West Country riders shine at SEIB Search for a Star Stretcholt qualifier
The second SEIB Insurance Brokers Search for a Star qualifier took place at the stunning Stretcholt Equestrian Centre in North Somerset on the 20th May. This lovely venue is proving to be increasingly popular with plenty of amateur competitors looking for the chance of a ticket to HOYS. Riders travelled from as far afield as Bolton and Suffolk to take part although riders from the south-west were very successful with no less than 6 combinations from the region qualifying for the Search for a Star Championships.

Working Pony
Proceedings at Stretcholt were kicked off with a win for veterinary nurse, Cassie James with Clare Grauman’s Welsh section C, Bodwenarth Free-Way in the Working Pony Class. Bobby as he is known – jumped well, had great presence with a workmanlike impression and was a worthy winner – in the words of judge, David Bartram. Cassie who works at Liphook Veterinary Hospital in Hampshire was thrilled with the result of her first ever visit to Search for a Star. She said: “Bobby had bad laminitis and has now been free from the condition for two years. We have to keep him lean and he lives in a starvation patch to prevent the laminitis returning. The vets at Liphook have been invaluable with their help and advice in keeping him fit and healthy.” The pair plan to spend the summer competing in working hunter classes and dressage in the run up to HOYS.

Working Horse
A very busy working horse class – with well over 20 entries – was won by Melissa Northwood and her own and Richard Hunt’s, Mendip Voyage. As his name would suggest, this lovely bay gelding was bred locally to Stretcholt by Sandra Partridge. Melissa has owned the horse since he was a four-year-old. She said: “Barney, as we call him, was in fact an accident, his dam was a Dutch warmblood and the sire was a Dartmoor pony that escaped into her field! We initially bought him as a project, but he just gets better and better and I think he will be staying with us.” Melissa works as a riding instructor for dressage and eventing competitors and she and Barney have done some eventing and they also compete at elementary level dressage. She added: “I did Search for a Star many years ago and took 3rd place, it is the best feeling to have now finally qualified, particularly as we nearly didn’t have a season this year as Barney injured himself running around the field in the snow and he has luckily made a very swift recovery.”

Riding Horse Hack
Becky Edge and Solitair’s Jack of Diamond made their 5-hour journey from Bolton very worthwhile by winning the Riding Horse Hack class at Stretcholt. An absolutely delighted Becky said: “I have owned Jack for just one year, he had done some dressage before we had him. We have worked really hard at our partnership and it has all gone perfectly today.” Becky’s mother-in-law and groom for the day, Janet Edge, won the Grooms prize for the Riding Horse Hack class too which helped round off a very successful day for the team. Janet said: “It means so much to us all that they have gone and qualified. Becky works so hard with everything.” Becky works as a claims manager for an insurance company. She added: “I used to have a lovely Connemara but he sadly had to be retired and then I started riding Janet’s Knabstrubber horse which seriously gave me the bug for showing bigger horses. Our showing is a real team effort.” Becky is trained by Maxine Jagger and she and Jack have attended some showing clinics with Anne Leaver.

Qualifying for HOYS in 2nd place in the Riding Horse Hack class was Georgia Rase with her ID x TB, Welsh Surprise. Georgia said: “It means everything to me to have qualified for HOYS. We work very hard and it is brilliant to be getting this opportunity.” Welsh Surprise was literally a surprise to Georgia several years ago, she continued: “Mum went up to Wales to collect some two-year-olds and then rang on the way home saying she had bought a weanling that was on the lorry too. He was very cheap to buy, but has cost me a small fortune since then – he is very accident prone!” Georgia works as a support worker at the Brandon Trust, she continued: “I have to do a bit of juggling to fit the horses in around work and we don’t get to that many shows as I am meant to be at work at the weekends.” Georgia’s sister rode at HOYS as a very small child and Georgia competed at RIHS on her 13hh pony.

Heading the hunters at Stretcholt was Fiona Benger with her own Irish Sports Horse, All Torque. Fiona said: “I am delighted to have qualified for HOYS. We did some showing years ago and then I got my new horse and decided to give it a go again. We turned down going to the Riding Club National Championships today to come here and I am so pleased that we did.” This win rounded off a brilliant week for this pair who also took 2nd place in the local hunter class at Devon County Show. In addition to their showing outings Fiona hunts the horse and the pair have recently qualified for a regional BE100 eventing final. Fiona has owned All Torque for three years. She continued: “We bought him from some friends that bred him over in Ireland. They love that he is doing everything over here. He has a full brother that is eventing at a high level in Canada and a full sister that is also doing really well eventing. The dam evented with my friend’s daughter very successfully and it is great that her offspring are out competing.”

Another local horse qualified for HOYS in the hunters. Sophie Mager’s Drumhowan Silver Cruise took 2nd place. Sophie, from Nailsea bought the lovely, Sampson, a year ago as a just broken in 5-year-old. She said: “I absolutely can’t believe we have qualified for HOYS. I have put so much time and work into Sampson and HOYS was my aim when I bought him. I brought my old mare to Search for a Star in 2017 and this really spurred my on to seriously give it a go.” Sophie is a self-employed support worker for adults with learning disabilities. She added: “We wouldn’t have got to this point without the help of my friends, Sarah and Lisa Nicholls.”

Mountain & Moorland
Dales pony, Lowhouses Chesney, owned and ridden by Kirstie Hinton was the winner of the new Mountain and Moorland qualifier. Kirstie said: “I was so nervous before the class. I have wanted to do Search for a Star for so long and it is great that there is now this new M&M class that Boris and I can have a go in.” All of Kirstie’s family attended Stretcholt to lend their support, she grew up doing M&M classes and then showed a hunter for a few years. Kirstie continued: “Boris was meant to be my mum’s pony, we saw him and fell straight in love with him and he has now become mine.” Kirstie’s younger sister, Beth Reid will ride Boris at the Bath and West Show – it will be her first go in the junior M&M class. Kirstie added: “Boris lives to go to shows, he has no interest in hacking out, although we did go the beach a few weeks ago and he loved that.” Kirstie works in the office at Super Pro rally car parts.

In 2nd place was chiropractor, Emma Staton riding her New Forest pony, Buckland Romantic. Emma said: “Kara went really well in the class and the judges made some lovely, positive comments about her. We have only just really started showing so it is brilliant to have qualified for this exciting new championship at our first attempt.” Dressage has been the main focus for this pair who have recently competed at elementary level at the regionals and are hoping to move up to medium later in the year. Emma continued: “I set out to buy a New Forest pony to breed from, but that seems to have been put on hold – for at least the time being. Kara came direct from the Buckland Stud in the New Forest and she spent her first eighteen months or so running on the forest.” Emma runs her Chiropractic business, Gilbert’s Coombe Chiropractic Clinic in Cornwall which treats both humans and animals.

Former showjumper, and wife of former international rugby player, Phil Vickery, Katie Vickery took 3rd place in the Mountain and Moorland’s with her striking Connemara, Maicin Funambule. Katie said: “I can’t believe we have qualified for the championship, we have never done showing before but decided to give it a go! We do plenty of other things including some novice dressage and BE90 eventing.” The pair also took 4th place in the Working Pony class earlier in the day at Stretcholt. Katie bought Maicin Funambule from Ireland two-years-ago, before this she showjumped to foxhunter level. She added: “I have two children and my focus is now on having some fun with the horses when time allows.”
Jane Cooper and Jackie Beatham judged the Mountain and Moorland class. Jackie was particularly delighted with the standard of entries. She said: “The three ponies we put through to the final were all beautifully schooled and in natural self-carriage with freedom of movement within their breed types. The first two could easily hold their own in open classes. I think it is wonderful that SEIB has fairly strict rules on the type of bits permitted into their rules. It is a joy to judge ponies that are wearing non-leverage bits. I think this new class has a definite future and will take off.”

Sarah Field from Suffolk qualified for HOYS in Search for a Star on her second attempt this year with her coloured cob, Deards Gold N Silver. The pair made the trip from Suffolk up to the Osbaldeston qualifier a few weeks ago and their second long drive of the season – down to Somerset paid off. “I am almost in shock that we have done it.” Said a thrilled Sarah: “We went to Osbaldeston and the judges gave me some great advice, which has been followed and now we have gone and done it! When I was young I had a dream that I would one day compete at HOYS and I had assumed that it would never happen, but now I am 45 and it has finally become a reality. It has been a huge learning curve.” Sarah has owned 7-year-old Humphrey – as Deards Gold N Silver is known – for just three months and this was only Humphrey’s third ever show. Sarah continued: “I work full-time as a Sales and Marketing manager in the medical industry. The SEIB competition provides such an amazing opportunity for people like me with full-time jobs that also dream of having a go at HOYS.”

A combination that are completely new to showing took 2nd place in the cob class. Polly Sellers and her own Jasper were competing in just their 5th ever show. The pair went to the Stretcholt Search for a Star qualifier in 2017 and took part in the hunter class – it was suggested that Jasper should be shown as a cob instead. Polly said: “I am very proud of Jasper and to be off to HOYS is just the best thing ever. We have done lots of hunting and riding club things and have also competed at BE100 level eventing. When we did Search for a Star as a hunter last year we really didn’t do very well. Although I did have to think a good bit about the idea of him being a cob, it was a big thing for me to hog him, but this is now his second show as a cob and I couldn’t be more delighted.” Jasper is a purebred Irish Draught and was bred by former jockey, Eddie Ahern in Newmarket. Sarah works as a sales agent for equine supplement company, Equine America.
Cob class ride judge, David Bartram said: “The cob qualifier today was a true amateur class. We had all shapes and sizes and our nice coloured winner was very mannerly and gave me a great ride.”

Racehorse to Riding Horse
The ever competitive SEIB Racehorse to Riding Horse class rounded off the day at Stretcholt. The class was judged by Ian Smeeth (ride) and Jackie Beatham (conformation). Jo Bates riding Yvonne Jacques former group 1 winning racehorse, Grandeur were the winners. This was just the second outing of the season for this lovely grey who competed at Royal Windsor the previous week. Jo and Grandeur will be looking to improve on their 3rd place in the 2017 SEIB Racehorse to Riding Horse HOYS Championship. Jo said: “He was really good today and went beautifully for the ride judge, we will probably go to Hickstead next for the hack classes.”

Qualifying in 2nd place was Hannah Horton riding Sarah Ward’s, What Of It. This combination have also previously qualified for HOYS in the SEIB Racehorse to Riding Horse championship. They took 5th place in the final in 2017. Sarah said: “We have to hope for an improvement on that this year. This is his third season showing following a brilliant racing career. He ran 45 times over fences with 19 wins and was ridden by my son Tom Ward who is now assistant trainer to Richard Hannon. What Of It is 15 now and looking absolutely brilliant, he does everything, we have taken him to hunter trials and done a bit of arena eventing too.” Hannah rides out for racehorse trainer Andrew Balding and competes in British Eventing in addition to the showing.

Class 1A Working Pony
1st Cassie James riding Bodwenarth Free-way
2nd Dinah Smith riding Culmore JJ
3rd Amelia Login riding Popsters Ragamuffin
4th Katie Vickery riding Maicin Furambbule II
5th Anya Hitt riding Ncnoc an Noinin Clover
6th Tegan Holdaway riding Cloigen Campari

Class 2B Working Horse
1st Melissa Northwood riding Mendip Voyage
2nd Hayle Foster riding Brixham Cruiver Donald
3rdShane Carter riding Grantstown Sandman
4th Stacey Tungat riding Mazies Boy
5th Nicola Price riding Clarence
6th Francesca Ovens riding Fernanzo HBS

Class 2 Riding Horse Hack
1st Becky Edge riding Solitair’s Jack of Diamonds
2nd Georgia Rase riding Welsh Surprise
3rd Gemma Hollis riding Galatian
4th Zoe Williams riding Gannex’s Gift of Grace
5th Sarah Walker riding Gone Goes the Theory
6th Alicia Matthews riding Makers Military Brave

Class 3 Show Hunter
1st Fiona Benger riding All Torque
2nd Sophie Mager riding Drumhowan Silver Cruise
3rd Victoria White riding Craughwell Dexter
4th Holly Banber riding Springtime Boy
5th Lauren Keen riding Caplor Hill Billy
6th Stephanie Haines riding Mountain Fire

Class 4 M & Ms
1st Kirstie Hinton riding Lowhouses Chesney
2nd Emma Staton riding Buckland Romantic
3rd Katie Vickery riding Maicin Furambbule II
4th Amelia Login riding Popsters Ragamuffin
5th Nicola Harrison riding Cathael AP Victor
6th Alicia Gee riding Eastlands Banker

Class 6 Cobs
1st Sarah Field riding Deards Gold N Silver
2nd Polly Sellens riding Jasper
3rd Stacey Tungate riding Mazies Boy
4th Vikki Swindell riding Cobmando
5th Sian Tucker riding Blaenmorlais The Princess
6th Carolyn Quantrill riding Cormoy Lad