Working show pony
Perseverance paid off for farmer’s wife Tamzin Emmett, 33, when she took the working show pony ticket with her versatile Welsh section D gelding Rhernwood Royal Nico (Rocco) at the SEIB Insurance Brokers Search For a Star (SFAS) qualifier at Bury Farm, Bucks, on 16 July.

“I tried three times to qualify last year and again at Keysoe this season,” said Tamzin, who has owned the striking seven-year-old for two and a half years after hearing about him from a friend while at a Christmas party. “Our lack of experience had made us unsuccessful so, following the feedback I got from the judges, I’ve worked hard over the winter on the aspects that I know needed improvement — particularly his canter — and to strengthen his hindquarters.”  It has not all been plain sailing for the combination, who also take part in a range of activities including dressage and showjumping. “Our season was put on hold last year as he got a haematoma on his hind leg in June and had to have three months’ box rest and then rehabilitation,” Tamzin revealed. “It wasn’t a major injury but he needed time to recover as we had to make sure the swelling did not return.”

Last winter, the pair did some arena cross-country and competed in working hunter classes at novice level. “We’ve qualified for the Chiltern and Thames native working hunter and ridden finals, been champion and reserve at South Oxfordshire Riding Club show and qualified for the second round of the 75cm SEIB Trailblazers series.”

Tamzin, who lives in Marlow, Bucks, works as a sales manager for a horse therapy equipment business in order to fund Rocco.   “When I heard about him, I already had a horse so I wasn’t really looking for another one but I went to see him anyway,” she added. “I loved him straight away — he had not long been broken and really only went in a straight line, but he opened gates, was happy hacking in a large open field and had a lovely disposition.  “I am so lucky that every time we go out, he tries his heart out. He’s also like an over-sized Labrador — he thinks everyone is there just to see him and he loves fuss and food.”

The pair receive training from showing producers Katy Tension and Jo Bates, dressage coach Sarah Hawkins and event rider Kylie Roddy. “My husband Matt is a huge support too,” said Tamzin.  The win came as a surprise, however. “I’d obviously gone hoping to qualify but I really thought my show wasn’t good enough,” she revealed. “Then the conformation judge spent a long time looking at him so I thought he did not like him. When they called my number, I looked along the line thinking it was someone else — I had to ask the judges and stewards if they really meant me.  “I was — and am — overwhelmed. It is something I never thought would happen. I’ve groomed at HOYS before but I always thought that would be the only way I would ever see behind the scenes. To be able to ride there is just something else.”

Working show horse
College student Maisie Swain, 17, claimed the working show horse ticket, partnering her mannerly six-year-old Marlon Brando.  Maisie, who lives in Hitchin, Herts, is studying health and social care at Dunstable College, so fits in riding when she can.  “We’ve only owned Marlon for a year, having bought him just-backed and very green, so to win this was a big surprise,” said her mother Danielle. “We responded to an advert on HorseQuest but had to go back to see him three times, as we weren’t sure he was what we wanted.”

Maisie and Marlon are also active members of Shillington Riding Club, for which they compete, and plan to contest flat and working show classes at ES (UK) at Arena UK, Lincs. Their show ring tally includes the champion ridden horse title at the Amateur Showing Society.   “He’s bred to jump and we’ve just started showjumping him — he won his first prize-money last week,” added Danielle, who has six other children. “He’s very chilled too and although he can be a bit lazy, he always tries his best and is just a joy to have around. I can lead him with the pram and he lets the children brush him while they stand on buckets.”  This was success at the second attempt for Maisie, who also attended the Keysoe qualifier. “She wasn’t placed there but we decided to go to Bury Farm as it’s so local,” added Danielle. “We really didn’t expect to win.”

Riding horse/hack
A former event rider made a triumphant debut in the riding horse/hack class.  Sarah Rotheram, 41, won a good class at Bury Farm, Bucks, on 16 July at her very first attempt with her home-bred five-year-old, Demi Minutus (Chicco).  Sarah, a former equine science student at Walford College and Moreton Morrell, bred the versatile Chicco – by Decamerone – out of her Last Minute mare Miss Minute, and he is the third generation from Sarah’s advanced event mare Miss Morag. Miss Morag was the first embryo transplant foal born in the UK from Sarah Cotton’s legendary four-star eventer Morag.
“A college friend told me to have a go at SFAS but never in a million years did I think I would win,” said Sarah, an account manager and mother of two from Allesley, Coventry. “I really brought Chicco here today for my own experience — showing is very new to me but I have learnt by my mistakes, taken on board comments from judges in the past and practised at home.”

Chicco was awarded a BEF Dressage Futurity medal as a yearling, two- and three-year-old, and has already been successful in sport horse classes at county level. He was also 11th in the Burghley Young Event Horse final and fourth in the Blue Chip ridden sport horse championship last year.
“He is my horse of a lifetime as I’ve done everything with him since he was born,” added Sarah. “We know each other inside out, and he is also a horse that does not need to be ridden every day — this is good when I have the school run, out-of- school activities, work, a husband and a dog to look after!”

The second ticket in this section went to Manchester-based estate agent Anthony Nicholas, 25, with Cheryl Moore’s Connemara/thoroughbred George Gently. This lovely seven-year-old — a rescue horse that almost died from starvation three years ago — has surprised and delighted his connections.
“George was severely malnourished when Cheryl rescued him in September 2014, and her vet said that if he had been left for another two weeks he would have died,” said Anthony, who fits in visits to ride George whenever possible. “It breaks my heart to even think about that because he is so loving and appreciative of everything you do for him.  “Thankfully patience and perseverance paid off and as soon as I started riding him, I thought he had huge potential to be a lovely show horse,” he continued.  “We were delighted to be third at the qualifier at Osbaldeston in April and the knowledge, support and confidence that the judges gave me on that day made me realise I was on a horse that could maybe get the ‘golden ticket’ with a bit more work. Now he will fulfil my childhood dream of riding at HOYS.”

Show hunter
Full-time butler Marcus Kirkby-Bott headed the hunter section partnering the upstanding nine-year-old gelding, Mighty Dan, whom he co-owns with long-time friend Lisa Potter.  “When Lisa showed me a photo of Dan I said I didn’t like him, but she talked me into going to see him in the flesh,” said Marcus, who lives in Dorking, Surrey. “I changed my mind as soon as I walked into the stable.”  Marcus met Lisa when they both worked for show cob specialist Lynn Russell, but they kept in touch after Marcus took a break from the horse world and went to work for previous SFAS contestant Nadia Edgar, who qualified for HOYS in 2011 with her cob Checkpoint Charlie.

“After leaving Lynn’s I gradually stopped riding until about 10 years ago when I went out to buy hay for my goats and came back with five horses — two broodmares with foals at foot and a two-year-old,” he revealed. “That was the most expensive hay I’ve ever bought.  “I went to a SFAS qualifier with Nadia and she told me to have a go,” said Marcus. “I’ve only contested a few showing classes this season with Dan because I was recovering from an injury, but we’ve been well placed. He’s a big middleweight hunter and can be quite opinionated, but he’s a horse in a million.”  Marcus’s first SFAS attempt with Dan was at the qualifier at Keysoe in June, where he was impressed by the number of horses in the classes, as well as the standard.  “The judges at Keysoe suggested using a double bridle, so I have,” added Marcus. “Dan is quite difficult to bit but now here we are, going to HOYS.”

Judges at the SFAS qualifying rounds provide competitors with advice and feedback to help them to improve, and this also reaped dividends for Emma Pearce, who gained a bonus 30th birthday present when she finished second with her aptly named Star.  “I tried to qualify for SFAS with Star in 2016 but we showed him in the wrong class,” said Emma, who also competes in dressage. “We thought as a five-year-old he was a riding horse. We took on board the comments from the judges that he should be in a show hunter class and decided this year to follow that advice, and it certainly paid off.”  Emma, who lives in Stretcholt, Somerset, and works full-time as a training co-ordinator to fund her passion for “everything equine”, bought Star as an unbroken three-year-old. She backed him and has done all his training herself so they have, she says, formed a “strong bond”.  “He can be a true ‘red head’ with his own opinions and zest for life,” she said of the now six-year-old. “He can be quite challenging at times, but with a quick bum scratch or nose tickle, he’s putty in my hands. He loves a cuddle.

“I am proud to say that Star is a product of my hard work and dedication, from early morning schooling to late night yard duties,” she added. “I have a good network of friends who are always there to cheer us on from the sidelines, which we love.  “All I hoped for at Bury Farm was simply to stay on board and that he behaved for the judge. I never would have believed that we would leave the arena with a sash and a huge smile; this is beyond anything we could have ever hoped for. I don’t mind admitting I shed quite a few tears before I even dismounted. I was so proud of my boy.”

Gap-year student Charlotte Bunyard headed the cob line-up with her maxi cob campaigner Take a Chance On Mr Grey (Christian).
Charlotte, 18, who lives near Wantage, Oxfordshire, got Christian just-backed from her friend Annette Hance, who had bought him as an unbroken three-year-old. Annette had encouraged Charlotte to enter SFAS because she competed in the series herself several years ago.  “I was looking for another horse and Annette said she was thinking of selling him,” said Charlotte. “I thought it was a good opportunity because he’s such a nice horse and I had to give him a shot.”  Because of Charlotte’s studies — she is awaiting results of her A levels and plans to read equine and human sports science at university after her gap year — the pair have not competed much, and Bury Farm was only the fourth show at which Christian had carried a ride judge.   “We took him to the Stretcholt qualifier but the judges there didn’t see what they wanted in him, so we took him to Bury Farm as our last go,” said Charlotte, who has been riding since the age of four. “I hoped for a place but to stand top of the line from the word go was a bit of a shock. I knew he had it in him to qualify but it was what the judges were looking for and the performance on the day — that’s something you can’t control.”  Having competed at a few local shows and grass-roots showing classes, Charlotte was full of praise for the SEIB SFAS series: “It’s always been a dream to get the chance to ride at HOYS. At an SFAS show, everyone is in the same boat; you’re not trying to compete against professionals who have been doing it for years.”

A four-hour journey paid off for Lancashire rider Emma Croft when she earned second with Colourful Life (Teddy). It was a much-needed boost for Emma, 26, a team leader for Preston Skoda, who has lost three beloved horses from lameness in recent years.  “They were all hunters so I decided to go for something completely different,” said Emma, who got the now seven-year-old maxi cob from Reid Finlay in Ireland last October. “I bought Teddy from a photograph and he came over on the ferry. He’d only been broken for eight or nine months — he had been living wild on the bog meadows till he was about five and half, so he’s still a baby.”  So little had Teddy done that Bury Farm was the first time he had carried a ride judge — part of the judging process to assess the horse’s way of going and response to the aids.  “I’ve always wanted to do SFAS, but Teddy is still very much a novice,” said Emma. “He wasn’t ready for Osbaldeston [the first SEIB SFAS qualifier this season, held in April] so Bury Farm was our last chance. The ride judge said she couldn’t fault him at all. I was more pleased about that than the entire thing, to be honest.”  She describes Teddy as a “very nervous chap” with whom everything has to be done a certain way.   “When we first got him last October, we couldn’t get anywhere near him for three days,” she revealed. “He’s terrified of the clippers and has to be sedated, and he’s not keen on the farrier either. To load him, we can’t just lead him up the ramp into the lorry; we have to put him on a lunge line, aim him at the ramp and shoo him in. He’s quite high maintenance but he gives a fantastic ride.”

Class 1a working Show Pony
1st  Tamzin Emmett on Ruemwood Royal Nico
2nd Floriann Gilston on Blue by You
3rd Hayley Dolby on Pendancer Mickey Bricks
4th Alicia gee on Eastlands Banker
5th Ellis Priestley on borderfields Gwyndaf
6th Grace Churton on Penhwnllys Serene de Mon

Class 1b Working Show Horse
1st  Maise Swain on Marlon Brando
2nd Katie Baldwin on Moelfryn golden Wander
3rd Ricki Riley on my noble Valentine
4th Georgie Carron on Scuzzy Burrows
5th Camilla Marshall on Bonhoffer M2S
6th Laura Dixon on topstar R

Class 2 Riding Horse/Hack
1st  Sarah Rotheram on Demi Minutus
2nd Anthony Nicholas on George Gentley
3rd Anna robson on Santa Fe
4th Elizabeth Foster on War of Words
5th Danni Waterman on Pendley Countryman
6th Louise Wood on Maraday Montellemar

Class 3 Show Hunter
1st  Marcus Kirkby-Bott on Mighty dan
2nd Emma Pearce on Star
3rd Wendy Harries on Stradey Olympic Gold
4th Rebecca Hedger on Just Louis II
5th Claire Limburn on Landmark Douglas
6th Gillian Clements on Ferdinand

Class 4 Cobs
1st  Charlotte Bunyard on Take A Chance on Mr Grey
2nd Emma Croft on Colourful Life
3rd Laura Bendel on Seamus
4th Charlotte Wheeler on Clononey Ruby
5th Sam Gifford-Brown on Swiper
6th Chelsea Knebel on Vockerstown Dougie