Top horses at Scottish Search for a Star and Racehorse to Riding Horse qualifier!

Top horses at Scottish Search for a Star and Racehorse to Riding Horse qualifier!

Following on from the success of the event in 2022, SEIB Search for a Star and Racehorse to Riding Horse headed north to Netherton Equestrian Centre in Perthshire on the 3rd and 4th June, offering competitors from Scotland, the north of England and some travelled much further for the chance to qualify. The qualifier ran as a ‘Weekender’ event with a training workshop on the Saturday followed by the show on the Sunday. Regular Search for a Star judges, Richard Ramsay, Nicki Taylor, Hannah Horton and Helen Dunwell offered valuable advice and support to those taking part in the workshop. Plenty of competitors came forward for Sunday’s Search for a Star and Racehorse to Riding Horse classes.

Horse of the Year Show qualifying classes

A high-quality working pony class saw twelve entries come forward for the first class of the day. Milly Morrison from Moray Bank in Fife and her Welsh mare, Cwmtysswg Estafan took top spot. Milly said: “I can’t believe we have won today, I’ve never had a pony posh enough to win at showing! I am so pleased with her.” Judge, Nicki Taylor commented: “The mare is so balanced, we saw her here last year at the Search for a Star workshop when she was just broken and her rider has done a great job.” Milly bought Effie as the mare is known at home just over a year ago, she explained: “My horse had gone lame and was going to be out for the summer last year so I started looking around for another horse to have some fun with. I saw an advert on Facebook for Effie and so we went to North Wales to see her. She was unhandled, unbroken and living on a hillside. Her previous owner bought her from the sales. We backed her after I bought her and we came along to the Search for a Star clinic at Netherton a year ago where she did her first ever ridden canter!” Since then Effie and Milly qualified for the Novice Dressage championship at the Pony Club Championships and have been slowly getting going jumping over the winter. Milly works as an environmental advisor for Bear Scotland and is also a coach for Fife Pony Club.

Six horses took part in a competitive working horse class at Netherton. It was third time lucky for the winner at a Search for a Star qualifier. Krystan Blackie was thrilled with her win with her homebred black gelding, Sydney Down Under. She said: “I am just delighted, I bred him myself and he is amazing. He wins a rosette every time out! He can get tense sometimes and is better when he sees a fence. I had his mother for fifteen years before him and she did riding club and everything else. I bred Sydney as a nice horse to follow on from her. He is fifteen now – its been a long-time coming! Last season we came to the qualifier here and then went down south to Stoneleigh to have another go at a Search for a Star HOYS ticket. This year I decided we would go just to have fun, I felt a bit pressured going to Stoneleigh, but that was all off today and its amazing the difference it has made. We will keep practising ahead of HOYS!”

Fiona Menzies from Aberdeenshire took a competitive hunter class with her handsome grey gelding, Cullenbay Heaven Sent. The win was poignant for Fiona, she explained: “My best friend, David Lamb, left me Cullenbay Heaven Sent in his will. He will be looking down today, absolutely thrilled with this win! He was bred out of my Irish Draught mare, and is by David’s warmblood stallion. David’s widow will be so pleased to hear Cullenbay Heaven Sent is off to HOYS too! I’ve been trying to qualify for HOYS with various hunters and coloured horses since 2007 – so 16 years of perseverance has now paid off. This is only Cullenbay Heaven Sent’s second ever showing show under saddle.” This striking seven-year-old and Fiona have had plenty of success in the dressage arena including a placing in the nationals at prelim level last year. Fiona works as a freelance cook. She added: “I would have loved to attend the Search for a Star training day yesterday but I just couldn’t fit it in around a work commitment.”

Karen Shutler made the long journey to Netherton from Nottinghamshire a worthwhile one by taking the second hunter ticket on the day with her grey Irish Draught gelding, Jacob’s Finn. This pair qualified for the HOYS Search for a Star finals in 2022. Karen said: “Two days before HOYS last year he sliced the back of his knee. He was out for a few months with it but thankfully he didn’t do any permanent damage. Early this year I decided that having qualified for HOYS but not gone it was an itch that needed sorting and we would give it a real go – I have been 110% determined! I had a friend that made the journey to Netherton the year before and she said it was a great experience so I juggled childcare and off we went. I met some amazing people up at Netherton and a group of us all camped together, it was so friendly. We will now go to a few county shows and enjoy our summer before HOYS.”

The Riding Horse Hack class at Netherton was won by Sophie Church and her own Rockridge Cassandra. Sophie is from Perthshire, she said: “I am over the moon with this result! We came to Search for a Star in 2022 and were bottom of the line! I have been determined since then and we have had a lesson each week with Shonagh Stark to help us improve. I’ve owned Rockridge Cassandra for two years now, I bought her as a seven-year-old from Ireland. She had been a broodmare and came from Maxine Monteath. Since I bought her, we’ve had a go at everything – she was an allrounder, but sustained an injury so we don’t jump her anymore and we now also focus on dressage and are competing at novice and elementary level. I’m aiming for medium. I fractured my L3 in my back last November and came back riding in January and in March Rockridge Cassandra had a sacroiliac problem and only came back into work on the 14th May.” Sophie works as a lawyer.

Lucy Chambers made the long trip north from Preston a worthwhile one by taking second in the Riding Horse Hack class with her own, Dark Dancer Keisha Reign. Sophie said: “I Can’t believe it, we did well at the Royal Highland show a few years ago and took 5th place in the riding horse class, but this is something else! I’ve had her since she was six months old, my friend, Dave Leach bred her. She is also ace at arena eventing and cross country and everything. I’m a member of Ribble Valley Riding Club and she will have a holiday after this and then a few dressage lessons to help prepare!” Lucy has Dark Dancer Keisha Reign’s half brother too and works as a universal banker at HSBC.

The cob class at Netherton resulted in success for people in the teaching profession. The Vice Principal of Education at St Andrews University, Clare Peddie won the class with her stunning skewbald cob, Second Breakfast. Clare said: “He is only five and we thought we’d come along for some practice! I’ve had two hip replacements and owned him since he was just broken. Second Breakfast was found for me by James Munro. I was on holiday with my kids and grandchildren on the Murray Coast when James let me know about him. Off we went the next morning and bought him! I came to the Search for a Star workshop the day before the qualifier and it’s the best thing I’ve done, the help was fantastic. We will be doing plenty of practising before HOYS.”

In second place was primary school headteacher, Kathryn Mort riding her own, Mister Quinn. Kathryn said: “This is the first time we have ever done anything like this. It was our fifth ever show and the first time he’s had a ride judge on him and our first ever stay away show! We’ve really chucked ourselves in at the deep-end. I was so nervous and we did the workshop to help prepare – it made all the difference. I would give Nicki (Search for a Star judge and workshop instructor) 14 marks out of 10! I flew over to Ireland and bought Mister Quinn as an unhandled four-year-old. He came straight from the field and he arrived with me and I broke him in. This is our first season together and we also do plenty of beach rides and hacking and a few local shows.”

Twelve-year-old, Golden Bird won the SEIB Racehorse to Riding Horse qualifier at Netherton. This is the fifth time Lindsay McCulloch’s elegant bay gelding has qualified for the HOYS final with Richard Telford. Lindsay said: “He’s looking fantastic and has also qualified for HOYS and the Royal International Horse Show in the hacks and he won the RoR class at Windsor. Golden Bird has a very varied life and spends plenty of time hacking and jumping and also out in his field. We are so grateful to Richard and its hard to believe the horse is still only 12 when you look at how much he has achieved.”

In runner-up spot was Katie-Jo Nixon and Diana Taylors’, Festive Fare. Katie-Jo said: “He held it together in there and I am just delighted. He was owned by Sheikh Mohammed and came to us via Godolphin Rehoming. He took 2nd place in the racehorse class at the Royal Highland in 2021 and 2022. He ran nine times during his racing days and was a group winner at Kempton. He cost £264,000 as a foal. He also does plenty of dressage in the winter and has qualified for the Royal International Horse Show in the light weight hunters. We will also be going to the RoR championships at Aintree and competing in Riding Club dressage over the next few months.”

Ruby Butler and her own piebald gelding, Toaster, won the Traditional Cob class at Netherton. Perseverance has paid off for this combination – and a ten-hour journey up to Scotland from Staffordshire. They came third at four Search for a Star qualifiers in 2022 followed up by a fourth place at Vale View this spring. Ruby said: “I am thrilled! Toaster is a rescue pony and came from the RSPCA. He was 10 when we got him and had to be gelded. I never dreamed we would do it!” This pair won the working hunter pony class at Staffordshire show in the run up to Netherton. Ruby is a year 10 pupil at John Taylor High School in Staffordshire.

In second place in the traditional cobs was Erica Thomasson and Littlebyrom Bob The Cob owned by Sarah Thomasson. This pair had previously competed in the traditionals class at Vale View. Sarah explained: “We’ve been practising with the double reins since Vale View. They have done everything together including small shows and Pony Club. He was only a two-year-old when we bought him and they have grown together.” The pair have also had success in the dressage arena at prelim level and Erica is a year 9 pupil at secondary school.

SEIB Insurance Brokers’ Marketing Manager and Search for a Star organizer, Nicolina MacKenzie said: “It is great that we were able to return to Scotland after the success of our first show here for 20 years in 2022. We were short on entries with a week to go, but realising it is a case of use it or lose it, plenty of people got their entries in and supported the show. Its lovely to hear the feedback that people are treating Search for a Star as a social weekend away as well as a competition opportunity. Search for a Star is all about helping to give people the confidence to push themselves a bit and improve their performance but most of all to enjoy being out with their horses and meeting likeminded people.”

Leading equine Insurance brokers, SEIB Insurance Brokers set up Search for a Star nearly 30 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 #SEIBhere2help.

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 Natherton Equestrian Centre 4th June 2023

HOYS Qualifying classes:

Class 1A Working Pony – Cwmtysswg Estafan owned and ridden by Milly Morris from Fife

Class 1B Working Horse – Sydney Down Under owned and ridden by Krystan Blackie from Stirlingshire

Class 2 Show Hunter – 1st Cullenbay Heaven Sent owned and ridden by Fiona Menzies from Aberdeenshire

Class 2 Show Hunter – 3rd Jacobs Finn owned and ridden by Karen Shutler from Nottinghamshire

Class 3 Riding Horse Hack – 1st Rockridge Cassandra owned and ridden by Sophie Church from Perthshire

Class 3 Riding Horse Hack – 2nd Dark Dancer Keisha Reign owned and ridden by Lucy Chambers from Preston

Class 4 Show and Maxi Cob – 1st Second Breakfast owned and ridden by Clare Peddie from Fife

Class 4 Show and Maxi Cob – 2nd Mister Quinn owned and ridden by Kathryn Mort from Manchester

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

Class 5 Racehorse to Riding Horse – 2nd Festive Fare owned by Diana Taylor and ridden by Katie-Jo Nixon from Roxburgshire

Class 6 Traditional Gypsy Cob all colours – 1st Toaster owned and ridden by Ruby Butler from Staffordshire

Class 6 Traditional Gypsy Cob all colours – 2nd Littlebyrom Bobthecob owned by Sarah Thomasson and ridden by Erica Thomasson from Bolton


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