In an age when the world’s top 24-ranked show jumpers are currently male, it’s always refreshing to see an all-female podium finish, and WEF 2’s $70,000 Marshall & Sterling Grand Prix CSI2* didn’t disappoint. Yet among the relatively familiar international team faces on the podium that Saturday night (Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum took the win with Lillie Keenan in second), there was a new face that show jumping fans everywhere are just beginning to recognize.

In her first big weekend of the Wellington season, 26-year-old Emily Mason of Great Britain rode the 9-year-old KWPN gelding Explosion W to two, top-ten finishes, including a third place in Saturday night’s two-star class. It was the first time under the lights for Explosion W, who Mason began riding six months ago. Emily, who grew up in Kent and works for Poden Farms under the tutelage of Ben Maher, calls the class her “biggest achievement to date”, though it’s clear this talented partnership is just getting started.

In today’s 20 Questions, Emily Mason talks inspiring moments, pony horror stories, and the best advice she’s ever received on a horse.

1. At what exact moment did you fall in love with horses?

I fell in love with horses when my mum took me to the local riding school at the age of three. The little, fat, grey pony named George stole my heart then.

2. For riding, do you prefer black boots or brown boots?

I have always ridden in black boots

3. If you could do any other equestrian discipline, what would it be and why?

I did try some dressage when still on ponies, but I really can’t imagine wanting to try any other discipline than show jumping.

4. What is the most embarrassing thing to have ever happened to you while riding?

When I was still competing on ponies, I had a very naughty, nappy 14.2-hand [pony named Tommy]. He had huge scope and talent, but when we took him to the first show, the steward on the gate recognized him from his previous owner and asked if we realized that he wouldn’t ever go through the entrance to the arena! Tommy then jumped about four obstacles before he decided to be a rodeo star, rearing and bucking so much that we nearly knocked the photographer off his gantry in one corner! He then dumped me on the floor before galloping straight back out of the entrance and back to the truck.

5. What is the most inspiring thing to have ever happened to you while riding?

When I was younger, I used to help my mum at the riding school. One day, we had a new lady arrive to join a group lesson, and I was amazed to see her casually remove her false right arm and hang it on the fence before mounting up! She was so determined to perform every instruction to perfection and put a lot of us to shame. A lesson to us all.

6. What is your favorite #TwoHearts moment of recent seasons?

My favorite #twohearts moment so far this season was actually earlier this week at the barn. [We took a lot of] random photos that morning, but [this one] really sums it all up for me. Morning cuddles with Explosion W:

Courtesy of Emily Mason.

7. What was the hardest lesson you have had to learn in your riding?

The hardest lesson that I have had to learn from my riding is that even when you think your best is good enough, you can still make it even better.

8. Who is your mentor and why?

I am so very lucky to have been asked to join the great team at Poden Farms and have such a great rider as Ben Maher to be my mentor.

9. If you could ride a horse from the past, who would it be?

I think that if I could choose any horse from the past it would have to be Eric Lamaze’s Hickstead. Such a great talent and a fantastic combination with Eric.

10. If you could ride a horse right now that is not your own, who would it be?

I would really like the opportunity to try a ride on Halifax van het Kluizebos. Lorenzo has had so much success with him.

11. How do horses keep you grounded in the industry that you live/work in?

Horses are great levelers and all riders are at the same level when they get dumped on the arena floor.

12. What is your favorite guilty pleasure?

My guilty pleasure definitely Netflix.

13. When were you most happy on a horse?

This one is easy. Without a doubt, riding Explosion W to third place in the WEF Grand Prix last week! My biggest achievement to date. He is such a wonderful horse and I am extremely privileged to have the ride on him.

14. If your horse were a famous person, who would they be?

Explosion W would be Johnny Depp. Good looking, sensitive, a little bit ‘out there’—and everybody loves him.

15. What is one piece of riding clothing or equipment you could never do without?

My Equiline breeches are so comfortable they are a definite must for me.

16. What is your helmet of choice and why?

My hat is Samshield—it’s hard-wearing and stylish, and I hope suits me.

17. Which famous clothing brand do you wish would come out with an equestrian line?

I would have to say Calvin Klein.

18. What is your biggest splurge to date when it comes to your riding and/or horse(s)?

I had a beautiful pair of EquiClass boots made to measure about this time last year, and then I took a much-needed break for a couple of months to examine my options for the future. By the time I was back in the saddle with Poden Farms, my legs had changed shape, and as much as I tried, I couldn’t get them to fit anymore.

19. What is the best piece of riding advice you have ever received?

‘Throw your heart over the fence and your horse will follow.’ Still good advice to this day.

20. What is your life motto?

Never regret the thing you do, only the things you don’t do!

-Photo credit: Meghan Bacso (4); courtesy of Emily Mason