Diamond Roulette sparkles as 2014 SEIB Search For A Star Champion

The SEIB Insurance Brokers Search For A Star Finals reached a thrilling climax at Horse of the Year Show when the 4 year old homebred hunter, Diamond Roulette, put in a sparkling performance to take the title, ridden by his owner/breeder, Nikki Johnson, from Staffordshire, with reserve going to Mr and Mrs Liam Conway’s Rotherwood Mr Pepys, ridden by Ellie Conway.

Nikki, 24, rode the impressive bay gelding, known as Mallie, to stand top of the SFAS Hunter championship earlier in the week. Nikki bred him from her mare, an Irish Sport Horse by the Oldenburg dressage stallion, Roulette, with Kind of Diamonds in her breeding, who did county level working hunter before a tendon injury lead to putting her in foal. “It was the best thing I have ever done”, says Nikki, who was also off riding at the time after sustaining a back injury in a car crash. Nikki backed the youngster herself and he has not put a foot wrong while being ridden, although he has got up to some mischief at other times.

“When he was just coming up to 3 years old he jumped the stable door, he has tried to smash the wagon several times, has put his head through the roof and through a window, and got stuck when we attended the training day. He has done all this but, touch wood, he has come out of it fine”, said Nikki. He was shown lightly in hand as a 3 year old and has done lightweight hunter and sport horse classes at county level this year. The pair got second place at Shropshire County Show and again at Staffordshire County Show in the Sport Horse Class. At the Home Produced Show at Barleyfields, they won the LW Hunter class, stood champion hunter and supreme of the show and remains unbeaten at county level in LW hunter classes. “I am so pleased with him this week, he has been so level headed. It is his first time away from home and we could not bring his normal travelling companion. I was dreading the stabling but he settled in fine, just as if he was at home”, said Nikki. “I am really shocked [to win]. He is only in his first season. My Gran passed away on the day of the qualifier, and she would have loved to see him here, she would be so proud. It is a dream come true”, she added.

The reserve spot went to the show pony, Debra and Liam Conway’s Rotherwood Mr Pepys, ridden by Ellie Conway, 13, from Stockport. Ellie was delighted to be at HOYS, having qualified in SFAS last year but the family were devastated when they arrived at the championships to find that there was a problem with their pony’s vaccinations and they were not allowed in to the show. “We accepted that rules are rules and perhaps last year it was not to be, but we were determined to have another go this year”, said a delighted Liam. Their plans were thwarted again when Sam, as the pony is known, went lame before the first qualifier. “We moved yards during the winter and he really is a different pony now. Ellie can do more schooling and we have been focused on doing SFAS after the disappointment last year. We have spent 9 months building up to this!” said Liam. The pair won the part bred arab class at the NCPA Show Pony of the Year show before heading to HOYS. “We have had lots of lessons and it was amazing”, said Ellie, a student at Denton Community College.

After an exciting week, eight Search for a Star champions, all of them amateur riders competing at Horse of the Year Show for the first time, entered the international arena for the Supreme Search For A Star Championship, and for each one it would be a memorable occasion. The judges, Robert Oliver and Katie Jerram (conformation) and Claire Oliver (ride), had a hard task but were delighted with their winner. “It is a big ask for a 4 year old, but he rode beyond his age and has attitude to die for”, said Katie. “I am sure we will see this horse back as a 5 year old in open classes”, added Robert.

Now in its seventeenth year, Search for a Star was the brainchild of South Essex Insurance Brokers who still run and support it today. It is exclusively for amateur riders and owners and designed to give these enthusiastic people a chance to compete at the Horse of the Year Show and also to discover new equine talent. SEIB has been providing equestrian insurance for over five decades and is a major player in equestrian insurance.

The SEIB Search For A Star Finals got off to a great start with the Riding Horse/Hack championship on Thursday and two worthy winners. The top Riding Horse went to Rebecca Clark from Fakenham, Norfolk, riding her own, Champagne Perry, and the top Hack went to Shelley Heywood from Sheffield riding her own Ingleby Hill. Both winners are ex-racehorses making a successful second career in showing.

Champagne Perry lives out 24/7 and is a real family horse, allowing Rebecca’s children to ride him. “We call him Red at home, and he plays riding school with the kids on Saturdays – everyone can ride him he is so laid back”, said a delighted Rebecca, who admits that it did take a while for the showing to click. “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 had a go on him and he looked after me. I had never jumped before, but now we do it all”, said Rebecca. “He does jumping and cross country and is an all-rounder. 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 won the home produced large riding horse class at Equifest and came second and reserve TARRA champion. They 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 helps out as a freelance rider/groom as well as looking after Red and her daughter’s 2 ponies, which are all kept at home. “He thought that was easy peasy, I am so happy, and shocked!” said Rebecca.

Ingleby Hill was bred as a racehorse, by Averti out of Living Daylights, but was placed only twice in 16 starts on the flat and over hurdles. “He was too laid back to race and I bought him as a “happy hacker””, said Shelley. “Someone suggested having a go at showing and I got talked into it”. Shelley works full time as a Tax Inspector and has worked on retraining Ingleby Hill with the help of her friend, Rebecca Gribben. “He is laid back but he can also get the jitters, so we have spent hours in rain and snow, hacking, schooling and dealing with his nerves”, she said. Shelley started showing Ingleby Hill this year and they were second in the Open RoR and third in the Novice at Ponies UK Winter Championships, qualifiying for the final at Hickstead. Rebecca, who has two ponies that she shows in mountain and moorland classes, works with heavy machinery in the oil industry and the girls fit in doing the horses around their full time jobs, helping each other at home and at shows. “I can’t believe it, I have always dreamed of riding at HOYS and now this”, said Shelley.

Ride judge, Claire Oliver, said “Both horses were very mannerly and gave a lovely ride”, conformation judge, Robert Oliver, said the riding horse took the eye from the beginning, and conformation judge, Katie Jerram, added “The hack has a super front and is a very good type. I can see them both going on to greater things”.

Madeline Heath from Surrey took The Riding Club Show Horse title with her own 8 year old grey, Romain Rouge. He jumped neatly over the two fences before the ride and confirmation judging and did not put a foot wrong for the ride judge. “I can’t fault him, he was fantastic”, said a delighted Madeline. The win was watched by the horse’s breeder, Mary Simmons, who came over especially from her home in France to be here for the final. “He was bred to be my horse, by a welsh section D stallion out of an anglo arab mare, but I had health issues and sent him over to Madeline as a 14.3hh, black, unbroken 4 year old. Madeline has done everything and I am so proud with the way he has turned out”, said Mary.

Madeline has had the 9 year old grey gelding for 5 years. “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 hates being alone but we learned to work around it”, explained Madeline. “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 anglo arab mare.

Friday saw the finalists in the SEIB Search for a Star Working Hunter of the Year tackle the spooky course that included a water tray and double of ‘hedges’, but all went well with 6 clears and 4 with a single pole down and all returned for the final judging. The top spot went to Sarah Birbeck, 51, of Beverley, East Yorkshire, riding her own Flagmount Dazzler. Sarah saw him advertised and bought him two years ago as a worker. The 7 year old grey gelding is a pure bred Irish Draft, by the draft stallion, Welcome Flagmount, and was imported from Ireland by the previous owner who bought him as a 4 year old at Goresbridge Sales. “He gave me such a comfortable ride, popped all the fences and felt safe, I just had to buy him, they are so hard to find”, said Sarah. The pair have competed in show jumping, dressage and working hunter classes as well as ridden Irish Draft classes, and competed at the first SFAS qualifier at Osbaldeston. “He is quite a character, and wakes me up when he wants his breakfast as his stable is next to my bedroom!”, said Sarah, who works part time for Partrick Wilkinson Saddlers. Sarah plans to do open working hunter classes next season, “he has grade A jumpers on both sides of his breeding, so it shouldn’t be a problem but he needs to learn. He went in there and was focussed and stayed focussed”, she said.

Saturday saw three excellent finals, starting with the SFAS Show Cob of the Year, won by Jane Norris, from Llandysul, Carmarthenshire, and her impressive piebald maxi cob, Farmhill Apache. Jane bought the 9 year old irish bred gelding from Roger Rimmer through Malvern sales a year ago for her partner, Heddwyn Jones, a Master of the Vale of Clettwr, to hunt. Jane decided to give showing a go for something to do in the summer and the horse “ticked all the boxes”. The pair were placed 4th in the Novice Cob class at the Bath and West show, and also did the Maxi Cob class at Three Counties. “We have also had some lessons with Sarah Chapman who has been teaching us what showing is all about, and we have done a lot of work on his schooling”, said Jane, who had been suffering from an old back injury and had to have lots of physiotherapy before the show. “I thought he might be sharp but he has been so well behaved”, said Jane. “I will take him hunting again this season, but my partner is not having him back now!” said Jane, who works as a self-employed web designer. As Jane left the arena she was met by Glenn Knipe, who found the well-known cob, Starry Night, now ridden by Richard Walker, and had spotted his Farmhill prefix in the program. He told Jane that the horse was by a traditional cob stallion, out of a ID Spring Diamond mare and was bred in Co Waterford. Glenn had bought him as a yearling, broke him and hunted him in Co Gallway with the Duhallow before selling him through Goresbridge sales.

A delightful class of ponies saw the SEIB Show Hunter Pony of the Year go to Serena Parkhouse’s Gwithian Geraint, known as Jago, ridden by daughter Emmy Parkhouse, 11, from Waterford, Hertfordshire. The family have owned the 6 year old Jago for 18 months and bought him as an all-round pony club pony. “He is a lovely pony and does everything. He loves jumping”, said Emmy. “Emmy did lots of Pony Club events last year and started showing this year”, explained mum, Serena. The pair have won the BSPS Pretty Polly Show Hunter Pony class and was Pretty Polly Champion at the Area 15a Mid Herts Spring Show, qualifying for the Royal International Horse Show. They also won at the Ponies UK Winter Championships and were winners of the novice and open show hunter pony class at the NPS Spring Festival. The Welsh section B pony is by Mynach Buccaneer out of Temple Druid Honeysuckle and Emmy plans to do more Pony Club events, including show jumping, eventing and Pony Club camp, as well as continue showing. “I was quite nervous when we went in but it went off once we got going”, said Emmy, who is at school at St Josephs’ Hertford. “This is amazing, I am looking forward to the championship”, she added.

SFAS Conformation Judge, Katie Jerram, said “Another year of Search for a Star and every year it gets better. I’ve loved all the horses and it has been an absolute honour to judge. The team behind the scenes have all worked so hard and without them we would not have today. An awful lot of time and effort has been put in to get to this level, and we have certainly seen some stars of the future.

SEIB Search For A Star HOYS Final 2014 Results

Diamond Roulette, owned and ridden by Nikki Johnson from Stafford

Reserve Champion
Rotherwood Mr Pepys, owned Mr & Mrs Conway and ridden by Ellie Conway from Stockport, Cheshire

Riding Horse/ Hack of The Year
1st, Champagne Perry (Riding Horse), owned and ridden by Rebecca Clark from Fakenham, Norfolk
1st, Ingleby Hill (Hack), owned and ridden by Shelley Heywood from Worksop, Nottinghamshire

Riding Club Show Horse of the Year
1st, Romain Rouge, owned and ridden by Madeline Heath from Oxted, Surrey

Working Hunter of The Year
1st, Flagmount Dazzler, owned and ridden by Sarah Birbeck from Walkington, East Yorkshire

Cob of The Year
1st, Farmhill Apache, owned and ridden by Jane Norris from Llandysul, Carmarthenshire

Pony/Show Hunter of The Year
1st Show Pony, Rotherwood Mr Pepys, owned Mr & Mrs Conway and ridden by Ellie Conway from Stockport, Cheshire

1st Show Hunter Pony, Gwithian Geraint, owned by Serena Parkhouse and ridden by Emmy Parkhouse from Waterford, Hertfordshire

Show Hunter of The Year
1st, Diamond Roulette, owned and ridden by Nikki Johnson from Stafford