Scottish competitors delight as SEIB Search for a Star listens and runs Perthshire qualifier.

SEIB Search for a Star and Racehorse to Riding Horse headed to Scotland for the first time in over 20 years on the 11th and 12th June. Netherton Equestrian in Perthshire hosted both a Search for a Star workshop and the qualifiers over the weekend.

The Search for a Star organizing team at SEIB Insurance Brokers listened to the many competitors asking for the series to hold a Scottish qualifier this season. This is the first time since 1996 that Search for a Star has been back north of the border.

Senior search for a Star judge, Mr Richard Ramsay said: “The atmosphere at Netherton was simply fantastic. We had many competitors that are new to the series and they were genuinely grateful for the opportunity. The competitors that came to the workshop on the preceding day, listened, took note and we saw many improvements on the Sunday.”

The Saturday Search for a Star workshop at Netherton provided a busy day including turnout advice and demonstrations, Search for a Star ride judges, Hannah Horton and Nicola Taylor rode each horse that would be in a class going under a ride judge and Richard Ramsay and Louise Gaunt gave advice on different aspects of showing from way of going right through to helping learn a set show. Helen Dunwell advised and helped the traditional cobs on the day and former Racehorse to Riding Horse champion, Rebecca Court gave a plaiting masterclass. SEIB Insurance Brokers brand ambassadors, Craig McLelland and Alex Osborne of The Old Manor Stables shared their expertise  in trimming and tail pulling.

A variety of ponies, including plaited, mountain and moorland and traditional came forward for the working pony class at Netherton. All eight ponies gave good shows and the jumps proved no problem. Judge Hannah Horton commented: “All the competitors had done their homework and it was a lovely class to judge.” Homebred Welsh section B pony, Dunaskin Gimlie won the class with his rider Dana Simpson. Owned and bred by Eleanor Crate, Dunaskin Gimlie has been ridden by sixteen-year-old Dana for three seasons. Eleanor said: “I’m thrilled that they have qualified. We had a five am start this morning to get here. This is their first season in the bigger classes and they enjoy the working hunter ponies too. I breed one each year, Gimlie’s dam was a lead rein pony that we bought as a brood mare. I also had the stallion, Skalon Graffiti who sadly died from grass sickness while out on lease. Dana, who hopes to train as a veterinary nurse said: “He went great today, I would love to try and get a HOYS ticket in the workers with him too. I’ve been on the Scottish pony showjumping team for the last three years, but am now off ponies. I hope to move on to jumping horses too.”

At their first ever showing show, Emily Mcquillian and her own bay gelding, Graffite V took top spot in the working horse class. Emily said: “I’ve always wanted to go to HOYS and as soon as we saw that Search for a Star was coming to Scotland we decided to give it a go! We went to the workshop yesterday which was invaluable. I’ve never done quartermarks before and the plaiting session was very useful too. In the ridden section of the workshop the judge ran through the show and that definitely helped polish our performance.” Emily has owned Graffite for just over a year, the pair have been competing in dressage and BE90 level eventing, she bought him from his breeder. Emily continued: “He was bred as an eventer, I’ve already got two horses, but they were both off work so I’d gone down the road to my friend’s to ride him few times and then ended up buying him!” Emily is an equine physiotherapy student at the Open University, she and Graffite will go to a few more shows and events over the summer.

Shona Wallace and her mare Tooreeny Diamond won the hunter class. Shona said: “This is a dream, I didn’t even realise it was a HOYS qualifier! I never expected to have the opportunity to go to HOYS, it is a dream come true. I was meant to be going to Hopetoun Horse Trials today with a different horse and owing to a slight injury I had to withdraw so we decided to come here with my mare instead! She was great, we normally do working hunter classes and showjumping. She is so consistent, she won at a BS show last weekend.” Shona and Tooreeny Diamond compete up to newcomers in showjumping, Shone continued: “She was a late starter and we haven’t rushed her. I bought her unseen from Ireland, she is an Irish Sports Horse x Irish Draught and she has a big heart. We will carry on as normal between now and HOYS, playing about and going to shows and jumping.”

Taking runner-up spot in the hunters was wedding co-ordinator Abbie Haley riding Fiona Haley’s skewbald Clydesdale cross thoroughbred, Eyebrook Mardale. Abbie said: “We have chased the open classes, but have now got there! We have previously travelled to Stoneleigh and also right down to the Royal International where we qualified in the non-native horse coloured class. She was just amazing today and gave a mega ride. She was so chilled she was falling asleep in the line-up. My mum originally bought her as her hacking horse. Between now and HOYS we will go to the coloured classes at Great Yorkshire and the Royal Highland. He does absolutely everything and is a delight to have around.”

Bay gelding, West Country Samurai, ridden by Suzi Ayres won a competitive riding horse hack class at Netherton. Twelve horses came forward for this class and the winning rider Suzi Ayres said: “I am just blown away with this result! I’m so glad we came, we’ve never done Search for a Star before – you have to be in it to win it though! He’s only five but we thought we should go for it. I am so glad we came to the Search for a Star workshop yesterday and made the most of the excellent advice on offer. Sometimes Sonny can fall in a bit as he is going round, I had great help with this and some turnout pointers. I was so impressed that the judge rode him, this was definitely beneficial. I bought him back in January having lost my previous horse and it was also my birthday. I love showing and through lockdown for the first time I discovered dressage too. Sonny and I plan to also compete in novice riding horse classes, he is a part-bred Arab so those classes are open to us too. I work as a credit controller nine to five so the horses have to fit in before and after work. It is very much a lifestyle, I love it when the show season starts – I get out to see my friends and make new ones. Heather Steel who I have met before and has helped me out today – before winning the has been absolutely brilliant.” Suzi and West Country Samurai competed in the in-hand plaited horse class later in the day at Netherton and rounded off a great day with a win in this class too, earning them a ticket to the Search for a Star Your Horse Live finals in November.

Carly Sneddon and her piebald gelding, Leap of Faith took runner-up spot in the riding horse hack class. Carly said: “I’m over the moon, he is totally home produced and I couldn’t be more delighted with him. I bought Leap of Faith as an unbroken three-year-old with the aim of eventually competing in dressage. We went in-hand showing that year and he won at the Royal Highland in the coloured sports horse class. I broke him in as a four-year-old and he is now six – he is big so we have given him time to develop. I would like to do dressage with him, but I think we will stick with the showing for now as it is going so well! He is my only horse and lives on a DIY livery yard. Search for a Star is great, everyone at the show has been so friendly and supportive. The feedback from the judges has been great too. It is fab to be back out and about, the Covid situation in Scotland has been very restrictive.”

Determination to improve paid off for the cob winner, Laura Dobson and her grey Irish Draught gelding Rhythm and Jazz in the cob class. This pair went to the Bury Farm Search for a Star qualifier last month in Buckinghamshire, they were pulled in second to last and then moved up to third place. Laura said: “We have made so much progress in a month! The judges comments at Bury were so helpful, we then decided we would practice hard and travel the 370 or so miles up to Netherton. The workshop yesterday was great, having the judge, Nicola ride him and her explanation made all the difference. We will aim to carry on progressing. The Search for a Star shows are so friendly, when I first got Rhythm and Jazz I had lost confidence and had mainly been a happy hacker. We also hunt and showjump and have attended novice classes and local shows before giving Search for a Star a go.” It was also Laura’s wedding anniversary on the day at Netherton, she added: “It’s a double celebration!”

The Racehorse to Riding Horse class at Netherton saw 15 thoroughbreds come forward for judging with a HOYS regular taking top spot. Golden Bird, ridden by Richard Telford and owned by Lindsay McCulloch has qualified for HOYS in the SEIB Racehorse to Riding Horse championship four times now and each year he has qualified at his first qualifier of the season. Lindsay said: “Every-time he has qualified straightaway – Alnwick, Osbaldeston, Richmond and now Netherton! He is a fantastic horse and owes us absolutely nothing. It is all down to Richard, I have to say the biggest thank-you to him for what he has done with Charlie. Richard is amazing, he hacks him, jumps him, they have fun on the beach, Richard is just so patient.” Golden Bird went to HOYS in the large hack championship in 2019 and he finished 7th in the large hacks at RIHS in 2021 – Lindsay added: “He was the only ex-racehorse in the class. Charlie was in training with Andrew Hamilton. Richard’s partner – and farrier - Stuart Ashton was in Andrew’s yard one day, he saw Charlie, liked the look of him and trotted him up. Andrew said if Charlie doesn’t run very well next time out he would be available and he didn’t so he came to Richard. He has a great life with Richard, and winters out too.”

Ben Ferris riding Katie Atkinson’s bay gelding, Malibu Dancer took runner-up spot in the Racehorse to Riding Horse class. Malibu Dancer is a former Search for a Star HOYS finalist, he is contesting his first season in Racehorse to Riding Horse qualifiers. Ben said: “We’ve always known he was good enough but its trying to get it all together at the right time. I am so made up that we have done it. He went brilliantly for the ride judge. We have been to all three qualifiers so far this season, Vale View, Bury Farm and now Netherton. At the first two qualifiers the judges said he needs to take them a bit more, so we changed his routine and he had a week away on a water treadmill at HLS Equine Therapy in Preston. Malibu Dancer wasn’t a very successful racehorse, he was sold to America as a yearling for $120,000 but he ended up coming back and running over hurdles in the UK getting placed fourth once.” Ben’s best friend Katie has owned Malibu Dancer for 10 years. Back in 2016 Katie qualified him for the Search for a Star riding horse hack final at HOYS where they finished in 4th place. Ben continued: “We have worked so hard with him, he can be stubborn and we do plenty of hacking and fun things to keep him on side, he doesn’t really like the school. Its been a long journey and I am so delighted to have qualified. I’ve mainly competed in mountain and moorland WHP classes with my Fell pony, we’ve finished 2nd and 3rd in HOYS qualifiers but never quite got there until now!” Ben works as a repairs manager for a housing association.

Class judge, Kirsty Airde said: “It was a lovely class, the top two rode beautifully – you would never know they were ex-racehorses. The winner stood out, he is a really nice model of a horse, both polite and mannerly. All the horses in the class were nice, of the ones that had done a bit less I could feel from riding them that there is improvement to come and glimpses of their true potential.”

The traditional cob class saw a strong contingent come forward. Black cob, Paddy took first place, owned by Debbie Wright and ridden by Leanne Wright, Paddy has been with the Wrights for six years. Leanne said: “It is what I have always dreamed of! And we now don’t need to do any more travelling to try and qualify! My mum bought Paddy as her happy hacker and he has gone on and done so much more, he is way better than we had hoped! Tracey Brooks teaches me and Paddy, she is going to be delighted. We went to the Vale View qualifier and were unplaced so it was a real surprise to come here and win. We have done STARS before, in-hand and ridden – we came 11th in the ridden section. Paddy was also Reserve Supreme at the Ulverston District Show. We go hacking and jumping and general all-round activities for fun.” Leanne is a mental health practitioner she added: “It’s a real team effort and we will all be going to HOYS – even my dad!”

In the first Your Horse Live qualifying class of the day, the in-hand veteran, a twenty-two year old pony, Castlecroft Teddy and his ten-year-old rider, Lilly Forsyth took first place. Class judge, Richard Ramsay said: “The two ponies forward in this class were both amazing, one was twenty five and the other twenty two, neither had any lumps of bumps.” Lilly’s mother, Frances Moore – who owns Teddy – said: “They have been to a few shows now, Teddy is exceptional. He was in my mum’s riding school for several years and when it closed down, he came to Lilly. We came down to Netherton from Lossiemouth last night, going to Your Horse Live is going to be some journey! Lilly is a pupil at Aberlour Primary School.

Fittingly, a Highland pony won the mountain and moorland class at Netherton. Judith Hogg and her five-year-old, Lachlann of Croila Croft took the top spot. Judith explained: “I only broke him in in April this year. It’s a real comeback story, I broke my back out hunting seven years ago and it has taken me this long to recover and get my confidence back. I have owned him since he was two, we did some in-hand shows in 2021. He is also broken to the hill and does the traditional work he was bred for and carries the deer down. We will go to plenty more shows over the summer and then once the shows are finished for the year he will go back to the hill work in the winter. Lachlann is lucky to be with us as we thought he would die from colic back last winter, he was hospitalized for six days but has thankfully made a full recovery.” Judith works as a gun dog trainer.

Welsh section B, Rosedust Class Act took runner up spot in the Mountain and Moorland class. This was the start of a very successful day for his rider, Aaliyah Watson. The pair went on to also win the open Pony Club Search for a Star qualifier for Your Horse Live and then later in the day at Netherton, Aaliyah won the in-hand plaited pony class with her new pony, Romano Small Talk. Rosedust Class act is owned by Aaliyah’s mother, Karen Watson, they have had the pony for three years. Aaliyah said: “We are in the Deveron Pony Club, we do showing and jumping and we are looking forward to pony club camp this summer. I am very excited about going to Your Horse Live. Yesterday at the Angus show we came first in both our classes too and won the championship.” This pair also went to the Royal International last year for the Pretty Polly championship and won the best condition prize. Aaliyah continued: “Small Talk is my new pony, she is only four so we are going to take it slowly and I’m so pleased we brought her today to compete in the in-hand class. She is just broken in and it will be great as she gets more established and we plan to compete in show pony classes and mountain and moorland and part-bred classes.” Romano Small Talk was bred by Jennifer Gilchrist at the Romano Stud.

In the ridden part-bred traditional class, first prize went to Amy McIntyre and her Welsh Section D cross traditional cob, Blueberry Muffin. Amy said: “I am so happy, I’ve owned him since he was an unbroken four-year-old. Muffin is my pride and joy, he tries so hard and to have done so well at our first stay away show is amazing. I would have loved to have taken part in this class last year, but couldn’t as I was pregnant. It looked as this class might not run this year and I messaged Search for a Star over the winter asking for the part-bred traditionals to keep going and am so delighted that the class has run!” Amy works as a nurse and her mum who is a carer first saw Blueberry Muffin as a two-year-old. Amy added: “It is fab we eventually went back to get him two years later. He is such a nice personality to be around. When he was five and six we did everything, he loves to jump and has scored 74% in intro and prelim dressage tests.”

Ianna Grant from Fortrose near Inverness won the Pony Club lead rein class with her mother, Mary-Jo Grant’s Welsh section A pony, Thistledown Honkey Tonk. Five-year-old Ianna is a member of Ross-Shire Pony Club and the pair have competed up to county level in lead-rein classes. Mary-Jo also owns Honkey Tonk’s half-brother, she said: “Honkey Tonk and Ianna do everything, they will also be going to the Pony Club show and camp, they have competed in side-saddle too. He is also broken to driving so when the children outgrow him he still has a job to do.” The Grant’s live on the Black Isle north of Inverness.

Another Welsh section A triumphed in the Pony Club first ridden class. Nerwyn Leonardo was ridden to the win by his ten-year-old jockey, Annabel Fraser. Leonardo is owned by Annabel’s mother, Sarah Fraser who said: “We are all so excited! My sister lives near Edinburgh so we came up from Cumbria and stayed last night there. We’ve owned Leonardo for ten years, I bought him when my oldest child was two. He does all the Pony Club activities and we have now decided to give Search for a Star a go too. We will go to the Royal Highland and the Great Yorkshire show to do the mountain and moorland first riddens with him too.” Annabel is a member of the Cumberland Farmers Hunt North Pony Club branch.

The in-hand traditional cob class was won by Emma Watson and her piebald gelding, Will I Am. Emma said: “I am very pleased, we came to the workshop here yesterday as well and everyone has been so friendly and helpful. This is our second season showing and in 2021 we did some TGCA and CHAPS showing classes. I broke Will in myself, he had been used as a stallion before I bought him. He has the best temperament and in the five years I’ve owned him we have done plenty of hacking. We enjoy going out to look at castles. We recently went on the Balmoral BHS jubilee ride too.” Emma works as a pre-school gymnastics coach. Emma and Will also competedin the traditional gypsy cob, ridden HOYS qualifying class at Netherton where they finished in 6th place.

The open veteran class saw Ella Dunn riding her mother Anna Dunn’s 19-year-old chestnut gelding Abbas Blue Rainbow take first place. Ella said: “I am just delighted! He’s been showing his whole life. He competed in all the open classes until last year including taking 2nd place at the Royal International in the home produced show pony championship. We have owned him for 8 years and we have to be very careful managing his routine as he has EMS. We are from Dundee and it is so nice to have the qualifier in Scotland, we don’t want to be constantly travelling an older horse over long distances. He does workers too and really enjoys galloping and hacking in the stubble fields. Ella is 17-years-old and is undertaking an apprenticeship as an early years practitioner. She and Abbas Blue Rainbow will go the Royal Highland Show at the end of June in the part-bred Arabs class.

Marketing Manager at SEIB, Nicolina MacKenzie said: “We regularly hold Northern qualifiers for Search for a Star and have often debated coming to Scotland. We feel it is only fair for Search for a Star to be inclusive and to give as many competitors as possible the opportunity to compete for the chance to qualify for Horse of the Year show and Your Horse Live. Plenty of people said they wanted a qualifier in Scotland and many of these entered, came along and have supported our decision. The times we live in were also a motivating factor in helping competitors where we possibly can. Diesel prices and inflation are hitting everyone and if there is a way we can try to combat this, we will. We were thrilled with the positive attitude that competitors came to Netherton with. It was a really enjoyable day for everyone on our team too.”

For all Search for a Star and Racehorse to Riding Horse information and to enter, please see

Results SEIB Search for a Star and Racehorse to Riding Horse Netherton Equestrian Centre June 12th 2022.


HOYS Qualifying classes:


Class 1A Working Horse – Graffite V, owned and ridden by Emily Quillian from Aberdeen


Class 1B Working Pony – Dunaskin Gimlie, owned by Eleanor Crate and ridden by Dana Simpson from Ayrshire


Class 2 Show Hunter – 1st Tooreeny Diamond, owned and ridden by Shone Wallace


Class 3 Riding Horse Hack – 1st West Country Samurai, owned and ridden by Suzi Ayres from Blairgowrie


Class 3 Riding Horse Hack – 2nd Leap of Faith, owned and ridden by Carly Sneddon from Larbert


Class 4 Show and Maxi Cob – 1st Rhythm and Jazz, owned and ridden by Laura Dobson from Derbyshire


Class 5 Racehorse to Riding Horse – 1st Golden Bird, owned by Lindsay McCulloch and ridden by Richard Telford from Ayton


Class 5 Racehorse to Riding Horse – 2nd Malibu Dancer, owned by Katie Atkinson and ridden by Ben Ferris from Preston


Class 6 Traditional Gypsy Cob all colours - 1st Paddy, owned by Debbie Wright and ridden by Leanne Wright from Cumbria


Class 6 Traditional Gypsy Cob all colours – 2nd The General II, owned by Alice Geldeard and ridden by Hollie Atkinson from Lancashire


Your Horse Live qualifying classes:


Class 7 Mountain and Moorland – 1st Lachlann of Croila Croft, owned and ridden by Judith Hogg from Crieff


Class 7 Mountain and Moorland – 2nd Rosedust Class Act, owned by Karen Watson and ridden by Aaliyah Watson from Aberdeenshire


Class 8 Open Ridden Veteran Horse and Pony – 1st Abbas Blue Rainbow, owned by Anna Dunn and ridden by Ella Dunn from Dundee


Class 9 Part-Bred Traditional Gypsy Cob – 1st Blueberry Muffin, owned and ridden by Amy McIntyre from Ayrshire


Class 10 Pony Club Lead Rein Pony – 1st Thistledown Honkey Tonk, owned by Mary-Jo Grant and ridden by Ianna Grant from Inverness


Class 11 Pony Club First Ridden Type – 1st Nerwyn Leonardo, owned by Sarah Fraser and ridden by Annabel Fraser from Cumbria


Class 12 Pony Club Open Horse or Pony – 1st Rosedust Class Act, owned by Karen Watson and ridden by Aaliyah Watson from Aberdeenshire


Class 13 Amateur In-Hand Plaited Horse including Hogged Show Cob – 1st West Country Samurai, owned and handled by Suzi Ayres from Blairgowrie


Class 14 Amateur In-Hand Plaited Pony – 1st Romano Small Talk, owned by Karen Watson and handled by Aaliyah Watson from Aberdeenshire


Class 15 Amateur In-Hand Traditional and Native Type – 1st Will I Am, owned and handled by Emma Watson from Aberdeenshire


Class 16 Amateur In-Hand Veteran Horse or Pony – 1st Castlecroft Teddy, owned by Frances Moore and handled by Lilly Forsyth from Banffshire


Class 17 Amateur In-Hand Mountain and Moorland – 1st Lachlann of Croila Croft, owned and handled by Judith Hogg from Crieff