The second qualifier in the 2016 SEIB Search For A Star calendar brought a strong field of competitors to Houghton Hall Equestrian Centre, Cambridgeshire, on Sunday, 15th of May to come before the team of judges, Richard Ramsay, David Bartram, David Ingle and Chris Lawton.

Working Hunter
Getting the day’s competition under way were the working hunters. This competitive class was won by Carol Pearson, from Market Rasen, aboard her own Zorravarte. Carol has owned the talented twelve-year-old for seven years, and the pair has formerly evented to Intermediate level. More recently, Carol has focussed on dressage with Zorravarte, coming 5th in the Elementary Freestyle at the National Dressage Championships. The multi-talented gelding turned his hoof to showing when a friend of Carol’s noticed his potential. Now Carol hopes to aim him at county level hunter classes.

“He was such a good boy today,” she beamed. “He has never had a ride judge on him before; I am ecstatic! Going to HOYS will be amazing.”

Second place was scooped by twenty-year-old Jemma Wenman from Amersham, Buckinghamshire, and her own Diamond Rambler, affectionately known as ‘Rambo’ due to his size and big character.

“He has destroyed five rugs, two stable doors, and two schooling whips – and he also managed to escape onto an allotment!” laughed Jemma. “He is a lovely chap at home, but he has a lot of character!” Before buying Rambo in February, Jemma showed in working hunter pony classes, but wanted to move up to a horse. She now fits looking after and riding Rambo around her job as a showroom host for Mercedes.

Riding Club Show Horse
Competitors in the Riding Club Show Horse class were asked to negotiate trotting poles and two fences in the first phase of the judging. Those that went clear – and successfully navigated the wall that was to be the ‘bogey fence’ of the day – went through to the second phase. Here, Sam Ellis proved victorious aboard her eight-year-old coloured gelding, Billy Boy. Sam, 31, has owned the horse for five years, and has backed him and produced him herself. This is the horse’s first full season showing: “we have done some dressage, but he was late maturing,” explains Sam. “We started jumping this year and have done a lot of work over poles.” Sam, an electronic assembler of beauty therapy machines, also hopes to aim Billy Boy at Equifest and the BSPA championships.

Charlotte Pell and her coloured native, Betsy Malone, took second place. Charlotte, from Wildren, Bedfordshire, decided to have a go at Search For A Star after learning that the series would accept ‘hairies’ for this class. The all-rounder and confidence-giver is Charlotte’s “horse of a lifetime” and is looked after during the week by Charlotte’s mum, Jackie Pell, whilst Charlotte works as a sales administrator for BMW.

Riding Horse/Hack
This popular class was split for preliminary judging, with six horses returning to compete for the final placings. Coming top of the class was Catherine Marshall from Teeside, North Yorkshire, and her seven-year-old homebred Runestone. Catherine had originally intended to event the mare, but turned to showing and dressage after having her daughter Sophie. The pair competed at the Petplan Area Festival in 2014, and have qualified again this year at Preliminary level. They have also qualified for the SEIB Trailblazers Championship. Catherine, a veterinary physiotherapist, hopes to qualify ‘Rue’ for the area festival at Novice level before making the journey to HOYS.

“This is all the more special, having done it for myself,” said Catherine. “I now just have to get her there.”

Second place went to Kimberley Gould’s Spanish Hidalgo, ridden by Emma Hutcheon, 24. Kimberley was gifted the horse when it retired from racing with her former employer, John Dunlop.

Third-placed Jen Evans made the five-and-a-half hour drive from Devon count by securing her HOYS ticket with her own One Sound Man. The ex-pointer spent a season hunting with the Dart Vale and South Pool Harriers before beginning his education as a show horse in January 2014. ‘Sam’ then had to have a major surgery and Jen did not know if he would ever be ridden again.

“I can’t believe it – it hasn’t sunk in yet. It is just a dream,” said an emotional Jen, who works as a manager of Drug and Alcohol Service in a prison. “After everything he has been through, we are now reaping the rewards.”

Bethany Hill, 10, piloted her mother Vicky’s Thirkleby Easter Parade to first place in the pony class. The Hill family, from Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire, have owned ‘Paddy’ since November, having previously focused on Mountain & Moorlands. Bethany has ridden since she was two and has competed in lead rein and first ridden M&M classes, as well as tackling some Pony Club dressage and showing.

Both Vicky and Peter Hill balance the ponies with their jobs as nurses at the James Cook Hospital. “It takes a lot of organising, and we take our holidays for going to shows,” explains Peter. Bethany’s younger sister Maisie also competes in lead rein classes.

Brendy Moody’s Chiddock Minute Maid took second place, ably ridden by Brenda’s granddaughter Jessica Fry. A family friend, Gillie Davies, bred the pony, and after his death, Brenda bought him to continue his education and focus on showing. Jess, 14, is an avid rider, competing on the British Showjumping team at Hampshire Academy with her other pony, and she recalls riding Minute Maid just after she was broken.

“She was a bit of a rodeo pony, but now she is so sweet!” she said. Jessica studies at Trafalgar School and hopes to become a vet.

Winner Sarah Knight, 43, travelled from Ashford, Kent with her hunter Diamond Geezer. Sarah has owned eight-year-old ‘Rupert’ for just over a year, and the pair is enjoying success in dressage and showing classes, qualifying for the Area Festival at Novice level. She bought the horse directly from the breeder after losing her previous horse to old age. Sarah got back in the saddle five years ago after winning her battle against breast cancer and said that “getting back on a horse really helped me.”

Sarah is a full-time mum and does admin work for the family business. She hopes to have a go at some working hunter classes with Rupert.

Second place went to Charlotte Blair, 23, from Worlingworth, Suffolk, riding her lightweight hunter Equador. Charlotte bought the horse with her parents two years ago, intending to contest showjumping classes. The pair tried their hand at showing classes, winning their class at Suffolk show and coming second at Norfolk. Charlotte, who works for a local estate agent and looks after Equador with the help of her mum, competes the horse at Discovery level showjumping, and is aiming to do more showing and some dressage.

Andrew Johnson, 34, from Warwick, rode his own Quintons Ernest to first place in the cob class. Andrew bought the Irish Draught gelding as a three-year-old.

“He was very timid to begin with,” said Andrew, who is a farrier. “We came to SFAS last year and were pulled in top, but he spooked with the ride judge. He was not ready but he has really grown up now.” The pair has done some showing and been successful in Irish Draught breed classes, winning the Midlands ID Ridden Championship and the cob class at the annual Irish Draught show. Andrew hopes to start jumping ‘Ernie’, whose favourite treat is fresh raspberries, this year, and will aim him at the Irish Draught championships and some Royal International qualifiers.

Second-placed Natasha Dolman, 17, was thrilled to ride her homebred gelding MacKenzie to a HOYS ticket. Bred by her mother, Nicola Smith, the striking bay is by the Dutch Warmblood stallion Parkhall Seymour and out of a half Suffolk Punch mare that has competed in showing and jumping. Natasha was present at MacKenzie’s birth and backed him and brought him on herself.

“This is a dream come true!” said Natasha. “I have always wanted to do SFAS, and I can honestly say this is the best day of my life.” Natasha has just started jumping MacKenzie and hopes to aim him at working show horse classes.


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.

1st, Zora Verte, owned and ridden by Carol Pearson from Market Rasen, Lincs
2nd, Diamond Rambler, owned and ridden by Jemma Wenman from Amersham, Bucks

Riding Club Show Horse
1st, Billy Boy, owned and ridden by Samantha Ellis from Downham Market, Norfolk
2nd, Betsy Malone, owned and ridden by Charlotte Pell from Bedford

Riding Horse/Hack
1st, Runestone, owned and ridden by Catherine Marshall from Redcar, North Yorks
2nd, Spanish Hidalgo, owned by Kimberley Gould and ridden by Emma Hutcheon
3rd, One Sound Man, owned and ridden by Jen Evans from Kingsbridge, Devon

1st, Thirkleby Easter Parade, owned by Vicky Hill and ridden by Bethany Hill of Middlesbrough, North Yorks.
2nd, Chiddock Minute Maid, owned by Brenda Moody and ridden by Jessica Fry from Romsey, Hants

Show Hunter
1st Diamond Geezer, owned and ridden by Sarah Knight from Ashford, Kent
2nd, Equador, owned and ridden by Charlotte Blair from Stradbroke, Suffolk

1st, Quintons Ernest, owned and ridden by Andrew Johnson of Warwick
2nd, Mackenzie, owned by Mark Dolman and Nicola Smith and ridden by Natasha Dolman, from Ripley, Derbys