Bumper entries get SEIB Search for a Star and Racehorse to Riding Horse 2023 off to a flying start!

A damp and misty start to the day at Vale View Equestrian on the 23rd April did not deter the enthusiasm and excitement of the record number of competitors. Entries across the huge range of Horse of the Year Show and Your Horse Live qualifying classes on offer at the first Search for a Star and Racehorse to Riding Horse competition of the season were top quality. Over 250 horses and ponies were entered over the 17 classes on the day which also saw the first ever Search for a Star in-hand heavy horse class.

Livestock transporter, and “TikTok queen”, Rebecca Giles won the working pony class of 18 entries with her grey Connemara gelding, Lochan Beag Rogaire. Rebecca said: “We came along today but I didn’t think we had a chance! I’ve always wanted to go to HOYS and now Finnbar as we call him has made this dream come true. Finnbar came from Ireland as a three-year-old for me to sell on and he is still here 8 years later. He is a full Connemara by I Love You Melody, we also have evented to BE Novice level and he came 5th in the working hunters at Royal Windsor last year.” Rebecca works for her family business St Mary’s Livestock Transport Limited. She added: “I have a good following on TikTok from my lorry driving exploits. There won’t be much celebrating for me after this as I’ll be back on the road at 4.30 tomorrow morning.”

Another pair of Search for a Star first timers won the working horse class at Vale View. Libby Taylor and her buckskin and white gelding Geronimo took their HOYS ticket in the very competitive class. Libby said: “He is only five and this is our first stay away show! We came as we thought Search for a Star would be a good experience and to get some feedback from the judges. I’ve owned him for 2 years, he came from Dorset originally to a local lady, I was asked to break him in and he never went back! We did some local showing last year in riding horse and colored classes. I work as a waitress in a restaurant and they will be hearing all about this win tomorrow!”

A huge hunter class at Vale View was judged by Richard Ramsay (conformation) and Nicola Taylor (ride). SEIB brand ambassador, Alex Osborn shadowed Richard in assessing conformation. He said: “It was fascinating shadowing Richard, I have learned so much from the experience.” Hayley Came-Boyce and her own, Killyclog ran out the winners. Hayley said: “HOYS has always been a dream and he has done it for me! This was our first Search for a Star qualifier and we came hopeful that we would do well but ultimately we were expecting some helpful feedback to work on before coming back for another qualifier later in the season. He is a young horse and jumps beautifully, we have done some novice workers and evented and showjumped. In the future we will aim at open working hunters.”

Paisley Newlands and her dark bay mare, Whisperwood Overdraft took second place in the hunters. This mare is sixteen-years-old and Paisley has owned her for just under a year. She exclaimed: “I am the happiest person in the world ever right now! I’m so lucky to have this fabulous horse! When I bought her, she’d had a year off for injury and had never done showing before. I work as a paramedic and before I had Whisperwood Overdraft I had a youngster and was struggling for time to make progress with him. We will get out doing plenty of fun things over the summer, including cross country and fun rides. We qualified in Search for a Star last year, but her passport wasn’t right so we had to come back this year. I am so delighted we have made it now!”

The riding horse hack qualifier saw 18 horses come forward for judging. Senior Search for a Star judge, Richard Ramsay said: “Our winner was very flashy, very much a show horse and gave Sam (ride judge, Samantha DeCaprio) a beautiful ride.” The winner was Helen Forster and Greannanstown Jackpot. Helen said: “I am so shocked we won! I lost my intermediate working hunter last Christmas. Around the same time, I’d noticed Jack for sale.  My other half said to go and see him, he ended up being a Valentine’s day present – way, way better than the year I got a hoover! Jack is a five-year-old, he’d done one show before I bought him and a few dressage and jumping outings. I thought we would be coming to Search for a Star this year for an outing with the idea of giving it a serious go next year.” Helen did Search for a Star back in 2012 and qualified for HOYS in the Riding Club Show Horse class. She added: “I came last! Hopefully this year will go better.”

Brooke Molyneux and her own, Dowhills Brun Force took runner-up spot in the riding horse hacks. Brooke said: “We came to Search for a Star last year in the hack section. The judge, Richard Ramsay said to come back in the riding horse section, so we did and now here we are! I did my A Levels last year so we didn’t get out very much but in our novice year in 2021 we came 2nd in STARS.” Brooke was just 14 when Dowhills Brun Force arrived with her in 2019. She continued: “I’ve done everything with her, we bought her unbacked. I work for a big insurance company, and have been saving hard so I am now her official owner! We already had a pony from the Dowhills stud and happened to see Brun Force on Facebook so we went to see her and she came home with us the next day.”

The cob class at Vale View was another split class. With 24 top class entries, it was tricky work for judges, Nicola Taylor and Sam DeCaprio. The eventual winner was Lauren Bull riding her maxi-cob grey gelding, Grane Valley Mr Bedford, known as Hector at home. Lauren said: “I am always doubting myself, I broke him in myself, we know each other inside out and he takes me round. I just need to concentrate on sitting up and owning it! I have always wanted a maxi-cob and bought him as a foal. Hector is Percheron cross Gelderlander. We did a little bit of showing in 2022 and will really get out now and have fun. Its really busy as I have five horses at home and combine them with working as a tree surgeon.”

Former three-time British Ladies Rally Champion, Rachael Dilworth and her bay Irish Draught gelding, Contender took runner up spot in the cob class. A delighted Rachael said: “We said we would give Search for a Star a go, its been 20 years since I was in the show ring when I did working hunter ponies as a child. Contender is so comfy and gave the judge a lovely ride today, he got better as the class went along. I bought him unseen as an unbroken three-year-old from Reid Finlay in Ireland during lockdown. We’ve done plenty of hacking and fun rides. I used to co-drive with my sister Stephanie Simmonite for Ford in the off-road rallies. We were also French Ladies Champions in 2002. This win is a bit different to the rally driving!”

The SEIB Racehorse to Riding Horse qualifier was as competitive as ever. The class at Vale View was divided, with the top 10 coming back in for final judging. Following a hugely successful 2022 season in the show ring, the dark bay middleweight, Rich Man Poor Man, ridden by Kirstine Douglas took top spot. Rich Man Poor Man is owned by Morean Hamilton. Kirstine said: “He is the sweetest horse, he was young when he came out of training and it has taken time, we haven’t rushed him and he just gets better and better. He’s had a lovely break through the winter and enjoyed his down time, the children at the yard love him and he is so gentle with them. Rich Man Poor Man has come out looking really strong this year and has now already qualified for the Royal International and now HOYS!” Rich Man Poor Man finished in 4th place in the 2022 SEIB Racehorse to Riding Horse HOYS championship having earlier in the season won the middleweight hunter title at the Great Yorkshire Show.

Hannah Chisman was making the best of her time off owing to injury in asking Lizzie Harris to ride her long-term campaigner, First Fandango and the pair were delighted with his second place in the qualifier. Hannah said: “I’ve ruptured my tendon on my kneecap so I will be taking it easy for the summer and just do what I can. I’ve known Lizzie for 18 years and am delighted they have done so well.” Lizzie continued: “Hannah is two hours down the road so I’ve only ridden him twice before today, we also took 2nd at Addington yesterday!” This is the third time First Fandango has qualified for HOYS in the SEIB Racehorse to Riding Horse championship, Hannah and First Fandango took 8th place in the 2022 championship.

Over 20 traditional cobs came forward for the SEIB search for a Star traditional cob qualifier. The class was divided into two sections and the eventual winner was Kelly Driver with her piebald gelding, Billy Wilson. Kelly has a variety of horses at home - Billy Wilson, an ex-racehorse and a showjumper. She explained: “I took my ex-racehorse to the Racehorse to Riding Horse qualifier last year before deciding to come and have a go in the Search for a Star traditional qualifier today. Winky as Billy Wilson is known at home has done nothing for the past three years. He has several stories to his name, he was bred by my late uncle, Billy Wilson and even went to his funeral. Winky had pneumonia as a foal and was very lucky to survive, we nursed him ourselves. We showed him a few years ago in coloured classes, but never in the traditionals until now.” Kelly’s horses are a hobby and she combines this with running her business, Event and Park Services Ltd which runs reindeer displays and donkey rides. Breeding reindeer is a key part of the business.

Chelsie Marriott and her mother, Tracy South’s piebald gelding, Ace of Diamonds took runner up spot in the traditional. A thrilled Chelsie said: “This is the first time we’ve done Search for a Star. We’ve been showing locally for the past three years and qualified STARS in 2022 which has given us the confidence to go on. It is my dream to get to HOYS and we’ve owned Ace since he was five and a half months old so he’s home broken and produced.”

Palomino Welsh Section D, Saulire Thunder Struck and his owner rider, primary school teacher Caroline Edgson won the ridden Mountain and Moorland Your Horse Live Search for a Star qualifier at Vale View. This pair did well in Search for a Star in 2022, they took 3rd place in the ridden Mountain and Moorland final at Your Horse Live after qualifying at Onley Grounds. Caroline said: “He is so much more grown up and I’m thrilled to have done so well in what was a massive and really competitive class today.” Twenty ponies came forward for the Mountain and Moorland ridden class at Vale View and the class was split into two sections with the top eight called back in for the final judging. Caroline added: “I’m delighted to have won the class, the standard was definitely higher this year. We have already qualified for the Pretty Polly at RIHS and we enjoy plenty of hacking and we are looking forward to heading to a pleasure ride at Adam Henson’s farm.”

Former Search for a Star Steward of the Year winner, Liz Twite and her Dun Highland pony, Kirtonian Loch Birnie had a day to remember at Vale View. The pair won the Mountain and Moorland in-hand qualifier before taking second place in the ridden Mountain and Moorlands. Liz said: “I feel vindicated in coming today, my mother passed away last week and it was a big decision to come, but she must be looking down on us. We drove up from North Devon and went to the Malvern NPS Spring festival yesterday where he won and took the championship in the British Isles competition. I’ve owned him since he was a foal after a very good friend, Carrie Quick bred him. We’ve done everything together, he jumps, goes side-saddle and dressage. We’ve taken it slowly and after my friend Kirsty Budd qualified in Search for a Star a couple of years ago and I went to groom for her at the championships, I decided we would one day give it a go.”

With £500 on offer to the Your Horse Live Search for a Star Open Veteran champion of 2023, entries for the first qualifier of the season were strong. Sixteen veteran horses and ponies came forward for judging, over two sections. Xanthe Banks riding her bay mare, Elmhurst Bizzie B side-saddle impressed judges, Magnus and Kate Nicholson to take first place. Twelve-year-old Xanthe is in her first-year riding Elmhurst Bizzie B. She said: “Bizzie has done a bit of everything including having a foal. She’s done British Dressage, some eventing and learned to do side-saddle with my mum. We will carry on with the side-saddle and have qualified for RIHS and will aim for the SSADL championships too.” Elmhurst Bizzie B is owned by Xanthe’s mother. Jackie Banks.

The second placed combination in the veteran class were at their third ever showing show. Sarah Grindle and twenty-year-old, Saffron XII were delighted with their second place. Sarah said: “We’ve done plenty of other things and have now decided to give some showing a go! We’ve evented to pre-novice level including twice competing at the Badminton Grassroots championships. In dressage she’s done BD regionals and nationals at advanced medium. Saffron is on loan from a friend, we both had children at the same time and so decided to share her. Its worked out really well and has been the arrangement for the last nine years. She’s 20 now, but not ready to retire yet and this opportunity from SEIB and Search for a Star has given us a great opportunity. We will also go to Royal Windsor in a few weeks and Royal Bath and West.”

Over 20 ponies came forward for the three Search for a Star Pony Club qualifiers at Vale View. A competitive lead rein class saw six-year-old Charlotte Knight and Welsh Section A Thistledown Magpie take the win. Charlotte is an enthusiastic member of the Worcestershire Hunt Branch of the Pony Club. Judge, Richard Ramsay commented on how nicely Charlotte rode the pony. Thistledown Magpie, known as Pie at home is owned by Charlotte’s mother, Jamie Clarke. Jamie explained: “We’ve owned Pie since December when she was broken in. She has been great so far and even made the front page of the Showing Journal magazine! Charlotte competed in Search for a Star last year with her Exmoor pony Dixie and was keen to come back again with Pie.”

Tilly Wilks and Welsh Section A, Amilas Chorizo took the Your Horse Live ticket in the First Ridden Pony Club class. The pony, known at home as Sausage, is owned by Tilly’s mum, Teresa Wilks. Tilly is a member of the Grafton Hunt Branch and the family have owned Sausage for four years. Ten-year-old Tilly said: “He is so good, we also compete in eventer challenges and show jumping. We have come first in both of these. We will go to Pony Club camp and do some working hunter pony classes in the summer.” Tilly is a pupil at Blakesley Primary School.

The open Pony Club qualifier at Vale View went to Cotswold Vale member, Rose Chugg-Martin and Tregaire Tiger Lily. Rose said: “She was so good today, we are both eleven years old! We don’t really do that much showing and we have also qualified for the Riding Clubs combined training championships and we are also doing Pony Club area dressage and show jumping.” Rose also rides Lily side-saddle. Rose’s mum, Eloise Chugg-Martin said: “Lily is just brilliant, we bought her three-years-ago. She came from St Just in Roseland in Cornwall, when we went to try her, it was the windiest day and Rose took her straight out on the beach and she was foot-perfect.”

The winners of the Search for a Star Your Horse Live veteran championships 2022 won the in-hand plaited horse and hogged show cob class at Vale View. Randall IV looked a picture in the ring with his handler, Lucy Ashworth. Following the win, Lucy said: “Last November he was only given a 50/50 chance of survival. He was rushed into the vets where it was discovered he had a displaced colon. He was being prepared for surgery when it righted itself. It is just so great to be here today.” Randall is an ex-international showjumper and Lucy spent the 2022 season undergoing chemotherapy and recovering from cancer. Lucy and Randall will go to Royal Windsor Horse Show next month and will also aim to qualify for the Search for a Star in-hand veteran championship.

Sam Crutchlow and her British Riding Pony, Rhos Elodie won the in-hand plaited pony class. Sam and Rhos Elodie qualified for the Search for a Star Your Horse Live finals in this class in 2022 and took 3rd place at the championships. Sam said: “Elodie was bred by the Rhos stud and we are delighted to have her. I bought Elodie for my daughter Phoebe to eventually compete in the children’s riding pony classes and maybe one day qualify for HOYS in that.”

Bee Parks and her skewbald traditional cob, Trish won a six strong in-hand native and traditional class at Vale View. Trish was previously rescued by the RSPCA around ten years ago. Trish said: “This is the first time we have done Search for a Star, we’ve done a few local shows and plenty of practising. I really enjoy the in-hand showing, it gives me and Trish the confidence to work towards competing in ridden showing. We will go to a few more shows over the summer including to Weston Lawns.”

Heidi Bull and her 18-year-old homebred mare, Romany (Play The) won the in-hand veteran class. Heidi bred this dark bay mare, she was shown successfully as a foal and then competed up to elementary level in dressage. Heidi said: “I’ve got 6 plates and screws in my pelvis so I’m suited to in-hand classes! Romany is out of an Irish Sports Horse mare who did everything, she bred two lovely foals, and sadly her other foal died which makes Romany really special.” This pair started showing last year and went to the London International Horse Show.

Fiona Clark judged eight heavy horses in the Search for a Star in-hand qualifier at Vale View. The class offered a true spectacle with five different breeds of heavy horse represented. Shire horses, currently rarer than the Red Panda, were the most numerous with three in the class. Also represented were the Suffolk Punch, Percheron, Comtois and Clydesdale breeds. The 2022 Search for a Star in-hand traditional and native champion, Lucy Parr, was instrumental in securing this new in-hand, heavy horse class for Search for a Star. She said: “Its great to see one of every breed here. I came to Search for a Star last year with my Shire mare to raise the profile of heavy horses and am delighted to see amateur heavy horse enthusiasts supporting this new class. I’m getting married in a couple of weeks so its been a bit frantic in the run-up to today!”

Jasmin Butler and her Shire gelding, Fifield Donald took first place. Jasmin said: “I can’t believe we won! I’ve owned Ronald for the last three-years and we began showing last year. This opportunity from Search for a Star is just amazing. I’ve had other horses but always wanted a Shire and spent 2 years looking for one before getting Ronald. He is a grade A registered Shire, the judge today said Ronald is the perfect weight which is really reassuring. He is so versatile, I ride him at home and we go on hunt rides and he schools nicely. He is six now and 18.3hh! He probably won’t get that much taller but should fill out.”

Lucy Parr added: “This is the reason we first came to Search for a Star. Amateurs can feel safe, learn and enjoy their horses while getting out and representing the breeds.” In second place were Andrea Hoskins and her Suffolk Punch, Pickworth Honesty and Percheron horse, Hales Midas and his handler, Thomas Cole took third.

SEIB Insurance Brokers’ Marketing Manager and Search for a Star organizer, Nicolina MacKenzie said: “We are simply delighted with the way today has gone. We’ve had more entries than ever before and the day has run brilliantly. I’ve been looking forward to the new in-hand heavy horse class and it was so pleasing to see not only the number of entries we had in the class but the range of breeds. And to hear that our winner wasn’t sure about coming as she and her horse weren’t good enough, this is what Search for a Star is about – helping people learn, encourage them and help them believe that they can do it. The overall feedback we have from the in-hand classes is that they are giving competitors the confidence to get out to a show and after a few goes they can step up to the ridden classes.”

Leading equine Insurance brokers, SEIB Insurance Brokers set up Search for a Star nearly 30 years ago so they could offer a unique competition opportunity to many of their amateur rider customers. SEIB has a long association with the showing world and is renowned for ‘putting something back’ by supporting many equestrian events and activities in addition to Search for a Star. 

In the meantime - if you need to insure your horse, horsebox, trailer, yard or business - SEIB are here to help so please give us a call on 01708 850000 or visit www.seib.co.uk. #SEIBhere2help.

For all Search for a Star and Racehorse to Riding Horse information and to enter, please see www.seib.co.uk/competitions.

Results SEIB Search for a Star and Racehorse to Riding Horse Vale View Equestrian 23rd April 2023

HOYS Qualifying classes:

Class 1A Working PonyLochan Beag Rogaire owned and ridden by Rebecca Giles from Leicestershire

Class 1B Working Horse – Geronimo, owned and ridden by Libby Taylor from Kent

Class 2 Show Hunter – 1st, Killycloghan owned and ridden by Hayley Came-Boyce from Cheshire

Class 2 Show Hunter – 2nd Whisperwood Overdraft, owned and ridden by Paisley Newlands from Staffordshire

Class 3 Riding Horse Hack – 1st Greannanstown Jackpot, owned and ridden by Helen Forster from Warwickshire

Class 3 Riding Horse Hack – 2nd Dowhills Brun Force, owned and ridden by Brooke Molyneaux from Lancashire

Class 4 Show and Maxi Cob – 1st Grane Valley Mr Bedford, owned and ridden by Lauren Bull from Lancashire

Class 4 Show and Maxi Cob – 2nd Contender, owned and ridden by Rachael Dilworth from West Yorkshire

Class 5 Racehorse to Riding Horse – 1st Rich Man Poor Man, owned by Morean Hamilton and ridden by Kirstine Douglas from Dumfries and Galloway

Class 5 Racehorse to Riding Horse – 2nd First Fandango, owned by Hannah Chisman and ridden by Lizzie Harris from Leicestershire

Class 6 Traditional Gypsy Cob all colours - 1st Billy Wilson, owned and ridden by Kelly Driver from West Midlands

Class 6 Traditional Gypsy Cob all colours – 2nd Ace of Diamonds, owned by Tracey South and ridden by Chelsie Marriott from Derbyshire

Your Horse Live qualifying classes:

Class 7 Mountain and Moorland1st Saulire Thunder Struck, owned and ridden by Caroline Edgson from Warwickshire

Class 7 Mountain and Moorland – 2nd Kirtonian Loch Birnie, owned and ridden by Liz Twite from Devon

Class 8 Open Ridden Veteran Horse and Pony – 1st Elmhurst Bizzie B, owned by Jackie Banks and ridden by Xanthe Banks from Worcestershire

Class 8 Open Ridden Veteran Horse and Pony – 2nd, owned and ridden by Sarah Grindle from Gloucestershire

Class 9 Pony Club Lead Rein Pony – 1st Thistledown Magpie, owned by Jamie Clarke and ridden by Charlotte Knight from Birmingham

Class 10 Pony Club First Ridden Type – 2nd Amilas Chorizo, owned by Teresa Wilks and ridden by Tilly Wilks from Northamptonshire

Class 11 Pony Club Open – 1st Tregaire Tiger Lily, owned by Eloise Chugg-Martin and ridden by Rose Chugg-Martin from Gloucestershire

Class 12 Amateur In-Hand Plaited Horse including Hogged Show Cob – 1st Randall IV owned and handled by Lucy Ashworth from Oxfordshire

Class 13 Amateur In-Hand Plaited Pony – 1st Rhos Elodie, owned and handled by Sam Crutchlow from Coventry

Class 14 Amateur In-Hand Traditional and Native Type – 1st Trish, owned and handled by Bee Parks from Warwickshire

Class 15 Amateur In-Hand Veteran – 1st Romany (Play The), owned and handled by Heidi Bull from Shropshire

Class 16 Amateur In-Hand Mountain and Moorland – 1st Kirtonian Loch Birnie, owned and handled by Liz Twite from Devon

Class 17 Amateur In-Hand Heavy Horse – 1st Fifield Donald, owned and handled by Jasmin Butler from Nottinghamshire