No one was more surprised by Lara de Liedekerke-Meier’s five star win at the Longines Luhmühlen Horse Trials than Lara de Liedekerke-Meier.

Sixth after dressage and third after cross country, the Belgian rider jumped double clear in show jumping and delighted the crowd with an enthusiastic fist pump and bevy of hugs for her homebred mare Hooney d’Arville.

She happily exited the ring to hugs from her team and retreated to the warm up arena with her horse.

In fact, de Liedekerke-Meire was so sure she wouldn’t win, she didn’t even watch the last two. She was trotting her horse out when Ireland’s Jennifer Kuehnle and Polly Blue Eyes felled two rails and contently tending to her mare when overnight leader Ros Canter took to the ring and collected a pair of rails and time faults.

When her husband walked over and broke the news that she’d just won her first five star title, it was confusion followed by disbelief then tears that appeared on de Liedekerke-Meier’s face as the realization set in.

“I had to check the results!” said the disbelieving Belgian. “I came here to do the nice results I knew the horse was capable of. Never in my biggest dream was I believing I could win a five star like today.”

But then defying expectations has kind of been her thing from the start.

Born into a family of equestrians—her parents Barbara and Guillaume de Liedekerke were both event riders—and married to German team event rider Kai-Steffen Meier, de Liedekerke-Merier wasn’t a natural talent.

“For as long as I can remember, there have always been horses around me,” she told FEI. “I got my first pony when I was eight years old. It wasn’t a very easy journey from the start. I was often eliminated. I was told that I lacked fighting spirit to get to the top level. There were a lot of pitfalls but I think it forged my character.”

She would go on to represent Belgian at the 2022 World Championships in Pratoni with Hermione D’Arville but be eliminated on cross country. She again wore the team coat at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, but withdrew her mount Alpaga D’Arville after dressage.

“It’s hard to believe. For me, sitting tight on the horse who is not always the easiest and having some tough years. Kai didn’t want me to ride a 5* before the Olympics because for me it was risky,” she confessed.

On Sunday in Luhmühlen, de Liedekerke-Meier put to rest any lingering doubts and made history as the first Belgian rider to ever win a first five-star title.

“When I heard that Alice [Casburn] and Tom [McEwen] and Yas[Ingram] jumped clear, I asked Kai, ‘Is it not better to secure the clear round and make some time fault?’ He said, ‘She jumps really well. Just ride your [round], ride your rhythm, and we will see,’ she continued.

“She was feeling good. I just kept the rhythm. I never thought I was going too too fast. To the last, I almost watched the clock. But I kept my head down and [finished].”

When the news hit that she’d taken the title, the first hug was for her husband then immediately for the horse her mother bred.

“My horse is an incredible athlete,” she said.

“I just knew I had a good horse and wanted to jump the best round that I could. Today was our day. I just managed to put everything together.

“Dreams can come true!”

McEwen with CHF Cooliser took second on 36 penalties. Ingham and Rehy DJ finished third on 36.9.