The 2024 season for SEIB Search for a Star and SEIB Racehorse to Riding Horse got underway on the 27th May at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire. Strong entries across the classes included a former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner in his first full season in the show ring. The team of Search for a Star judges, Mr Richard Ramsay, Nicki Taylor, Hannah Horton, Sam DeCaprio, Louise Gaunt and Craig McLelland were given plenty to think about on the day.

The first winner of the season was thirteen-year-old Lexi Eccles riding Shelley Harvey’s part-bred Exmoor pony, Little Miss Flintstone in the Working Pony class. A delighted Lexi said: “That’s the best she’s gone in the ring. Bam Bam, as she’s known, loves her jumping and its our last year to try to qualify as I’m getting a bit tall for her!” This pair attended several Search for a Star qualifiers in 2023, travelling the length of the country from Scotland down to Pyecombe in Sussex and just missed out on their HOYS ticket. Lexi added: “After coming second in the Search for a Star qualifier at Pyecombe last year and just missing out, we’ve been working hard all winter and I’m so pleased we’ve qualified.”

Winning the Working Horse class was Abi Jacobs with her chestnut mare, Auld Flame. Judge Richard Ramsay said: “Our winner in this class was in a league of their own. They were spot on both in the go-round and their individual show.” Abi said: “I am just delighted by this win; we’ve just started showing this year. I entered this last week to give it a shot as getting to HOYS is the stuff of dreams! She is such a lovely horse and does anything and everything including dressage, eventing and hunting.” Abi and Auld Flame are also on the Suffolk Dressage Team.

Qualifying for Horse of the Year Show in the Show Hunters was Jessica Robb and her own bay gelding, Hawksdown Hocus Pocus.  Jessica said: “Merlin gave the judge a super ride today, I’m so chuffed with him! I’ve owned Merlin since he was just seven months old. I’d just lost a filly foal and saw a picture of Merlin so off we went to Rita Jennings’ in Norfolk to see him and he came home with us as a weanling. We do everything together, jumping, camps, hacking and clinics. We normally do three or four local shows a year and we’ll possibly go to Equifest and Addington now to get a bit of extra mileage before HOYS!” Jessica runs a tyre company with her partner.

Taking the second qualifying spot in the Hunters was Heather Warden riding Natalie Farley’s Irish Sports Horse gelding, Merllyns Marconie. Heather said: “I am both very pleased and a bit worried to have qualified! He went well in the class and I’m really chuffed with him, we just need to keep practising standing in line as gets a bit agitated by it. We will maybe go out to some In-Hand Search for a Star qualifiers to see if this helps us. I’ve had Benjy as we call him on loan for three years now. He was originally a failed eventer but has now done a bit of dressage and last season we started to go to a few shows. The judges today were very helpful, they gave me some great tips including trying to stay relaxed and have awareness of where the other horses are in the ring.” Heather is a Dairy Farmer and Benjy lives on the farm. 

In the Riding Horse Hack class at Stoneleigh it was a one, two for ex-racehorses. Taking top spot were Katy Llewellyn and her own thoroughbred, Polydamos, known at home as Oliver. Katy said: “We’ve worked hard through the winter, Vicky Hesford has been giving us lessons which has been brilliant. We came 3rd in the racehorse class at London in 2023 and 4th in the hacks and we are really building on that. I’ve owned Oliver for seven years now, he was in training with Tony Carrol and I bought him from Emily Chambers in Gloucestershire.” Katy works as a pet sitter and dog walker.

The 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Native River took the runner-up spot in the Riding Horse Hack class. Owned by Tom Malone and Garth and Anne Broom and ridden by Emma Vine, Native River looked a picture in the ring at Stoneleigh. Emma explained: “Native River lives at Tom’s yard where I work. It was always the plan for him to go showing when he retired from racing. He is a natural at it and loves it! He has an amazing temperament and since his retirement from the racetrack has done everything from opening a jewellery shop in Bond Street to taking his owners’ daughter to her school prom. He is an absolute gentleman and I’m delighted to get to ride him every day. This is his first full season showing following some hunting last winter.”

Joanne Eldridge and her coloured cob, Biker Tony qualified in the Show and Maxi Cob class. Joanne said: “He went really well today, he is so calm and honest. I bought him unbroken from Ireland as a four-year-old. We came 8th at the London International Horse Show last year in the heavyweights, but it has always been HOYS that I have always wanted to do! We have been doing lots of lessons in preparation for this qualifier. Tony loves getting out and about, we do showing, dressage and he loves jumping and camps and riding in the forest.”

For the second year running, the Stoneleigh qualifier held an SEIB Racehorse to Riding Horse qualifier restricted to amateur riders only. This year, this was the only Racehorse to Riding Horse qualifier at the venue.

The winner of the amateur only Racehorse to Riding Horse class was Loti Innes-Parry and her own, As I See It. This 12-year-old bay gelding is by Kings Theatre and was in training with Harry Fry during his racing days, he was bred by Mr and Mrs R Kelvin-Hughes. Loti said: “He is definitely going better at each show we go to and gaining confidence with every outing. I’ve owned him for 3 years and he came from Sally Taylor’s racehorse rehabilitation yard. He has grown so much since then and HOYS has always been our aim! We will get out as much as possible now over the summer to keep improving his confidence in the ring.” Loti works as a farrier for eventers and leisure horses.

Taking the second amateur only Racehorse to Riding Horse qualifying spot was Madeleine Cantrill and her 13-year-old bay gelding, Robin Roe. Madeleine said: “Robin did me proud in the ring. There was plenty to look at but he took it all in. Robin came to me straight out of the field, looking great.. He was a completely blank slate and we got going to see what he would enjoy doing. We got going eventing and showjumping until a freak accident in 2022. After a year off he was back riding in the summer or 2023 so I decided we would give showing a go as it would be less pressure on him. Robin has taken to it like a duck to water! He’s qualified now for HOYS at the first try and has tickets to Aintree and Hickstead so we’ve got an exciting few months coming up! Robin used to be trained by Dan Skelton, he was a potential top horse before he had injuries and rehab. My dad used to be a jockey and then trainer and my grandparents were big thoroughbred fans, I think this love for them has passed down, I would always choose a thoroughbred!”

Sixteen horses came forward for the traditional cob class at Stoneleigh and Lauren Woodward and her own Beacon St James took first place. Lauren said: “This is amazing, HOYS has always been my dream. I bought him last August as a five-year-old and this is just our fifth show together. A fiend saw him advertised near Blackpool so off we went to go and see him. I feel so lucky to have Jimmy as he’s known at home. We will do plenty of local showing over the summer, he also really enjoys hacking.” Lauren works for a recruitment company.

Law student, Jennifer Petza took second place with her skewbald mare, Splash Supreme. A thrilled Jennifer said: “This is our third year trying to qualify, we’ve always been placed in the qualifiers and have come fifth several times. I always wanted a traditional cob and Splash was the first one we saw. We have plenty of fun together, she really enjoys hacking and fun rides. I’m studying for a law degree at Bolton University and also have a part-time job in the Co-Op.”

Your Horse Live qualifying classes

Welsh Section C, Thorneynewside Replay won the ridden Mountain and Moorland class for his rider Olivia Kohl and owner, Louise Kohl. Olivia said: “He is so consistent for a five-year-old, he always aims to please. His show today was great, he went brilliantly. We bought him unbroken as a three-year-old.” Louise Kohl said: “They will also try and qualify for the HOYS junior class and Olympia. They came 4th in an Olympia qualifier last year so we are looking to improve on that!” Sixteen-year-old Olivia is a pupil at John Furnley College in Melton Mowbray.

Donna Churchman’s Highland gelding, Tower Prince William and Jade Churchman took runner-up spot in the ridden Mountain and Moorlands. This was the pair’s first try at Search for a Star, Jade said: “We were going to do Search for a Star last year and didn’t so this year we are going for it! We got William in lockdown, we first had him on loan for a year before buying him. He is now a 12-year-old, we’ve had to take it slowly but it has all clicked now. He is so lovely and we plan to have fun competing in dressage and showing over the summer.” Jade works as a dog groomer.

The one SEIB Search for a Star class open to all riders and not restricted to amateurs, the Open Ridden Veteran class was won by Lynn Russell riding Carole West’s stunning eighteen-year-old coloured cob, Gallifrey. Lynn said: “I take him out to a few shows each year as he absolutely loves it. This is such a great series for older horses, it is difficult to find classes Gallifrey and I can compete in. He’s been in my yard since he was a three-year-old and has done coloured classes, working hunter, side-saddle and lightweight cobs. He has also qualified for the BSPS championships this year and will go to Royal International.”

Taking the runner-up spot in the Open Veterans was Adele Forster riding her mother, Christine Forster’s gypsy cob mare, Maddy of Penmore. Adele said: “My mum has had Maddy since she was four and she’s now seventeen. Mum has had a really tough time of it, she was knocked down by a horse and had to have lots of time out and surgery on her injuries. This is just great news for her! Maddy of Penmore has done plenty of TGCA showing over the years and has won before at the Traditional of the Year Show (TOYS)..”

The first Search for a Star Pony Club qualifier of the year saw boys come out on top. In the Lead Rein class, six-year-old River Everill and his mother Jessica’s Shetland pony, Coppice Magnum came out the winners. River and Magnum are members of the Atherstone Hunt Branch of the Pony Club and River attends Kirdworth Primary School.

The Pony Cub First Ridden qualifier went to Noah Smith riding Kirsten Smith’s Welsh Section A pony, Stonedge Comet. A delighted Noah said: “My favourite part was cantering round the corner in the ring.” Seven-year-old Noah is a member of the South Oxfordshire Hunt South Branch of the Pony Club, the Smith family has owned Comet for one year and they have done everything together including cross country, tetrathlon and hacking. This was just their second showing show together. Noah attends Frieth Primary School.

The Search for a Star In-Hand Plaited Horse and Hogged Show Cob class went to twenty-six-year-old, Randall IV and his owner and handler, Lucy Ashworth. Randall has done brilliantly in the Your Horse Live Search for a Star In-Hand finals before in 2022 and 2023. Lucy said: “Randall is looking better than ever, he is still in regular work, our horses have to stay in in the winter so he is used to his routine and it keeps him happy and healthy. He has qualified for the Veteran Horse Society championships both in-hand and ridden and has also qualified for RIHS in-hand this season.”

In the In-Hand Plaited Pony Class, another Search for a Star regular earned their Your Horse Live ticket. This class went to Molly Bryan and Romanno Royal Myth. Molly said: “This is just brilliant, it is the third year we have qualified for Your Horse Live in this class. In 2022 we came second and in 2023 third, hopefully this year will be third time lucky! We have also been competing this year in British Riding Clubs dressage at intro and prelim level and Trailblazers. We are really enjoying our showing too, Search for a Star has helped us massively, we went to the clinic in 2022 and it was brilliant, the judges are so helpful and I was determined to qualify again in 2024!”

Twelve-year-old Grace Adams and her mother, Sarah Adams’ traditional cob, Phantom’s Masquerade won the In-Hand Native and Traditional class at Stoneleigh. Grace is another competitor that has previously done well in Search for a Star. In 2022, she and Merlin, as this lovely black and white traditional cob is known, took third place in the Search for a Star Pony Club finals at Your Horse Live. Sarah said: “We didn’t do Search for a Star in 2023 as Grace wasn’t old enough for the traditional classes. But now she is twelve she was very keen to give it a go. Last year they did really well in other things including winning the Junior Intermediate Rider and Junior Side-Saddle at CHAPS, they also won Junior Rider at TOYS in 2023. Grace and Merlin also love going on farm rides. They also took third place at Stoneleigh in the HOYS Traditional Cob qualifier and plan to go to more qualifiers for this class this season.”

Dawn Bacchus and her thoroughbred gelding Desert Sea qualified in the In-Hand Veteran class. Twenty-one-year-old Desert Sea is no stranger to success in Search for a Star. He and Dawn were placed in some Riding Horse Hack qualifiers several years ago and they qualified for the inaugural Your Horse Live Open Ridden Veteran championship where they finished in 3rd place in 2021. Dawn said: “Desert Sea hacks out a lot at home but I’m only competing him in in-hand classes now really as there is less pressure on him and less wear and tear. After competing at Your Horse Live in 2021, he went on to win the ridden Open Veteran Class at Royal Windsor Horse Show in 2022. He will compete in a few county shows this season in-hand and we will look forward to Your Horse Live.”

Lewis Marks and Welsh Section D, Danaway the Gambler won the In-Hand Mountain and Moorland class at Stoneleigh. Dan is owned by Karen Badrick. This pair took fourth place at Your Horse Live in this class in 2023. Lewis said: “The judge today said he was nice and that she liked Dan. We’ve been really enjoying going to the Welsh Shows and will take everything step by step.” Karen added: “This year Lewis is riding Dan at home and competing in-hand and the plan is to hopefully start competing him in ridden classes next season. Maybe by the end of next year our goal will be to qualify for the Your Horse Live ridden classes.” Lewis is a student at Laureat Academy in Hertfordshire.

The first ever British Riding Clubs (BRC) Search for a Star class took place at Stoneleigh. This class is open to members of BRC Affiliated Riding Clubs that are also amateur showing riders. The first qualifying spot went to Hayley Dolby and her own Pendancer Bilbo Baggins, known at home as Billy. Hayley said: “He was fantastic in the class on the day. As soon as I saw the class advertised, I knew it was for Billy! He is the perfect Riding Club horse, also when we have been to shows previously, he doesn’t quite fit the traditional showing categories, he’s not quite a small hunter and not quite a riding horse, so this class would be great for us. I’ve owned Billy since he was just weaned at six-months-old and he’s 17 now. We’ve done everything together and I’m delighted to have qualified!” Hayley is a member of Aspley Guise Riding Club. 

SEIB Search for a Star organiser, Nicolina MacKenzie said: “Its great to be back underway with Search for a Star and we are looking ahead to the rest of the season after a great first show. We had some lovely winners at Stoneleigh and plenty of people were very keen to learn from our amazing judges. It was so exciting to have Native River amongst our entries today and we were nearly as thrilled as his rider that he has got his HOYS ticket in Search for a Star in what was meant to be his ‘warm-up’ class before the Racehorse class!”

SEIB Search for a Star first took place back in 1996 and over the years has provided thousands of opportunities for amateur riders to compete at HOYS with many going on to compete with success in open classes.

Each of the SEIB Search for a Star qualifying shows offers opportunities for a full range of show horses to earn a place at the series championships at Horse of the Year Show and Your Horse Live.

Please see or the SEIB Search for a Star facebook page for updates. To enter please visit which will link directly to the Search for a Star and Racehorse to Riding Horse entry page on Showing Scene.

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Results SEIB Search for a Star and Racehorse to Riding Horse Stoneleigh Park 27th May 2024

HOYS Qualifying classes:

Class 1 Working PonyLittle Miss Flintstone owned by Shelley Harvey and ridden by Lexi Eccles from Lancashire

Class 2 Working Horse – Auld Flame owned and ridden by Abi Jacobs from Suffolk

Class 3 Show Hunter – 2nd Hawksdown Hocus Pocus owned and ridden by Mrs Jessica Robb 

Class 3 Show Hunter – 3rd Merllyns Marconie owned by Natalie Farley and ridden by Heather Warden from Warwickshire

Class 4 Riding Horse Hack – 1st Polydamos owned and ridden by Katy LLewellyn from South Glamorgan

Class 4 Riding Horse Hack – 2nd Native River owned by Tom Malone and Garth and Anne Brookes and ridden by Emma Viner from Somerset

Class 5 Show and Maxi Cob – 2nd Biker Tony owned and ridden by Joanne Eldridge from Suffolk

Class 6 Racehorse to Riding Horse Amateur Only – 1st As I See It owned and ridden by Loti Innes-Parry from Oxfordshire

Class 6 Racehorse to Riding Horse Amateur Only – 2nd Robin Roe owned and ridden by Madeleine Cantrill from Gloucestershire

Class 7 Traditional Gypsy Cob all colours - 1st Beacon St James owned and ridden by Lauren Woodward from Warwickshire

Class 7 Traditional Gypsy Cob all colours – 2nd Splash Supreme owned and ridden by Jennifer Petza from Lancashire

Your Horse Live qualifying classes:

Class 8 Mountain and Moorland – 1st Thorneynewside Replay owned by Louise Kohl and ridden Olivia Kohl Forster from Leicestershire

Class 8 Mountain and Moorland – 2nd Tower Prince William owned by Donna Churchman and ridden by Jade Churchman from Hertfordshire

Class 9 Open Ridden Veteran Horse and Pony – 1st Maddy of Penmore owned by Christine Forster and ridden by Adele Forster from Lancashire

Class 9 Open Ridden Veteran Horse and Pony – 1st, Gallifrey owned by Carole West and ridden by Lynn Russell from Surrey

Class 10 Pony Club Lead Rein Pony – 1st Coppice Magnum owned by Jessica Everill and ridden by River Everill from Staffordshire

Class 11 Pony Club First Ridden Type – 1st Stonedge Comet owned by Kirsten Smith and ridden by Noah Smith from Buckinghamshire

Class 13 Amateur In-Hand Plaited Horse including Hogged Show Cob – 1st Randall VI owned and handled by Lucy Ashworth from Oxfordshire

Class 14 Amateur In-Hand Plaited Pony – 1st Romanno Royal Myth owned by Victoria Bryan and handled by Molly Bryan from Staffordshire

Class 15 Amateur In-Hand Traditional and Native Type – 1st Phantom’s Masquerade owned by Sarah Adams and handled by Grace Adams from West Yorkshire

Class 16 Amateur In-Hand Veteran – 2nd Desert Sea owned and handled by Dawn Bacchus from Wiltshire

Class 17 Amateur In-Hand Mountain and Moorland – 1st Danaway the Gambler owned by Karen Badrick and handled by Lewis Marks from Hertfordshire

Class 18 British Riding Clubs – 2nd Pendancer Bilbo Baggins owned and handled by Hayley Dolby from Hertfordshire