The fourth SEIB Search for a Star and Racehorse to Riding Horse qualifier of 2015 took place at Bury Farm Equestrian Centre, Slapton, Buckinghamshire on the 5th July. Regular Search for a Star judges, Richard Ramsay and David Bartram were joined by Chris Lawton and David Ingle. They were rewarded with some very polished and consistent performances across the six Search for a Star classes.

Working Hunter
The rustic course caused a few problems and several horses had a pole. Just 3 horses went clear and 5 came back in for the final judging phase. First place went to 8 year old mare, Creaghduff Welcome owned and ridden by Helen Craig, from Leatherhead. Helen bought the grey mare, known as Kate, two years ago from Ireland. She was originally for her stepdaughter, but after getting her home she was just too big for 15 year old Anna, “She’s very sane and sensible but can put in a big jump because she has the scope” said Helen. After being out the saddle for 30 years, Helen decided to take on the ride, “She is just so lovely we had to keep her.”

The pair have previously attended local show jumping and dressage competitions and have hunted with the Staff College drag hounds. “I only did pony club when I use to ride, so this is a great opportunity to bring her on”, said Helen, who is an airline pilot for British Airways and fits in doing the horses around work with the help of her husband. “I really wasn’t expecting to qualify, I wanted my friend to win, she’s always beats me in these classes”, she continued. Helen will keep Kate ticking over through the summer before they go to HOYS. “It’s the summer holidays now so I will be busy with my 6 year old daughter and her Shetland pony, but I will do some local shows and get some practice before HOYS”, she added. Helen also plans to attend the Search for a Star pre-HOYS training day. “I am completely blown away with qualifying, I didn’t expect it at all, I am really chuffed” she said.

Second place went to Charles Morgan, from Carmarthen, riding his own 6 year old gelding, Cruising On. Charles bought the horse last September from Ireland as a working hunter to bring on and contend in open classes. Charles has worked hard to get Cruise to where he is now. The pair have done a bit of dressage and Working Hunter class this year. “We went to Bath and West, and Three counties this year, but he is young and we’re heading in the right direction.”

Charles, who is a farmer, keeps Cruise at home on their yard with his other three horses, “He’s a lovely horse to have around, all he wants to do is eat. You fill up his hay rack at night, come back in the morning and he hasn’t moved, there’s just big elephant sized dropping behind him.” Charles and his wife Lorna live close to the Pembrokeshire national park and the beach is only a 15 minute ride away so they take the horses to the beach once a week for a swim in the sea and gallop on the sand.

“This is our second attempt, we went to the Stretcholt qualifier last month and were placed 3rd. This time we travelled 5 hours to get here so are very pleased!” said wife Lorna. However, things did not all run smoothly; as Cruise jumped the last warm up jump before going in to the arena, he caught his front shoe and it came flying off, going straight across the arena and hitting the fence, “It was bent in half! We couldn’t believe it but thank goodness it didn’t hit anyone and he was fine.” Charles plans to take Cruise to a few more shows this summer in preparation for HOYS, “He’s a good horse, very chilled and doesn’t get bothered by much so he should fine for the HOYS. We are very excited!”

Riding Club Show Horse
Competitors tackled the first phase of trotting poles, a rustic and a show jump. The blue and red show jump caused a few problems, but 8 went clear to stay for the second phase of judging. First place went to Lucy May, from Burnley, riding her grey gelding Blitz, known as Douglas at home. Lucy bought Douglas 18 months ago, “I named him after the gentleman I bought him from, Douglas Harrison”, she explained. Douglas was previously an eventer but had a bad injury that meant he was unable to compete. Knowing what a lovely horse he was, Douglas Harrison bought him, as he didn’t want him to go to waste. Lucy tells us, “He put him out in the field for a year and he has been absolutely fine since. I bought him to show jump but a few people commented saying he would make a show hunter, so we thought we’d give it ago.” Lucy and Douglas had competed in the Working Hunter class earlier in the morning but had 4 faults in the jumping “We had to borrow some money from the show ground to enter this class” explains Lucy, “We got up at 2am this morning to get here but it has been worth it.” Rose, a good friend of Lucy’s, helps Lucy out with the horses and drove the lorry this morning.

Lucy, who is a Clinical physiologist at Airedale Hospital, said “I just can’t believe it, I just want to go and enjoy HOYS. I go every year but to go in my horsebox this year, not my car and to have a stable there is amazing! I can’t believe it!” Lucy manages to fit the horses in around work and looking after her two little boys “Douglas is the type of horse you can just leave in the field and grab back out again. I’ve always said thank goodness my horses don’t have watches because I ride them at 5am or at midnight sometimes.”

Second place went to Amber Standford, 23, from Dunmow in Essex, and her gelding Flamehill Lad. Unfortunately Flamehill Lad did not qualify for HOYS due to passport irregularities.

In third place Michael Leachmen, 25, from Streetly, and his 6 year old grey gelding A Touch of Diamond qualified for the HOYS final. Michael has had A touch of Diamond, who is known as Fred at home, since he was just two years old. The pair do local showing and dressage classes, “He is such a good horse and a true all-rounder” says Michael who is a veterinary nurse. Michael and Fred qualified for the Search for a Star HOYS final last year at Bury Farm, however a month after qualifying, Fred injured himself in the field and was unable to attend HOYS. “He fractured his leg very badly and had to have 6 months box rest and was off work for 7 months”, explained Michael. “To begin with it looked like just a bad cut but I knew he wasn’t right. It turned out that it was actually a fractured splint bone. By then he had a bad infection in the bone as well, and we’ve had quite a few set backs but we finally got there.” Michael worked with Fred carefully and bought him back in to work slowly, “We had a month of just walking, and then we were able to put him in a small paddock for a limited amount of time a day. We’ve been so lucky, but it is just his temperament, he’s so good” explained Michael, “He’s so precious now.” Michael has been to HOYS as a spectator and is really looking forward to riding there, “I will have lots of lessons before going and will definitely go to the work shop.”

Riding Horse/Hack
A large entry for this class was split into two groups for preliminary judging to save overcrowding in the arena. In the final placings, first went to the lovely bay gelding, Colbeach Mark of Distinction, ridden by Georgie Steale, 19, from Horsley. The 12 year old gelding, known as Barney at home, is owned by Georgie’s mother Nichola. He was bought as a four year old for Hack and Side Saddle classes, as Georgie has grown out of her old pony.

Georgie has ridden since she was 10 years old and did pony club activities as a child “Mum use to show jump and always wanted me to but I prefer the glitz and getting dressed up to show”. Georgie is now a student at Cambridge University studying Engineering, and goes home every other weekend to ride Barney. Her mum keeps him ticking over whilst she is away, “Now it is the summer I can ride more” said an excited Georgie. Georgie has never been to HOYS before, “We’ve got the Side Saddle Nationals at the end of July so that will be good practise for HOYS. It’s not quite the same atmosphere as HOYS and I think he needs to get use to the clapping but it will be fun.”

Kelly Pace, from Maldon, Essex, and 12 year old mare Wollyday, owned by Caroline Antony, took second place. Kelly was thrilled to have qualified, “I never ever thought we’d do anything like this”, said Kelly, who had a fall in the Riding Club Show Horse class and entered this class at the last minute. “I landed on my feet, it was totally rider error” laughed Kelly. This was their fourth Search for a Star qualifier this year. They have travelled all across the country to different venues to compete and their persistence paid off, “We had heard so much about Search for a Star, and I thought it was a good place to start. It’s so friendly and great experience, I’ve already made friends from the other qualifiers and I can’t wait to see them again at HOYS.”

Wollyday, or Chess as she is known at home, was originally bought over from Holland as a showjumper but when she started to refuse jumps it was discovered she had a cataract in her eye. After being used as a broodmare for a number of years, Caroline and Kelly went to go and see the mare as a possible horse for Caroline’s daughter, “As soon as we saw her, we had to have her. We bought her for a pound, as she was going to get shot if we didn’t buy her.” When Carline and Kelly got Chess home, they began investigating how to help Chess’s eyesight, “She had an operation to put a lens in. When we took her home after the operation it was ok for a while but then she wasn’t herself and I knew something was wrong.” Poor Chess was allergic to the lens and had to go back to the Animal Health Trust where the decision was made to remove the eye. After 4 months at the vets, Chess had fully recovered and was able to come home. “It took her a while to get use to things, it was all a new experience, but now she is completely normal”, continues Kelly.
Since Chess’s recovery, the pair have been unstoppable, “I want to try some more side saddle with her, and will have a go at eventing next year.” Kelly had to overcome more adversity the week before the qualifier. On the way home from a competition she was involved in a traffic accident with Chess in the back of the lorry, “Someone came the other way on the wrong side of the road, and I had to swerve to avoid them. We ended up hitting a post and the lorry is a mess, but thankfully we were ok and Chess was fine”, explained Kelly. “I was quite shaken up and wasn’t sure about coming today. It took come convincing from a friend to make me come – she said you have to hire a lorry, now, so I did and it was so worth it!”

A mix of gorgeous show and show hunter ponies came forward for the Ponies class at Bury Farm. Shannon Mulhern, 16, from Radlett, took first place riding her mother’s show hunter pony, Hello Juno. The family have owned the pretty dun mare for just over a year and bought her from Ireland for Shannon to do a bit of everything including pony club, “This is the first time Shannon has had a young horse and they’ve done a lot of schooling as Juno had only hunted before we got her” said mum Diane. “She can be very stubborn sometimes, we’ve been stuck at a show before for two hours because she wouldn’t load back on to the lorry.” Diane told us, “At shows she’s brilliant though, I think she’ll like HOYS.”

The pair have also qualified for the Royal International Horse Show and Equifest this year, “She got a lovely jump and really enjoys cross country.” Said Shannon, who is a student at St Albans Girl School. Her goal is to do more workers classes with the aim of 15hh Workers. “It’s a dream, I didn’t think it was going to happen. I can’t believe it, I haven’t been to HOYS before” said a very excited Shannon, who will celebrate her 17th birthday when she is competing at HOYS.

Rebecca Dawes, 13, from Stoke-on-Trent, took second place with 6 year old Courtland Grace. The family bought the pony last March but it has been quite a journey for Rebecca. In March this year, she was riding Courtland Grace, or Hattie as she is known at home, at a show, but during the warm up Hattie slipped and fell. Rebecca fell off and Hattie landed on top of her. Rebecca had hit her head very badly and was airlifted to hospital and put in intensive care, “There wasn’t a scratch on either of them. Hattie was absolute fine and there wasn’t a mark on Rebecca’s hat which was the strangest thing”, explained Keith, Rebecca’s father. Rebecca had sustained bruising to the brain in two places and was in hospital for four weeks. “All Rebecca would talk about in hospital was Hettie and Search for a Star. She’s amazing and was so determined to get back in the saddle, it really motivated her”, said Keith. Rebecca is still having physio and is seeing the neurosurgeons, who are all amazed by her bravery and determination to ride again. Rebecca has only been back in the saddle for a month and a half before the qualifier, “We were meant to go to the Osbaldeston qualifier but couldn’t go because of my accident, so SEIB kindly agreed to transfer my entry to another venue”, explained Rebecca, who is a student at Haywood Academy. “We were aiming for Vale View but we actually bought it forward and decided to come to this one as Rebecca was going so well”, said Keith.

Show Hunter
The Show Hunter class was well supported with good quality entries. Helen Pavey, from Othery, Somerset, took first place in the show hunter class with her gelding Knockenpower Rory. Helen has owned the 8 year old grey who stands at over 18hh, for 4 years, “I went to Ireland looking for an eventer and the only criteria I had was no greys and nothing over 17hh but I came home with him” laughed Helen. Knockenpower Rory, or Mr Pink as he is known at home, is an all-rounder and has won two BE100 events and has 400 British Dressage points, but hunting is his greatest love. “We go out with a few hunts during the season but mostly the Cotley Hunt” explains Helen. Helen broke her shoulder falling off another horse last year and was out of the saddle for 6 weeks. “Mr Pink got very fluffy and fat.” This year they have been to Bath and West and took first place in the Irish Draughts and went Champion. Then the pair went to Three Counties and came second in their class, “The judges seem to like him and he always gives a big ride.” said Helen who is a graphic design artist at a local print company.

Helen was joined by her mother at the show and they travelled 4 hours from Somerset to get to Bury farm, “We went to watch the qualifier at Stretcholt and I thought, I could do this, so decided to come today” said Helen, who has also qualified for Royal International this year too, “We’ve never been to HOYS before, so this is very exciting.”

Second place went to James Killick, from Gatwick, riding My Leading Light, owned by Owen Brooks. James rides the 5 year old gelding, who is known as Noodle at home, a few times a week for friends Owen and Kate. Noodle was bought as a 2 year old and did some in hand showing and has done bit of dressage. “He’s a lovely horse, so easy to do. He lets himself out the stable and follows you round the yard, he’s more like a dog than a horse” said a very excited Kate, who was at the show to support James.

The pair came to Search for Star qualifier at Bury Farm last year and were placed third in the show hunter class, “He was just a baby last year and he hadn’t done much but it was a good experience. We thought we’d give it another go this year” explained James. They were thrilled to qualify this year, James said “I’ve never been to HOYS before, it was on my bucket list though. It will be very exciting.” James who works as a night porter at Langshott Manor hotel, helps Kate and Owen with the horses, “It works really well with the horses, when I finish my night shift I go straight to the horses to feed them.” James plans to have some more lessons with Tony Whips, and will do a few more shows this summer to prepare for HOYS.

Another large class with 18 entries was split into two groups for preliminary judging, before the top six came back for the final placings. Debbie Clarke, from Brackley, qualified with her gelding Dio. Debbie has owned the 9 year old horse for 4 years and bought him to hunt and do a bit of team chasing. He hadn’t done much before Debbie got him, but now he does a bit of everything. Debbie explained, “We hunt with the Grafton, everyone knows him as Super Cob.” Debbie works as a part time customer account agent and spends the rest of her time with her horses. “He’s a really easy horse to do, a five year old takes him to the field and brings him in again. He is such a character though, he squeaks and grunts like a pig when you lead him in from the field, he even does it out hunting which is really embarrassing.”

Debbie has never really been interested in showing but as Dio has turned out so well, they thought they’d give it ago. After being advised to try Search for a Star by a friend, Debbie decided to come to a qualifier. “It is as everyone said, it’s so friendly, the judges are great and they give you really good advice. He’s a lovely horse and I just wanted to do him justice” explained Debbie. The pair went to the Houghton hall qualifier earlier this year and got placed 6th, “We spoke to judges, got some advice and had a few things to work on, and it has paid off.” This year the pair have qualified for Equifest and Royal London, “Once we’ve done that we’ll start cubbing. We have a point to point course at home that we take him round and school him on so he doesn’t go sour in the school. I think he is the only cob that’s been round that course. He’ll be brilliant at HOYS. I am over the moon, we’ve done more showing this season and it’s really paid off.”

Second place went to Nikki Proctor, from Burntwood, Staffordshire, riding her own Cocko’ the North, known as Biggley at home. He originally came from Ireland and Nikki bought the 6 year old gelding from a friend last October, “I was originally looking for a cob for my partner but then I saw on Facebook that he was for sale. As soon as the lady took his rug off I knew I had to have him.” Nikki spent a lot of time schooling him to get to where they are now, “He’s completely home produced. In January I nearly gave up as we didn’t seem to be getting anywhere, but we stuck with it and in February we just gelled.” The pair have had a fantastic season so far, and have qualified for Royal International and won the Maxi Cob class at Derby County, “He’s not the novice I thought he was!” laughed Nikki.

This striking grey gelding is quite a character, Nikki explains, “He is constantly talking to people. If we stop in traffic in the horsebox and the window is open, he talks to people in the cars next to us. People come up to the lorry to see him because he’s so talkative, he just loves people.” Nikki, who works as a PR consultant, was absolutely thrilled to have qualified, “My mother left me some inheritance money and told me to buy a cob that would take me to HOYS” said Nikki, “He’s one in a million, I knew he’d be my HOYS horse, I love him. He’ll be getting lots of carrots now!”


These are the class results on the day, but they may not all qualify for HOYS due to passport irregularities or at the judge’s discretion or where the same rider has qualified twice or where the horse or rider do not meet all eligibility requirements.

Working Hunter
1st Creaghduff Welcome, owned and ridden by Helen Craig of Brookham, Surrey
2nd Cruising on, owned and ridden by Charles Morgan of Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire

Riding Club Show Horse
1st Blitz, owned and ridden by Lucy May of Burnley, Lancashire
2nd Flamehill lad, owned and ridden by Amber Stafford of Great Dunmow, Essex
3rd A Touch of Diamond, owned and ridden by Michael Leachmen of Streetly, West Midlands

Riding Horse/Hack
1st Colbeach mark of Distinction, owned by Nichola Steele and ridden by Georgina Steele of Horsley, Surrey
2nd Wollyday, owned by Caroline Anthony and ridden by Kelly Pace of Maldon, Essex CM94BA

1st Hello Juno, owned by Diane Mulhern and ridden by Shannon Mulhern of Radlett, Herts
2nd Courtland (JP) Grace, owned by Keith Dawes and ridden by Rebecca Dawes of Stoke on Trent

Show Hunter
1st Knockerpower Rory, owned and ridden by Helen Pavey of Brackley, Northants
2nd My leading Light, owned Owen Brooks and ridden by James Killick of Gatwick, Sussex

1st Dio, owned and ridden by Debbie Clark of Brackley, Northants
2nd Cock O’ The North, owned and ridden by Nikki Proctor of Burntwood, Staffs