Dreams come true and reactions go viral in Search for a Star at Stoneleigh Park.

In a weekend devoted to amateur riders with both SEIB Trailblazers and Search for a Star running at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, nearly 200 competitors took up the chance to have a go at qualifying for Horse of the Year Show and Your Horse Live in SEIB Search for a Star and SEIB Racehorse to Riding Horse on the 24th July. This was the second Search for a Star ‘weekender’ event of the season with a training day on the Saturday (23rd July) before the competition on the Sunday. Stoneleigh Park provides the only Search for a Star qualifier held outside on grass and competitors were treated to cooler conditions than of late.

Cob class competitor, Alya Newman got more than she bargained for when entering Search for a Star. Finishing in third place in the cob class on her grey mare, Rein Honey she momentarily wondered why she was being handed a sash before the realisation took over that she and Rein had picked up a wildcard HOYS ticket. Her brilliant reaction was caught on camera and the resulting video reached nearly two-million people on Facebook with over 13,000 likes!

The team of Search for a Star judges were out in force over the weekend with Richard Ramsay, Louise Gaunt, Nicola Taylor, Helen Dunwell and Sam DeCaprio providing top class training at Saturday’s workshop event before a busy day’s judging on the Sunday. The judges were joined by stewards, John Foster, Craig McLelland and Reece Bentley on Sunday. Having completed his probation under senior Search for a Star judge Richard Ramsay and now in his second season stewarding for Search for a Star, Craig has recently been recognised for his skills and dedication by being admitted as a judge to the SHBGB ridden hunter panel, sport horse panel and breeding and conformation panel.

HOYS qualifying classes

The day began with a strong field of working ponies forward for judging. The class included several native and traditional ponies and was won by Fell pony, Mosshey Centurion owned and ridden by Georgia Norton. Georgia is no newcomer to Search for a Star having qualified Brian as the pony is known for the Your Horse Live Mountain and Moorland final in 2021. Judge Nicola Taylor said: “Our winner jumped well and had a great rhythm, he was the first to go and really showed the way”. A delighted Georgia said: “We have been second in this class three times now and to have now got the win – and the ticket to HOYS – is fabulous. We decided we should keep at it and I’m very glad we did.” This win was just the start of a brilliant day for Georgia and Brian, the pair later on headed the Mountain and Moorland qualifying class for Your Horse Live. Twenty-five-year-old Georgia continued: “Before Brian I had a warmblood cross Arab. I wanted a fun pony and now Brian has a forever home with us. I am a student veterinary nurse for small animal specialists, Anderson Moores veterinary practice, and the horses are very much my hobby”. Georgia and Brian also compete in dressage at elementary level and to 90cm showjumping.

Sixteen entries came forward for the working horse class at Stoneleigh. The two fences, jumped as part of a set show, proved tricky in this class with several combinations faulting. Maxine Linas and her dun and white gelding, An Buachaill Ban Bui, known as Bandit at home, took top spot. Maxine said: “I have always wanted to go to HOYS! Bandit is a great all-rounder and was brilliant today. We went to a working hunter class at the Aintree show and the judge said we should have a go at Search for a Star so we came along! Bandit has a varied life, we event at BE90 level and have qualified for the regional finals. I’ve owned him for a year and a half and we have plenty of fun together.” Maxine runs a social media marketing company, Maximise Social. Judge, Louise Gaunt said: “Our winner today was polite, he performed brilliantly and stripped very well”.

Solicitor, Charlotte Davies and her grey gelding, Miller Beech qualified in the show hunter class. Ride judge, Samantha DeCaprio said: “We saw some really nice horses in this class and this horse gave me a super ride.” A delighted Charlotte said: “This is our first attempt at Search for a Star! It is a dream come true, I had no expectations coming in to today. We have evented previously, but after a bad fall we decided to give showing a go. I decided I was having Phillip – as he is known at home – when he was just two-days-old. When he was two-weeks-old I bought him! He was bred at the Beech House Stud where I used to work, I had a change of career and am now a solicitor. I broke him in and have done everything with him including jumping, eventing and dressage. This year we have done a few hunter classes, we started off in riding horse classes before realising that he should be in the hunters.” Charlotte plans to go to the Search for a Star workshop with Phillip in the run up to HOYS.

Also qualifying in the hunters was Lucy Askey and her bay Irish Draught gelding, Pearl Panshine. Lucy said: “I am a bit shocked to be honest, ever since my sister, Elle Askey went to HOYS in 2014 in the riding horse hack Search for a Star final, it has been my goal to go!” Elle and her horse, Timeless Girl finished in 4th place at HOYS. Lucy continued: “We’ve owned Peter – as he is known at home – since he was four. He had been training to be a police horse but didn’t pass the final tests. We went to the Vale View Search for a Star qualifier earlier this season and the judge said we should concentrate on our extensions. We have been working hard and having lessons since!” Lucy and Peter came 6th recently in the Novice Heavyweight Hunter class at the Great Yorkshire Show. Lucy works as a dog groomer. She added: “My work definitely helps with the turnout – it all has to be done to perfection!”

The riding horse hack class was won by GP, Rachel Lambert and her 10-year-old riding horse brown mare, Tiger Lady. Judge, Richard Ramsay said: “Our winner was very nice, she stripped well, moves nicely and really used herself in the ring”. Rachel said: “I am simply over the moon, HOYS has always been my dream. We had one go at Search for a Star last year, but Tiger Lady wasn’t quite right on the day and the judge, Richard Ramsay said to come back. So we did! Warming up before the class today I wasn’t very confident – there were plenty of very smart looking horses, I thought oops! I got Tiger Lady in lockdown and it has taken time to really get going, she is a big horse with big paces. She is a Trakhener x Sport Horse and was bred to event and we have competed at 80 and 90 level eventing. She was great for the ride judge today and this season seems to be increasingly consistent and confident.”

In second place in the riding horse hack class was hack, Port Lou Lou, ridden by Finn Williamson and owned by Kirsty Wilson. Finn said: “It has all come together today, at Vale View, back in April we were 6th in this class and received some good feedback. We had originally got her down as a riding horse, but the judge said she was a hack. We have had her on loan for four years – her owner will be thrilled to hear she has qualified – she has owned her since she was three! We have done a bit of everything but we generally stick to showing. We won STARS in 2021 so this has given us plenty of enthusiasm to keep progressing although having fun is our main aim. We would love in the future to aim for open classes”. Fifteen-year-old Finn is a student at Fallibroome Academy. Judge Richard Ramsay said: “This pair have done a lot of work and it has really paid off”.

A fiercely competitive cob class was won by skewbald gelding, Kas Nickleby and British Dressage Sport Operations Officer, Cat Griffiths. Cat said: “This is the best he has ever gone, we have worked really hard on the ride, anyone and everyone has been riding him. We came 6th at Vale View earlier this season, were unplaced at Bury and I am delighted we kept going to come and win today! I had a hunter five or six years ago now and we came third a few times in Search for a Star. My friend, Kerry Dillon owned him since he was a foal, I’ve known him since then and bought him for £1,000 with tack! It’s the best grand I’ve ever spent!” Cat has lessons with Peta Roberts, she initially went to Peta for side-saddle lessons with another horse and Peta liked the look of Kas Nickleby and so has been helping Cat with him. Cat added: “He has the bit that Peta used on her heavyweight cob that went to HOYS! I am so delighted, and a massive thank you to SEIB for running the series”.

Following disappointment at the Netherton Search for a Star qualifier, second placed Mollie Longworth and her grey gelding, Heath were delighted to earn their HOYS ticket. Mollie and Heath took second place at Netherton in the cob class but owing to outdated information on the horse’s passport they couldn’t go forward to the finals so came back for another go at Stoneleigh. Mollie said: “All my life I’ve wanted to go to HOYS! We normally go hunting with Heath, I’ve had him since he was a three-year-old. Back then he was quite skinny, its taken him time to mature and he had a horrible time with strangles last year and nearly died. We gave him all summer off and he has come back much stronger.” Mollie and Heath have competed in several novice cob classes and in-hand.

In third place in the cob class was Alya Newman and her own, Rein Honey. Alya said: “This is such a surprise! I had the best ride I’ve had in a long time, we’ve literally had to beg, borrow and sell to get to the qualifier. I’ve sold saddle pads and my friends’ brought Rein here in their trailer. This year it is for me and Rein – our last chance to have a go at getting to HOYS! I have had Rein since she was a foal and I’ve now promised her to a friend who is in a wheel chair in return for a swap with a great little pony for my daughter. We’ve done ok on the local county showing scene but HOYS is something else!” Rein and Alya also compete in working hunter classes, cross country and hunting.

Ride judge in the cob class at Stoneleigh, Nicky Taylor said: “The winner today really took me. We saw him at Bury Farm earlier this season and he is now much improved. The third placed cob had great limb and type. This class had a great overall standard of ride and conformation.”

Sarah Gwilliam riding Sar Cassidy-Hill’s Imperial Ruby took a very competitive SEIB Racehorse to Riding Horse class at Stoneleigh. Judged by Samatha DeCaprio (ride) and Ian Smeeth (conformation) the class was divided into two strong sections with ten horses coming back in for the final judging. Ian Smeeth said: “This was one of the strongest ex-racehorse classes I’ve seen with such a good standard of horse. There was very little between the top six or eight. All were beautifully retrained with a correct, soft way of going. Samantha Decaprio commented on the winner: “He looked up through the bridle and travelled beautifully for me. They were through and through all well retrained, nice quality horses. Second place went to Hannah Chisman and First Fandango. Both these horses qualified for their second attempt at HOYS at Stoneleigh.

Winning owner, Sar Cassidy-Hill said: “Imperial Ruby is just great, we’ve had him since he was weeks old. He was trained by Mick Channon and was placed fourth once at Kempton. He now does everything, side-saddle, jumping, dressage. He lives in or out and has a very nice home life! Just yesterday he went up the gallops with Sarah’s partner and he often goes up the hurdles. Imperial Ruby gave the ride judge a superb ride today, he was foot perfect and couldn’t do any more.” Imperial Ruby was ex-racehorse champion at Hickstead earlier this season and in 2021 took 8th place in the Racehorse to Riding Horse final at HOYS.

Runner up in the racehorse class at Stoneleigh, First Fandango, ridden by Hannah Chisman also went to HOYS in the 2021 Racehorse to Riding Horse final, finishing in 9th place. Hannah said: “This is the best he has gone, here today. The ride judge said he was fantastic to ride. First Fandango has had a good season so far this time, he was champion at West Wilts earlier this year. We are pretty busy and also compete in show jumping, team chasing, a bit of dressage and eventing. We will do plenty of jumping and beach rides in the run up to HOYS.” First Fandango’s full brother, Nicene Creed also went to HOYS twice with Hannah several years ago. Hannah Added: “First Fandango was a great racehorse, he won seven starts and ran four times at the Cheltenham festival. He spent a total of 8 years racing and ran over fences, hurdles and on the flat, he was trained by Tim Vaughan.”

In the traditional cob class, Beth Gibson riding Jacqui Down’s piebald gelding, Big Mac took first place. Beth said: “I am shocked to have won, HOYS has been our goal for so long. We came 4th at Vale View in the spring, were unplaced at Bury farm and now today we have gone and won! He went brilliantly and absolutely shined in the ring. Jacqui has owned him since he was five and he literally saved her life. She had a fall from him and had to go to hospital and because of this they found Jacqui was ill. We’ve helped out ever since.” Beth works as an aircraft manager.

In second place in the traditional cobs was Joe Granton riding Tara Redfern’s piebald gelding, Wystone Domino. Joe said: “He went super today, this is our first time trying to qualify and I am delighted for Tara, she’s owned him since he was just 16 months old. I work in my family’s business, a home improvement company so it is lovely to have this chance. It looks like there will be a busload of them coming to HOYS to watch. Tara has dyspraxia, she is just thrilled with this.” Tara recently took the title of overall champion at the Riding for the Disabled Search for a Star championship at Hartpury College riding Dawn Whitmore’s My Last Bob for the Wenlo RDA Group.

Your Horse Live qualifying classes

Fell ponies took first and second place in the mountain and moorland class. As already mentioned, Georgia Norton and Mosshey Centurion earned the win and Jessica Everill and Brackenbank Flicka took runner up spot. A delighted Jessica said: “I’ve owned Flicka for a year and a half, we went to the Search for a Star mountain and moorland finals in 2021 and came 3rd as well! I was seventeen weeks pregnant then and now I have a three-month-old baby! I’d always wanted a hairy pony but prior to having Flicka I had small riding types. I run a therapy business with miniature Shetland ponies, we work with special needs schools. We have four Shetlands and a Dartmoor pony.” In the run up to Your Horse Live Jessica and Flicka will do some more showing, dressage and pleasure rides.

In third place and qualified in the mountain and moorlands was Welsh section D, Dearne Valley Firefly and his owner and rider, Adele Forster. A thrilled Adele said: “I’ve had him for two years and I couldn’t fault him. His personality is absolutely great too, he tries so hard. We’ve owned him since he was four. I wanted a hunter and came home with a Welsh section D! I work as a receptionist at a small animal vet and we will definitely get out to some more shows in the run up to Your Horse Live as well as beach rides and camp at Somerford Park.”

Open veteran winners at Stoneleigh, Icelady and Victoria Timperley are no strangers to success in the ring. The open veteran class is the only Search for a Star class that is open to all riders and horses and not restricted to amateurs. A delighted Victoria said: “She is my horse of a lifetime – and she knows it. I’ve had Icelady since she was four, she was my intermediate show hunter and has been incredible all her life. She loves her job and has been to HOYS and RIHS several times, I’m the only one that has ever shown her and she has also competed side-saddle. The last time we took her out was in 2019 and she has just been hacking about since then. This class is great as it has given her an opportunity to get out.” Victoria works as a civil servant.

The part-bred traditional gypsy cob class was won by Claire Fox riding her own black gelding, Mr Brewster. Claire said: “We’ve been so near, second at Vale View and third a Bury Farm and now to have got there is simply fantastic! We’ve done quite a bit of local level showing and I used to show him in part-bred Welsh section D classes. This was the best he has ever gone, he was steadier today. Next up, we will be heading to the Traditional of the Year show in a few weeks. We also take part in farm rides and jumping.”

In the new Pony Club Search for a Star classes, ponies from Pony Clubs across the country came forward for a chance of a spot at Your Horse Live. In the lead rein class, eight-year-old Millie Croft riding Lisa Croft’s grey Welsh section A pony, Blackhill Osprey took first place. A member of the Rufford branch of the Pony Club, Millie is a pupil at Ranby House School in Retford. She said: “Ozzy and I have done pony club camp, picnic rides and dressage and showjumping.” The Croft family have owned Ozzy for two years having originally had him on loan. Lisa added: “We will eb doing lots of practicing between now and Your Horse Live including going to TSR and Equifest.”

Glamorgan Pony Club member, Abigail Piper riding Victoria Piper’s Welsh pony, Honey Bee won the first ridden Search for a Star Pony Club class at Stoneleigh. Abigail said: “Honey loves showjumping and working hunter pony.” Her mum, Victoria competed in Search for a Star in 2021 and got through to the HOYS finals with her hunter Craifoil Quiksilver. They recently won the middleweight hunter class at the Royal Welsh show. Victoria said: “There seems to be a lot of competition between us now! Honey is just brilliant, she is only six and this is her first season showing.” Abigail is a pupil at Wick and Marcross Church in Wales primary school.

Cool Eliza, owned by Chloe Knowles and handled by Lisa Lilley won the plaited in-hand horse and hogged cob class at Stoneleigh. Lisa said: “Eliza is my daughter’s horse, we have competed in-hand at a few local shows and we were here competing in Trailblazers so we thought we would give this a go! Eliza is a proper all-rounder she has been placed in the showjumping and combined training at Trailblazers this week too. We own her half-sister as well. Eliza came from her breeder in Ireland as an unbroken three-year-old.”

The plaited pony in-hand class at Stoneleigh was won by Molly Bryan and Rommano Royal Myth owned by Victoria Bryan. The Search for a Star workshop the previous proved crucial to this pair in netting their win. Victoria explained: “We’ve only had Zippi for nine weeks and when we went to the workshop on the Saturday Mollie was having a bit of a confidence crisis. The time the Nikki Taylor spent with Molly and Zippi was so good and such a boost for her confidence. This was all rounded off by a big hug from Nikki when they came out of the ring having won! The workshop provided time, confidence and clear explanations which really put Molly at ease the next day – we even got a few turnout tips. We had initially thought about doing a ridden class at Search for a Star but having the in-hand classes to help build confidence has been brilliant” Twelve-year-old Molly and Zippi will continue competing in some showing and dressage classes over the summer and they will go on to show pony and then intermediate classes in time.

In the in-hand traditional and natives class, Lucy Parr and her Shire mare, Milnerfield Lady Isabelle took top spot. Izzy as this gentle giant is known at home is the first pure-bred Shire horse to ever qualify for the Search for a Star Your Horse Live finals. Lucy said: “We came to Search for a Star to represent the breed. Shire horses are currently rarer than pandas. Shire horses are on the rare breed survival trust endangered list. I’ve always wanted to get her out on to the bigger stage of showing and Search for a Star is helping us do this. Izzy is a riding mare and has also competed under saddle, it would be great to break her to harness and drive her in a single cart.” Eight-year-old Izzy has been owned by Lucy since she was four. Lucy works for a chemical manufacturer training apprentices.

The in-hand veteran horse and pony class went to Lucy Ashworth and her own, twenty-four-year-old, Randall IV. A delighted Lucy said: “I have been really ill, I was diagnosed with stage 3 cervical cancer in November last year and didn’t think I’d be showing this year. It is just brilliant to have got my life back a bit. Randall was an ex-international showjumper and he is still ridden and does everything. When I bought him, I went to see an ex-racehorse and ended up coming home with Randall!” Lucy and Randall IV have also qualified for the Search for a Star Your Horse Live finals in the plaited horse class.

Following on from her daughter Charlotte Knight and her Dartmoor pony, Collstone Caventino qualifying for Your Horse Live in the lead rein class at Vale View back in April, Jamie Clarke and Collstone Perfect Storm won the in-hand mountain and moorland class at Stoneleigh. Jamie said: “It’ll be a mother and daughter head off in the final! I am so thrilled, we’ve only had Elsa – Collstone Perfect Storm – for two months, she is a god-send. Search for a Star has given us a brilliant opportunity. We’ve only just started showing and we want to do it correctly and slowly. I think it is so important to do it right. Both Elsa and Dixie - Collstone Caventino – came from the same lady, their breeder, Nina Hayton from Somerset. Nina is just great, we’ve kept in close contact, she has been breeding Dartmoor ponies for years.”

Marketing Manager at SEIB, Nicolina MacKenzie said: “This is the second time we have run a Search for a Star qualifier alongside the SEIB Trailblazers championships at Stoneleigh Park. With the cost of living crisis ever deepening, we have worked closely with the Trailblazers team and put on this opportunity for our competitors to be able to compete at the Trailblazers championships and have a go at qualifying for HOYS or Your Horse Live all in the one outing – with only one lot of travelling and stabling costs to pay! Some fabulous stories have come out of this qualifier and we caught the reaction of the moment one competitor qualified for HOYS on camera – it has gone viral on Facebook and reached over a million people already. Its amazing to see the comments and reactions people have had to this once in a lifetime moment.”

Leading equine Insurance brokers, SEIB Insurance Brokers set up Search for a Star over 20 years ago so they could offer a unique competition opportunity to many of their amateur rider customers. SEIB has a long association with the showing world and is renowned for ‘putting something back’ by supporting many equestrian events and activities in addition to Search for a Star.

In the meantime - if you need to insure your horse, horsebox, trailer, yard or business - SEIB are here to help so please give us a call on 01708 850000 or visit www.seib.co.uk. #SEIBhere2help.

Results SEIB Search for a Star and Racehorse to Riding Horse Stoneleigh Park 24th July 2022.

HOYS Qualifying classes:

Class 1A Working Pony – Mosshey Centurion, owned and ridden by Georgia Norton from Hampshire

Class 1B Working Horse – An Buachaill Ban Bui, owned and ridden by Maxine Linas from Cheshire

Class 2 Show Hunter – 3rd Miller Beech, owned and ridden by Charlotte Davies from Staffordshire

Class 2 Show Hunter – 4th Pearl Panshine, owned and ridden by Lucy Askey from Derbyshire

Class 3 Riding Horse Hack – 1st Tiger Lady, owned and ridden by Rachel Lambert from Andover

Class 3 Riding Horse Hack – 2nd Port Lou Lou, owned by Kirsty Wilson and ridden by Finn Williamson from Cheshire

Class 4 Show and Maxi Cob – 1st Kas Nickleby, owned and ridden by Cat Griffiths from Birmingham

Class 4 Show and Maxi Cob – 2nd Heath, owned and ridden by Mollie Longworth from Manchester

Class 4 Show and Maxi Cob – 3rd Rein Honey, owned and ridden by Alya Newman from Derbyshire

Class 5 Racehorse to Riding Horse – 1st Imperial Ruby, owned by Sar Cassidy-Hill and ridden by Sarah Gwilliam from Wiltshire

Class 5 Racehorse to Riding Horse – 2nd First Fandango, owned and ridden by Hannah Chisman from Worcester

Class 6 Traditional Gypsy Cob all colours - 1st Big Mac, owned by Jacqui Down and ridden by Beth Gibson from Somerset

Class 6 Traditional Gypsy Cob all colours – 2nd Wystone Domino, owned by Tara Redfern and ridden by Joe Granton from Nottinghamshire

Your Horse Live qualifying classes:

Class 7 Mountain and Moorland – 1st Mosshey Centurion, owned and ridden by Georgia Norton from Hampshire

Class 7 Mountain and Moorland – 2nd Brackenbank Flicka, owned and ridden by Jessica Everill from Staffordshire

Class 7 Mountain and Moorland – 3rd Dearne Valley Firefly owned and ridden by Adele Forster from Blackburn

Class 8 Open Ridden Veteran Horse and Pony – 1st Icelady, owned and ridden by Victoria Timperley from Cheshire

Class 9 Part-Bred Traditional Gypsy Cob – 1st Mr Brewster, owned and ridden by Claire Fox from Manchester

Class 10 Pony Club Lead Rein Pony – 1st Blackhill Osprey, owned by Lisa Croft and ridden by Millie Croft from Nottinghamshire

Class 11 Pony Club First Ridden Type – 1st Honey Bee, owned by Victoria Piper and ridden by Abigail Piper from South Wales

Class 13 Amateur In-Hand Plaited Horse including Hogged Show Cob – 1st Cool Eliza, owned by Chloe Knowles and handled by Lisa Lilley from Benfleet

Class 14 Amateur In-Hand Plaited Pony – 1st Romanno Royal Myth, owned by Victoria Bryan and handled by Molly Bryan from Stoke-on-Trent

Class 15 Amateur In-Hand Traditional and Native Type – 1st Milnerfield Lady Isabelle, owned and handled by Lucy Parr from West Yorkshire

Class 16 Amateur In-Hand Veteran Horse or Pony – 1st Randall IV, owned and handled by Lucy Ashworth from Oxfordshire

Class 17 Amateur In-Hand Mountain and Moorland – 1st Collstone Perfect Storm, owned and handled by Jamie Clarke from Birmingham