FRENCHMAN Thomas Carlile believes his stallion Upsilon relished the tough challenge Barbury International Horse Trials presented at the weekend when successfully defending their CIC*** Event Rider Masters (ERM) Championship.

Carlile, who won the same category onboard his trusty stallion exactly 12 months ago, made it three ERM wins in as many years having experienced success at Blenheim two years ago also.

The pair outjumped the rest of the field to complete the three-day event with a score of 26.1 - ahead of second-placed Gemma Tattersall of Great Britain and Australia’s Chris Burton, who finished third.

Carlile put part of his success at Barbury down to work completed at home to boost the horse’s confidence, saying: “We did a couple of sessions in the arena to get his confidence back.

“I’ve got a yard full of lovely young horses, but with Upsilon it can be tricky as it’s not all the time we’re competing at three-star level. It takes different riding skills to compete at that level.

“It’s good to be back this week.”

It’s been a successful year at three-star level thus far after the French flier also landed top spot at Houghton International in May.

But adjusting to three-star level has been an issue for Carlile, who is currently in the process of improving a strong bunch of young horses at his yard.

“CIC courses are always tough, especially this one as it’s a shortened version,” he said.

“This year they kept it technically similar, but they definitely beefed up the big fences – there were some seriously big fences out there.

“We want a proper test, and the time here is always a big issue.”

The recent warm weather also played its part at this weekend’s trials.

A prolonged period of rain in the spring has been reversed in the past month with very little rain falling at Barbury since the turn of June.

On hard ground, Carlile underlined the importance of having a horse that can settle and hold its own balance well, something which he believes Upsilon did well.

He said: “You need a fast horse across the ground, but you need a horse that can settle too.

“Whenever you start to touch reins you’re losing seconds, with a well-balanced horse you can turn tight and use its turn of foot to get on the pace.

“That’s very important. And Barbury tests speed too, which was shown again this weekend.”

Wiltshire’s Flora Harris was the highest placed local rider when partnering Bayano to finish fourth while Lambourn’s Laura Collett ended the event in ninth with Dacapo.

New Zealander Tim Price, who is based at Mildenhall, also finished in the top 10 with Ascona M.

There was disappointment though for Andrew Nicholson, who fell three fences from the finish of the cross-country course aboard Swallow Springs - both horse and rider returned to stables.

It was a frustrating weekend for Sir Mark Todd, Jonelle Price, David Doel and Georgie Strang, who all retired prior to the last final day.