ENDURANCE rider Kirsty Wiscombe is celebrating her most impressive year to date.

After recovering from a life-threatening illness, the 40-year-old defied the odds to finish as the top British rider in the FEI World Open Endurance Rider Rankings – 48th overall – and gain two qualification spots for next year’s European championships.

The Lyme Regis resident’s achievements were then honoured with a host of trophies at the British National Awards.

Reflecting on the past 12 months, Wiscombe said: “It’s been a fantastic year as to get two qualifiers for the Europeans is practically unheard of, especially for an amateur rider like myself.

“I spent all of September 2009 in hospital with gastrointestinal problems, in fact I was in and out of hospital for a total of about 50 days and I nearly died.

“I never thought I would ride again let alone compete at the highest level.

“At the beginning of the season, the selectors told me I wouldn’t be able to do anything and it would be best if I gave my rides away to other people.

“However, I ended up being the best placed British rider in the world rankings and this has been my best ever year of competition.”

Wiscombe’s homebred seven-year-old stallion, Yawl Hillbilly, is currently 71st in the world combination standings with her other horse, 10-year-old Eskar, placing 85th.

The former also helped Wiscombe to a number of prizes – the 2010 Arab Horse Society premium Progeny award, the Vlacq Khamul Trophy for the highest based British combination in the FEI world rankings, the FEI championship for rides done in the UK, second in the best home bred horse, and third in the first season race rides category.

The combined efforts of Eskar and Yawl Hillbilly led Wiscombe to third in the distance rider category.