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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
SEIB Marketing Manager Nicolina Mackenzie said: “We always enjoy coming to Stretcholt, everyone is very well looked after. We saw some lovely horses and ponies today across the classes and we are so pleased to be able to give our very well deserving qualifiers the chance to compete in the Search for a Star final which is now in its 20th year at HOYS.”
Leading equine Insurance brokers, SEIB Insurance Brokers provide cover for horses, horse boxes, yards and much more. The company has a long association with the showing world and is renowned for ‘putting something back’ by supporting equestrian events and activities.