A bright but blustery day greeted competitors at Stretcholt Equestrian Centre on Sunday 21st June for the SEIB Search for a Star and SEIB Racehorse to Riding Horse HOYS qualifiers. This is the first time the venue has hosted these qualifiers and the facilities were excellent, as were the number of entries and quality of horses coming forward. The Search for a Star judges, Richard Ramsay, David Bartram, David Ingle and Chris Lawton were joined by Jonathan Geake, conformation judge for the Racehorse to Riding Horse, with David Bartram judging the ride.

Working Hunter
A strong class tackled the rustic course, with 5 clears going through to the final judging. First place wet to The Grey Rebel, owned and ridden by Marilyn Bane, 27, from County Cork in Ireland. Marilyn bred the horse out of mare that had hunted. “It was pure chance, but I knew he was special from the start, he was full of boldness”, said a delighted Marilyn. The pair won the small hunters and stood reserve champion at Dublin show and were reserve champion at Balmoral in the ladies side saddle in 2014. “He is bred to hunt, and he just turned out really nice. He still does a full season hunting with the Galway Blazers and has hunted here with the Grafton, where my boyfriend is whipper-in”, said Marilyn. “We will go back to Ireland after HOYS – it is fantastic, I am so delighted. This is one of those big dreams and now we are finally going to get there!” said Marilyn, who works as an event groom and is also a blues singer. “We only started doing workers this year. I just wanted to try something different. He is really brave, and likes to show off. He loves himself and sometimes over does it! We just thought we would give it a go”.

Second place went to Judith Massey, riding her own, Duke. Judith, from Northwich, Cheshire, bought Duke as an unbroken 4 year old, and planned to bring him on to hunt and do a few working hunters in the summer. Judith suffered a freak accident with Duke when he was first backed. “We were out hacking and I really don’t know what happened, whether a bird got up or something, but he suddenly bucked and unbalanced me, then bucked again and put me on the floor”. Judith suffered broken ribs and collar bone and punctured lung. “It was a freak accident, and we picked up the next year and carried on. I would trust him with my life now”, she says. Standing at 18hh, this big horse loves his hunting and goes out regularly with the Cheshire Forest. “He is not so keen on getting tarted up for shows” said Judith. The pair did several Search for a Star qualifiers last year, and having worked hard over the winter decided to give it another go this year. “We were 4th at the Houghton Hall qualifier, but he jumped well today”, said Judith. “I did Prince Philip Cup mounted games at Wembley in 1979, and I have wanted to go back to HOYS ever since, but with work commitments and other things it has never worked out”, said Judith who works as a relief catering manager for a contract catering company. Judith plans to do more working hunter classes at local shows. “It was a 4 hour journey to get here, but it was worth it!” she said.

Riding Club Show Horse
First place went to the lovely dun and white coloured mare, Toyd Camomile, owned and ridden by Harriet Jarvis. Harriet bought the 6 year old, known as Daisy, in January from a friend who bred and broke her in on Exmoor. She had done mainly hunting before Harriet got her, and since then the pair have done some dressage and have worked on show jumping. “When I went to see her she had not done much jumping, and I put her over a cross pole and she just went. She is lovely; the easiest and nicest person to have – I couldn’t not buy her!” said Harriet, who was not particularly looking for a horse at the time. “She is everything I thought she might be. She’s just adorable and has a home for life”, she added. “I went to HOYS to watch and it looked like a lovely thing to do. I thought if there was any chance of ever riding there then this looked like something exciting to do, and we get to do some jumping as well”. The pair had planned to go eventing in August, “but we might just concentrate on show jumping now until after HOYS. We will do some more showing and work hard to prepare for HOYS – we’ll never have this chance again!” said Harriet, who works as a small animal vet from Barnstaple, North Devon, along with her husband, an equine vet. The couple have 3 horses between them and have to fit in riding with a busy work schedule and being on call.

Second place went to Lauren Evans, 21, from Swansea, riding her own Coedfryn Cavalier. Lauren bought the 10 year old black gelding 5 years ago as an all rounder. Lauren has been a member of the Swansea branch of The Pony Club since she was little, and the pair have been members of the show jumping team and have represented the branch in dressage, qualifying for the Pony Club Dressage championships last year. They also hunt occasionally with the Banwen Miners hunt. “He is a real family horse, he gives my 4 year old niece a ride, he is lovely”. The pair won the Side Saddle at the Royal Welsh in 2013, and have competed in workers and small hunter classes. “We are concentrating on showing now, and we were bringing a friend to Search for a Star so we decided to have a go”, said Lauren, whose last minute entry paid off. “HOYS has always been my big ambition, and to qualify is brilliant, especially with him. He is really special”. Lauren, who works as a receptionist, now plans to have fun and prepare for HOYS.

Riding Horse/Hack
First place went to Dowhills Daffi, owned and ridden by Sophie Clark, 25, from Bromsgrove. Sophie bought the mare as a 6 month old foal from Dowhills Stud. “We went to see a 2 year old, but chose a foal instead”, explained Sophie, who now keeps the 5 year old bay mare at home and has done all the schooling herself. Last year was their first season competing locally, and they enjoy hacking and “doing normal things” at home. “I wanted a show hack, and she has been maturing while I have been at uni”, said Sophie, who studied Sport and Community Development at Sheffield and is now working as a teaching assistant at a Special Educational Needs school. The pair will compete at Equifest and BSPS championships before going to HOYS. “We need to go indoors, being a baby, she has not done it before”, she said. “HOYS is something I have dreamed of for years and years. I was so nervous beforehand, but I was ok once we went in. We went to see Jurasic Park last night, and all I could think about was my canter! Dad promised a new lorry if we qualified – I can’t wait to tell him!” she,

Second place went to Emma Didlick, 24, riding her own Bardene Nell Gwyn. Emma has owned the 8 year old bay mare for 5 years. “I bought her as a show hack, but she has had injury after injury. She had a leg injury and was on box rest for two months, so it took a while to get her back again. I thought we would never get anywhere and almost gave up”, said Emma. She decided to give Search for a Star a go this year, and went to Osbaldeston and Houghton Hall. “This is third time lucky! I have always wanted this – I bought her as my HOYS horse. Mum always comes with me to shows but she is at home as we have a mare due to foal – this is our first show without her and I have been all stressed. I can’t wait to tell her!” The pair will now concentrate on preparation for HOYS and plan to do open classes next year. Emma works with racehorses as yard foreman for Shadwell, near Thetford, and the mare lives at home with her mother in Manchester. “A friend rides her to keep her ticking over, and mum does all the work. I go home and ride every other weekend”, says Emma.

First place went to Charlotte Rees, 18, from Pembrokeshire with her show hunter pony, Tooreeny Lad, known as “Harry”. The 7 year old grey gelding was bought for Charlotte’s mum, Sarah, to ride, and they have owned him for 3 years. Harry is a Connemara by I Love You Melody, out of a thoroughbred mare and came from Ireland. Charlotte and Sarah have put in a lot of work to turn Harry into a show horse and now they do showing and eventing. “He loves jumping and going cross country and we do a bit of dressage”, Charlotte has recently taken her AS exams at the Sir Thomas Pickton School. Harry lives at home on the family farm and is turned out in the field with the cows and a pony for company. “This is a major dream come true. We go every year to watch and to support a friend. It is a shock and a miracle, a big achievement. With Harry what you see is what you get – he is so easy at home, he does everything you want”.

Second went to Liam and Debbie Conway’s Laithehill Pasha, known as “Buzz”, ridden by Joshua Conway, 15. “We got him in January last year, and he had been in a field for 4 years. He was a fat pony”, said Josh. He wanted to do jumping and has hunted with the Cheshire Drag. “He jumped a 4 ft hedge and was the only pony to jump it” said Josh. The pony was so nice they decided to have a go at showing and have a go at Search for a Star. The pair were close in the first two SFAS qualifiers this year, and so were delighted to qualify. They will do a bit of dressage and some showing in preparation for HOYS. “We have learned so much from Search For a Star, that is what it is all about”, said dad, Liam.

Katherine Loupart took first place with her own grey mare, Clover Quest, known as “Kettie”. She has had her for 3 years and bought her from her niece, Molly Hawthorne. “She was sold as part of a job lot in a welsh market and Molly bought her in such bad condition, the vet thought she would be put down. She came right and Molly backed her but did not do very much with her before putting her in foal”, explained Katherine. “Kettie came to me for grazing while she was in foal as my niece did not have enough grass, and then I took her on”. She decided to have a go at showing, encouraged by a neighbour, and now does dressage and riding club activities. They are members of Bromyard Riding Club and Vale of Arrow Riding Club and completed adult camp the week before Stretcholt. “This is so exciting – we slept in the trailer last night, but it has all been worth it! Kettie does not have a bad bone in her body, she is so good and kind”, said Katherine, who works as head of Humanities and teaches history at Tenbury High Ormaston Accademy. The pair plan to do more local shows and some dressage in preparation for HOYS.

Second place went to Ceri Simpson, 30, with her own Abraham’s Quest, known as Zac at home. Ceri has had the 8 year old bay gelding for 3 years and bought him to do dressage, but the vendor sold him on the condition that they did SFAS. Zac was a bit green, and started doing county level shows last year. They decided to try again this year and entered the Riding horse class. “The judge advised us that he is more of a hunter, so we entered the second class on a whim. I am so shocked, he was not easy in the go round but he settled. I watched SFAS last year, now there is only 3 months to prepare! We’ll have to rethink schedules and work, but we will do it, I can’t believe it,” said Ceri, who works as a veterinary physiotherapist and hydrotherapist for equine and canine. “We have never won a sash before!” The pair will do more shows and some unaffiliated dressage before HOYS.

First place went to Louise Holiday, 46, riding her own 8 year old bay gelding, The Gambler. Louise bought The Gambler, stable name Dylan, as an unbroken 6 year old from a friend, Miley Cash, in Ireland. The horse had been turned out on a farm and had had very little handling when he arrived. “We had to leave a headcollar on him for a few days in the stable, just so we could catch him”, said Louise. He soon learned to trust her and he was backed and started to do some riding club dressage. The pair came to a Search for a Star qualifier last year, finishing 6th, but he was really too green at that stage. This year he has been to some local shows and finished 7th in the Open and 5th in the Amateur class at Three Counties Show. “He is getting better and better and doing so well, considering it is not quite 2 years since he was backed”, said Louise’s partner, Alan Morgan. “I always wanted a show cob, and always wanted to go to HOYS. This is so exciting!” added Louise, who has also hunted Dylan with the North Ledbury. She plans to continue doing some county shows until HOYS in October. “There will be no going hunting before HOYS” she said. Louise works as a Clinical Nurse Specialist at Gloucester Royal Hospital and looks after Dylan around her shift work. She plans to start jumping him next winter and hopes to compete in workers next year. “He is a bit spooky, but he had a good brain and so I can ease off him a bit in the winter. He was very good to back and has never done anything wrong, considering he was running free on a farm for the first 6 years of his life and was a bit wild when Miles first saw him. Now look at him!”, she added.

Second place went to Chacoa, known as “Cobby”, owned and ridden by Lucinda Cowlard, 27, from Paignton, Devon. Lucinda has owned Cobby, a 10 year old coloured gelding, for 5 years and picked him out because she liked the markings on his bottom. “He was in a field with lots of other horses, and I just thought his markings were good and he was also very friendly”, she explained. The pair have been hunting with the South Devon hunt but Lucinda really wanted a show cob to produce. Last season was their first proper season showing and they won the coloured class at Totness show and did several other local shows. “I wanted to have a go at Search for a Star to try to qualify for HOYS”, said Lucinda, a dental nurse who has recently got engaged to be married. “My fiancé knows that Cobby has to come first”, she laughed, pointing out her future husband who was there to give his support. Lucinda’s mum, Caroline, also helps look after Cobby, hacking out and looking after him so that Lucinda can fit everything in around work. “He is such a character, and really good to do. We do him between us”, she said.


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.

Working Hunter
1st The Grey Rebel, owned and ridden by Marilyn Bane of Co. Galway, Ireland
2nd Duke, owned and ridden by Judith Massey of Northwich, Cheshire

Riding Club Show Horse
1st Toyd Camomile, owned and ridden by Harriet Jarvis of Barnstaple, Devon
2nd Coed Fryn Cavalier, owned and ridden by Lauren Evens of Skewen Neath, Wales

Riding Horse/Hack
1st Downhills Daffi, owned by Melanie Clark and ridden by Sophie Clark of Worcestershire
2nd Barrdene Nell Gwyn owned and ridden by Emma Didlick of Manchester

1st Tooreeny Lad, owned and ridden by Charlotte Rees of Haverford, Pembrokeshire
2nd Laithehill Pasha, owned by Liam Conway and rideen by Joshua Conway of Stockport

Show Hunter
1st Clover Quest, owned and ridden by Katherine Loupart
2nd Abraham’s Quest, owned and ridden by Ceri Simpson

1st The Gambler, owned and ridden by Louise Holiday of Gloucester
2nd Chacoa, owned and ridden by Lucinda Cowlard of Paigton, Devon