Stars Shine through the Storm at Houghton Hall

While thunder, lightning and torrential rain raged outside, the final SEIB Search for a Star qualifier took place in the relative calm of the large indoor arena at Houghton Hall on Sunday 10th August, which afforded competitors the welcome shelter of an indoor warm up area too. The weather may have cooled but the competition was hot and there were strong classes for the judges, Richard Ramsay (conformation), David Bartram (Ride), and Sam Osbourne (assistant ride) to sort out. Another strong entry for the open Racehorse to Riding Horse class was judged by Ann Green (conformation) and Tim Wiggett (ride)

Working Hunter
Good jumping saw five clears back for the final judging. First place went to the 8 year old Pebbly Ptarmigan, owned and ridden by Ali Butler, 42, from Burford, Gloucestershire. “Gus” as he is known, was bred in Ireland by Anne Marie Kelly, by the Belgian warmblood stallion, Porche, out of a coloured pony mare, and was bought by Ali’s friend, Jane Beswick, for her son to hunt and event. Sadly Jane died and her son was not interested in keeping the horse, so Ali bought the chestnut gelding 2 years ago to do eventing and hunting and this was their first attempt at showing. The pair have qualified for the grass roots pre novice regional finals in eventing this autumn with the aim of doing Badminton grassroots next year. “He hunts all winter with the Warwickshire. He is a mega hunter and people had suggested that we have a go at working hunter classes”, said Ali. “I decided to do this one! Jane would be so happy, we did it for her as well. It is very exciting, we love hunting and eventing but it would be nice to do some more showing and we need to do some more to practice now before HOYS”, said Ali, who works as an equine vet part time at Hook Norton and runs a horse ambulance business attending equestrian events. “He is quite a character, and is very inquisitive. He thinks everything is about him. He got so excited when he was going hunting that he would stand and buck on the lorry, but he has grown out of that now”, she said

Second place went to Tassy Hole, 28, from Gower near Swansea, riding her own Walt Disney. Tassy has had the 10 year old black gelding for 18 months and normally does show jumping. They won the Blue Chip show jumping 1m championship and qualified for Stoke in the 1.15m and Discovery championships. “I wanted to do something different. I didn’t want him to get bored with jumping so I thought this would give some variation. He can be a bit quirky but he is a sweetie really”, said Tassy. “I have been working on his flat work and thought we could give this a go. SFAS gives somewhere to go with it, against some tough competition. I can’t wait [for HOYS], I am so excited!” she added. “He is so laid back, he is like a dog. We will practice for HOYS. I am getting married in April and I was going to HOYS anyway as there is a wedding fair at the same time, now I will be going with my two favourite men!” Walt Disney was bred in Holland and is by the dressage stallion, Mettal. “He has the same sire as Carl Hester’s dressage horse, Utopia, and he was brought over to the UK as a 5 year old” explained Tassy, who works as a full time primary teacher.

Riding Club Show Horse
The entries in this class are required to negotiate a rustic fence, a show jump with filler and a set of trotting poles and this was accomplished without incident. After the ride judge and conformation judging, first place went to Romain Rouge, owned and ridden by Madeline Heath, 28, from Oxted, Surrey. Madeline has had the 9 year old grey gelding for 5 years, and was given him by a friend of her mother who bred him in France. “My own horse had damaged both hind suspensory ligaments. Romain was a bit quirky and needed a job so he was offered to me, but I was surprised when he just turned up on the Parkers lorry! He was unbroken and we have had some interesting times. He has put me through more fences than I care to remember. He lives on his nerves and hates being alone but we learned to work around it”, explained Madeline. “We attended the Addington BD regional dressage yesterday, and then came here and when we arrived at 4pm there was no one else in the stables. I thought we would have to take him home as he just would not settle. But I rode him for a while and then some others arrived and then he settled fine. This is his first time away! He is as good as gold in company. I was devastated when my horse was injured and I was just so pleased to have something to ride”, said Madeline, who works full time as a Science Technician at Nescot College. Romain loves doing dressage and the pair have recently started doing side saddle. They competed at the area 8 side saddle show in June and won the Sunshine Tour Prelim Dressage in 2012. The grey is Anglo Arab, by the welsh stallion, Foxglen Express, out of an arab mare.

Second place went to Just Jeremy III, owned by Jane Kester and ridden by Emma Clarke, 41 from Stapleford, Cambridgeshire. The 8 year old dun gelding had evented for 2 seasons at BE90 and BE100 level with his owner before Emma got him on loan. They have been doing mainly side saddle and competed at the National Side Saddle Championships and the area 4 side saddle summer show, winning the Classical Ladies class the week before this qualifier. They also compete in dressage, eventing, show jumping and riding club activities with Saffron Waldon Riding Club. “He is really easy to do, and perfect to take anywhere. He accepts whatever you ask him to do. He has hunted and done a bit of everything, but he had never done a show class when I got him, but he just gets on with it”, explained Emma, who works in IT for Cambridge Assessment Exam Board. Just Jeremy III is by an appaloosa stallion out of a mare of unknown breeding and the owner, who bought him as a weanling, was expecting him to make a 14.2hh pony. “But he just kept growing” laughed Emma. “This is a local event for us, I thought we might get a rosette but I never expected to qualify. It is just brilliant”.

Riding horse/hack
First place went to Taylor Made, owned and ridden by Samantha Gisborne, from Bishops Stortford. Sam has had the 14 year old bay gelding on loan since November. Known as Tom at home, the horse had previously done dressage with his owner. Sam was not looking for a horse for herself and had just bought a pony for her daughter, Charlotte, when a friend said that Tom might like to go showing too. This was only their 4th show, having competed at BSPS Mid Herts, been placed 6th in the Amateur class at the Royal International Horse show and reserve champion at a local show. “He loves showing himself off and loves the go round”, said Sam, a mother of 3 who plans to do more shows this year.

Second place went to Sarah Rhodes, 32, riding Rose Madden’s thoroughbred mare, Tea and Sympathy. The 6 year old bay came out of racing in September last year and had the winter off. She came back into work in March and Rose wanted to do showing. They have done some dressage, hunter trials and show jumping and qualified for the RoR dressage final. Rose has ridden the mare at Racehorse to Riding Horse qualifiers and Sarah part shares the horse and rides in SFAS. The pair came 3rd at Bury Farm and did not qualify so they listened to the advice, changed the tack and came here to have another go. “We decided to concentrate on SFAS today as she does not yet have the attention span to do 2 classes”, said Sarah. They plan to do more dressage and try to qualify for the prelim, and will also try to do some more showing, particularly evening performances, to get ready for HOYS. “He adores cross country and is a little powerhouse. He has been thrown in at the deep end and has coped with everything”, said Rose. The team had travelled from Cheshire for the event and Sarah said, “It was worth the trip! I missed going to a hen party for this, but it is fantastic to get to ride at HOYS”. Rose added, “to get here having come out of racing is just amazing – he just has to get on and do it”.

Third place went to Champagne Perry, owned and ridden by Rebecca Clark, 33, from Fakenham. Known as Red, the 10 year old chestnut gelding is an ex-racehorse and now competes in show classes as a riding horse. He also does jumping and cross country and is an all-rounder. “I was not looking for a horse, but I stumbled upon him in bad condition. He had been eventing and then turned away. I had not ridden for 18 years but I got on and had a go on him, and he looked after me. I had never jumped before, but now we do it all”, said Rebecca. “Everyone can ride him. He plays riding school with the kids on Saturdays – he is like a donkey!” The pair have done several RoR classes and they have qualified for the Hickstead finals next year. “It has taken a long time to get some weight on him – he was so skinny when I got him. He has had lots of TLC but he’s worth it”, she said. The pair plan to do more showing and some jumping with the aim of doing the RoR challenge and some dressage over the winter. Having got back into riding thanks to Champagne Perry, Rebecca now works as a freelance rider/groom. Her daughter has 2 ponies and they are all kept at home.

There was plenty of quality in the ridden hunter class and good manners as well. First place went to Branwen Clarke, 41, from Bridgend, riding her own 12 year old bay mare, Luna Natalia. Branwen has had the mare, known as Ellie at home, for 2 years. She knew the breeder and, when a friend found that she could not manage the young mare, Branwen decided to take her on. “When I got her she had not been off the farm. She had done a lot of flat work but she had never travelled and never competed, so we started doing some local dressage and hunter classes just to get her out and used to travelling”, explained Branwen. This year they really set their sights on getting to HOYS and have competed in several SFAS classes. They were 5th in the hunter class at Vale View 3 months ago and went home determined to act on the judge’s advice. They stood 6th in the Riding Horse class at Houghton Hall in the morning, but the horse is more of a hunter type and the work all paid off when they took first place in the hunters in the afternoon. “It was a long four and a half hour journey from Cardiff, but it has all been worth it!” said Bronwen, who works as a production scheduler for Astra Games. “She was unnerved by the storm outside, but she settled well as soon as she went in to the ring. The judge said she gave him a lovely ride”, she added. The pair plan to continue showing and Branwen also hopes to do some side saddle classes. “I rode side saddle about 20 years ago. We tried the side saddle on Ellie and she didn’t take to it very well, but I will try again with her”, she explained. The pair have lessons with Rhianwen Rosser and have come a long way in the past 2 years.

Second place went to Claire Croucher, 28, riding her own Briardale Trinity, known as Joey. Claire, from Birmingham, was looking for a show horse and her goal this year was to try to get to HOYS and fulfil her childhood dream. She has had the 8 year old bay gelding since May and has had to work hard as Joey had not been ridden at all last winter. Claire enjoys showing and used to ride a show hunter pony. She has done all the work with Joey herself and the pair earned early success winning the ridden hunter class at Napton show and standing Reserve Ridden Champion. They have since been placed several times at local shows. “I want to teach him to jump this winter so that we can do working hunter classes next year”, explained Claire. “He is level headed, and the preparation is needed for me. He is chilled even when I am stressed before a class – I am lucky to have found him”. Joey has only had one previous owner who had him from a 2 week old foal, and so Claire has some lovely foal pictures of him. Claire works full time as a commercial sales consultant for ADT Alarms and, as Joey is kept at livery 30 miles from where she lives, she manages to fit in riding after work and often does not get home until after 10pm. The pair aim to do more shows to get experience of a big atmosphere before they head to HOYS

First place went to Cheryl Owens, 36, from Warrington, Cheshire, riding her own Seal. “He is a very special cob”, said a delighted Cheryl, who has had the 8 year old bay gelding for 4 years. “He brought me back to riding after 10 years out, and 2 children later I am back showing again”, she said. “He does dressage and hunts, in fact he does anything you ask him to”. Seal has quite a fan club and Cheryl was assisted at Houghton Hall by Kate Croft, who she says “came with Seal. They were a package deal”. Kate helps to look after Seal when Cheryl is away working. She runs her own business providing work place training and travels countrywide to visit clients and to provide training delivered in the work place. Cheryl has lessons with Di Hogg, who is a dressage rider and instructor and has helped her a great deal with her flat work. Another supporter is Ruth Hodkinson who also works with Cheryl as well as attending shows when Seal is competing. Ruth also has her own horse and has helped Cheryl prepare Seal for SFAS and turn him out for the ring. “It was Ruth who told me about SFAS so we decided to have a go this year”. The pair were placed 5th at Osbaldeston, and then 3rd at two further SFAS qualifiers and this was their fourth attempt at qualifying. “Ruth has helped me work on getting his legs right, and the judge said he is a different horse now”, explained Cheryl. “I have had horses for 30 years but I have learned a lot this year, the advice [from the judges] has been invaluable and I couldn’t do it without these guys [her supporters]”. Seal is a very good hunter and loves jumping and the pair will go hunting with the Cheshire Bloodhounds this season. “He is very forward going and also a bit cheeky. He can be scared of his own shadow but after he has been fed he will throw his feed bucket at you!”

Second place went to Carol Luxton, 35, riding Parkhill Fred, owned by her parents, Fred and Jenny Hayes. This 6 year old dark bay gelding is a real family horse, and he is ridden by everyone. “Even my 2 year old niece rides him”, said Carol. Fred was bought 12 months ago to go hunting with the staghounds on Exmoor. “We wanted something we could hunt and also play about with and do some riding club activities”, explained Jenny. He has since done maxi-cob and working show horse classes and has come in the top 6 every time out. “He came from Ireland and was very green and needed to learn as he has never done anything except hunt. But he is so easy and has really taken to everything”, said Jenny. Jenny and Fred are Exmoor farmers and regularly follow the Devon & Somerset Staghounds, while Carol works as a saddler at Acorn Saddlery.

A busy ponies class saw Styalways Silent Whisper, owned by Leanne Crowe and ridden by Hollie Crowe, 12, from Braintree, Essex, take the top spot. Leanne and Hollie have had the 5 year old black mare, known as Lettie at home, since she was a 2 year old. They chose her from the field and bought her unbroken from the breeder, Gillian Neve, from Styalways Stud, who was also at Houghton Hall to support Hollie. The mare is by the successful riding pony stallion, Falconhurst Repertoire, out of Bracken Tiffany. “When I saw her I just had to have her”, said Leanne. “She was quite good. I only fell off 3 times when we backed her”, said Hollie, who backed the pony with help from Leanne. “She is a bit of a scaredy cat – she has no problem with clapping and all the things you think will upset her, but she will be frightened of a butterfly”, said Leanne. Lettie was shown successfully in-hand as a 2 and 3 year old, winning at the East of England, Equifest and Norfolk shows. Hollie backed her and started doing ridden classes last year, winning the novice part-bred arab and reserve champion at Equifest and qualifying for the Cherif championship. “Then disaster struck in September when Lettie became laminitic and we were told that she would have to be put down”, said Leanne. “Hollie was distraught, but we persevered with 7 months of stable rest, got the best vet and changed her diet. She was never fat and we just don’t know what started it off, but our effort paid off and she came right again this year”, she explained. “It is strange, but Hollie is also insulin dependent, and I am sure that Lettie just wanted to be like her!” They decided to have a go at SFAS this year and came 3rd at Bury Farm. “We had to try again, and with the weather warning for today we decided to come up yesterday to make sure that we did not miss it. It was worth it and I am the proudest mum”, said Leanne.

Second place went to Alice Taylor, 20, from Upminster, riding Cabragh Lad, known as “Maguire” at home. Alice has had the 12 year old dark bay gelding for 3 years and it has taken the pair time to build up the partnership after Alice’s 14hh first pony. They now plan to do more 153cm show hunter pony classes and working hunter pony classes. “He had not jumped before I got him, so we stuck to the flat classes, but we will try jumping him again for next year”, explained Alice. The pair were placed 6th on the TSR pathway and have also competed at some county shows. “SFAS is the best thing that has happened. We were meant to do Bury Farm as I wanted to have two goes, but he was not right so we just had this one chance and it all worked out. I have been to HOYS to watch, but this is my dream”, said a delighted Alice who works for SEIB. The pair will do some more shows and the SFAS training day before heading to HOYS.

SEIB Search For A Star and Racehorse to Riding Horse Qualifier


These are the class results, 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, Pebbly Ptarmigan, owned and ridden by Ali Butler from Lechlade, Glos

2nd, Walt Disney, owned and ridden by Tassy Hole from Gower

Riding Club Show Horse

1st Romain Rouge, owned and ridden by Madeline Heath of Oxted, Surrey

2nd, Just Jeremy III, owned and ridden by Jane Kester of Diss, Suffolk

Riding Horse/Hack

1st, Taylor Made, owned and ridden by Samantha Gisborne of Bishops Stortford

2nd, Champagne Perry, owned and ridden by Rebecca Clark of Fakenham, Norfolk

3rd, Tea and Sympathy, owned by Rose Madden and ridden by Sarah Rhodes of Stoke on Trent

Show Hunter

1st, Luna Natalia, owned and ridden by Branwen Clarke of Bridgend

2nd, Briardale Trinity, owned and ridden by Claire Croucher of Birmingham


1st Seal, owned and ridden by Cheryl Owens of Warrington, Cheshire

2nd, Parkhill Fred, owned by Mr and Mrs Fred Hayes and ridden by Carol Luxton, of South Moulton, Devon


1st, Styalways Silent Whisper, owned by Leanne Crowe and ridden by Hollie Crowe of Braintree, Essex

2nd, Cabragh Lad, owned by Sue Taylor and ridden by Alice Taylor or Upminster, Essex.