It was quite a daunting moment in my head, as I knew I couldn’t jump off him,” said Harriet. “It wasn’t ideal but I just let him figure it out and pretended nothing had gone wrong. When he started getting faster, I remember thinking, this is getting a bit silly now, but I was trying to talk to him and calm him down.

“I mean, it shows how honest the horse is – he’s amazing to cope with what he coped with that day and to stop at the entrance afterwards. He’s got a heart of gold.”

Harriet and her jockey husband Will Biddick welcomed baby Oliver in December, a younger brother for their first son Archie. At this year’s Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting, both children will have the opportunity to watch their mum potentially make history in the British Speed Derby (Saturday 22 June), but for Harriet, it’s more important to make amends for last year after an incident.

“I feel like I owe it to the horse because he was going so well last year, and he deserved to win it last year,” she added. “He’s 19 years old now, so it’s now or never, but he feels really good and I owe it to him to try again.”

Images by Tilly Berendt

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