Photo: Credit SMR Photography
Nearly 200 competitors descended on Vale View Equestrian in Leicestershire on the 24th April for the first Search for a Star qualifier of 2022. Samantha De Caprio and Search for a Star steward, Helen Dunwell were welcomed to the judging team for the first time. Following Racehorse to Riding Horse judging in 2021 plus Search for a Star to help out at the last minute, Nicola Taylor enjoyed her first day’s proper Search for a Star judging, that she found quite emotional, joining senior judge Mr Richard Ramsay. John Foster, Craig McLelland and Rebecca Court returned as stewards and Reece Bentley excelled in his first day stewarding for the team.
There were strong entries in both the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) and Your Horse Live Search for a Star qualifying classes at Vale View Equestrian Centre. The day marked a high starting point for the brand-new Pony Club Search for a Star competition in its first Your Horse Live qualifying classes alongside the first running of in-hand Search for a Star series.
The first class, Working Pony went to Natalie Pastor and her homebred six-year-old New Forest gelding, Langorra Ginger Port. Qualifying for HOYS was only the start of the day for Natalie though as the pair went on to take second place in the Search for a Star Mountain and Moorland class later in the day and earn a ticket to the Your Horse Live final. Langorra Ginger Port was bred by Natalie out of her New Forest working hunter pony mare, Portmore Lil. Natalie said: “It was always the plan to breed from our lovely mare. We bred two foals from her while I was away at uni, the other one went to Ireland and I kept Larry. He is home bred, I backed him and have produced him myself.” Larry is by Woodrow Portman who competed at HOYS in flat and working hunter pony finals. These successes rounded off a brilliant weekend for Natalie and Larry after a win and going champion at the NPS Festival the previous day. Natalie works in pharmaceuticals.
An ex-showjumping mare took the working horse class in style. Sarah Mather rode her mother, Dawn Mather’s mare Candle Line to the win. Dawn bought Candy as the mare is known two years ago, but owing to Covid the pair have just competed in local shows. Sarah said: “This is our first qualifying show we have taken part in, I am so delighted to have won. The judge gave some very helpful comments about my saddle and how we could show her shoulder off better. The horses are a true family effort for us, I work as an asbestos project manager and surveying officer and get plenty of family backup with the horses.”. Sarah added: “We bought Candy as her old owner Nickette Finlan had a heart condition and had to give up riding. Nickette jumped Candy in 110 and 115 classes, she will be delighted to hear about this win after Candy’s change of career!”
A well-attended hunter qualifier meant that the class was split into two groups with the six top horses coming back in for the final judging. Rachel Bond and her own chestnut gelding Bowland Shooting Star took the top spot. This pair took 5th place in the Search for a Star hunter qualifier at Richmond Equestrian Centre last year. Rachel said: “It is great to have come back and gone so well! I’ve owned him since he was a three-year-old and produced him right from the start. I work for the emergency services and so it is a real family effort to get out to the shows. Julie Cornthwaite from the Bowland Stud bred Shooting Star and she gives me lessons, although my mum is a great trainer too. I was lucky enough to go to HOYS with my Dartmoor M & M pony back in 2011 when we came 4th and I can’t wait to go back.”
In runner up position in the hunter class was Tracey Bray and her own dark bay gelding, Lord Nacally. Tracey said: “I’ve waited 52 years for this! We have previously been to some local and riding club shows but this is our first Search for a Star qualifier. Lord Nacally is a real allrounder and we do grassroots showing and BE100 eventing, the kids ride him. Everyone rides him! For years I took the kids showing and now they are older it is great to get out and do it myself. Lord Nacally was bred as a showjumper, he has King of Diamonds bloodlines and is 15 years-old now.” Tracey has worked in the NHS for 32 years and is a senior manager. She added: “We are also aiming to take part in the Equine Forces Championship this year.”
Jenni Savolainen and Dewi’s Mate won a competitive riding horse hack class. Ex-racehorse, Dewi’s Mate and Jenni have competed in RoR dressage competitions, taking third place in the Novice final at Aintree in 2021. Jenni said: “I had never done showing before when I first had Dewi on loan three-years-ago. His old owner subsequently gifted him to me for my 40th Birthday, we have learned together and I am absolutely delighted that we are off to HOYS now. We will carry on with the showing and dressage and our other goal this year is to move up to the elementary dressage championships.”
In runner up spot in the riding horse hack class was Alex Windross and her own Herbie. Alex said: “I first went to HOYS about fifteen-years-ago on a girls shopping trip. I loved the whole weekend but never even dreamed I would get to ride there. I bought my first horse when I was 18, he was very nervous and I found the only activity he really enjoyed was showing. Sadly, I lost him this March, just before his 28th birthday. That is when I decided to show Herbie, one last little dedication to Freddie. Vale View was the closest Search for a Star show to where I live in North Yorkshire, so I bit the bullet and entered!
Alex has owned Herbie since he was a four-year-old, she continued: “It was a choice of Herbie or a new kitchen. Herbie won. We only started competing last year and are members of Whitby riding club Herbie and I are part of a quest dressage team, The Mane Event. We came 7th last year in the final team event. Alex works as a cardiology nurse at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.
The cob and maxi-cob Search for a Star qualifier at Vale View saw Tara Hunt and her dun gelding, Kavanaghs General Custer take first place. Tara said: “It really hasn’t sunk in yet. I always wanted my daughter to get to HOYS and now it’s me that has done it! I bought Custer for my daughter, Charlie Lillico after she came off intermediates two years ago. He was going to be a stepping stone on to horses. I took over the ride a year ago to generally hack and have fun on him as my daughter doesn’t want to ride any more. She is now my groom! Our plan this season was to chase the qualifiers, but we’ve qualified for RIHS in the open and amateur cobs and now HOYS in Search for a Star already, so we will do a few agricultural shows and maybe a bit of dressage in the run up to HOYS.”
In second in the cobs was Hannah Jonson riding Linda Penfold’s B Unique. Hannah said: “It has been a steep learning curve! I am thrilled at how well he went today. B Unique belonged to Linda’s best friend Sally Neenan since he was a foal, Sally very sadly got cancer and died a few years ago. B Unique was out on loan when Linda was alerted that he was not well and that he might have to be put to sleep. Linda and I went straight over to go and see B Unique and he was really poorly, we rescued him, took some advice from top vet John Killingbeck and nursed him back to health. I know nothing about showing, but we decided to go to Search for a Star at West Wilts last year. Off we went with the wrong tack and everything, but we came 3rd. The judge said how lovely he was so we spent all winter preparing, training and getting the right gear and now he’s come out and come second!”
Experience reigned in the Racehorse to Riding Horse qualifier, with former finalists heading the class. A total of 23 thoroughbreds came forward for judges Ali Tate, conformation and Lesley Whitehall, ride. First place was awarded to Sarah Hartland’s bay gelding, Mumford ridden by Claire Oliver. “This is our first outing together and we are simply delighted to have qualified!” Said Claire. “Mumford is calm, kind and mannerly, you can’t fault him.” Mumford previously qualified for the Racehorse to Riding Horse HOYS finals in 2019 and 2020 with his former rider, Collette McGoldrick, taking 4th and 3rd place respectively. Claire continued: “Collette has done a great job with this exceptional horse, we are also planning on competing in some open riding horse classes.” Mumford’s owner, Sarah Hartland said: “We had been looking for a show horse for the last two years. We saw Mumford on Horse Quest last Autumn and he is such a nice horse.” Sarah also owns the former Racehorse to Riding Horse champion Another Man who was ridden to victory at HOYS by Claire back in 2008. Sarah added: “Another Man is 28-years-old now. He is happily retired out in his field at home.”
In taking runner-up spot, nineteen-year-old, Valentine Jak earned his 7th HOYS ticket for the SEIB Racehorse to Riding Horse final. Ridden this time by Marina Greenway, Donna Bamonte’s bay gelding looked a picture. Marina rode Jak last season and the pair qualified for the Search for a Star open veteran final at Your Horse Live where they won the reserve champion title. Marina said: “It’s a real team effort. I live just up the road from Donna so it works really well and we are thrilled to be off to HOYS.” Donna added: “Jak had colic surgery this time last year and to have recovered from that and be looking so well, it is a miracle. He has never been over shown and loves his outings. I’m hoping to take him to Devon county this season too as we’ve never competed there.” Jak’s best HOYS result so far in the Racehorse to Riding Horse final is fourth. Valentine Jak is by Imperial Ballet, out of an Alzao mare, he ran three times during his racing career and was unplaced on each occasion. He was trained by Rod Millman and retired from the track as a two-year-old in 2005.
The final HOYS qualifying Search for a Star class of the day, the Traditional Gypsy Cob qualifier, for coloured and solid coloured animals was split into two sections with the top 6 coming back in for the final placings. Rachael Motley and her piebald gelding, Woodhouse Supreme took first place. Billy as he is known at home has been owned by Rachael for six years. A thrilled Rachael said: “It is six years this weekend since Billy arrived with me. I had another horse who sustained a tendon injury and so I bought Billy to keep for just a season! We’ve been to the Royal International in the coloured traditional class but were unplaced. I am so excited to be going to HOYS. Billy has done so well,. We will do lots of fun things over the summer including cross country.” This pair were placed in Search for a Star qualifiers at Richmond and Onley in 2021. Rachael is a factory worker in lawnmower production.
Another piebald gelding took the runner up spot in the traditional cobs, this was Colour of Money owned and ridden by Laura Cox. Colour of Money was also placed in the traditional cob class at Richmond last season. Laura said: “We have done a bit of showing, but this is the best! I’ve owned Colour of Money since he was 10 months old. I rescued him and paid £50 for him. None of us thought he would survive he was so poorly as a foal. He is now 9-years-old.” I’ve always wanted to go to HOYS, we are qualified for RIHS 2023 and it is so exciting to now have HOYS to look forward to as well. It was well worth the three-hour journey to get here today!” Laura is a part-time criminology and psychology student, she also works in a bank.
The eleven Search for a Star Your Horse Live qualifying classes took part in the second arena apart from the Open Veteran at Vale View. Your Horse Live will host the Search for a Star finals for The Pony Club classes, mountain and moorlands, in-hand, part-bred traditionals and the open veteran finals.
An absolutely thrilled Donna Hoe won the in-hand veteran class with her sister, Gemma Hoe’s 26-year-old chestnut gelding, Midnight’s Magic. Gemma bought Larry as the horse is known in 2009 to showjump, the pair competed up to 1.20 classes with great success before the youngest Hoe sister, Samantha took Larry showing. With Samantha, Larry qualified for Olympia and the Royal International Horse show several times. Donna said: “He is such a true family horse, the only reason he went showing with Sam was as her horse Thomas fractured his shoulder so she borrowed him. The first time they went to Olympia was in 2017 just after our dad died, Larry really kept us all going. He has been pottering about lately, he has such a character and goes round letting the other horses out of their stables. We have had such an emotional time, our sister-in-law died just last week so this win is absolutely for Auntie Tina.”
Fliss Martin and her dun Connemara, Kilmurray Fionn won a strong mountain and moorland class. This pair moved on from a disappointing result in the working pony class earlier in the day when Kilmurray Fionn spooked at the jump. Fliss said: “The first class today definitely helped settle him. I asked the judge for feedback and their suggestions on encouraging him to be more forward definitely helped. I’ve owned him for three years, I previously owned a coloured mare and she sustained an injury. I had my heart set on a change and a dun Connemara! I bought Kilmurray Fionn to jump and go to one day events as well. We qualified for the British Connemara Eventing Championships last year but didn’t actually go to the finals. I’d love to qualify him for the Royal International amateur heritage championships too.” Fliss is a member of Kirkby Riding Club and works at the environment agency. Kilmurray Fionn lives on DIY livery, Fliss added: “Its all pretty busy, I have a 7-year-old son too, we will just keep going to all the things we normally do between now and Your Horse Live.”
Sixteen-year-old Catherine Chalkley took the part-bred traditional Your Horse Live qualifying class at Vale View with her own, Bradwell Dun Deal. Catherine, who has owned this striking dun gelding, known at home as Rollo, for four years said: “We did Search for a Star two years ago, but the judge said he was too green so we have left it until now to come back. Originally Rollo was going to be my mum’s horse, but then I kept growing taller so I was big enough to ride him. I’ve only really been riding for two years and we have done STARS and British Dressage classes too. I am doing my GCSE’s this year and probably should be at home revising! We will also aim at the dressage home international teams this year.” Catherine is a pupil at Staindrop Academy in Darlington.
The first ever Search for a Star Pony Club lead rein class was won by Worcestershire Hunt branch member, Charlotte Knight (5) riding her mother Jamie Clarke’s Dartmoor pony, Collstone Caventina. Jamie bought the pony, known as Dixie, last August for Charlotte. Jamie said: “Charlotte goes to Pony Club each week, she and Dixie take part in rallies and hound exercise, we are out all the time. We are delighted this series is on as it provides a great learning opportunity and we can take it slowly and get it right.” Charlotte attends Bellbroughton First School.
In the Pony Club first ridden class, five ponies came forward and the class was won by, Emily Elliott and Larchgrove Isabella. Owned by Connie Elliott, Issy as the pony is known at home is a Welsh Section B and the pair are members of the Rufford branch of the Pony Club. Connie said: “Emily and Issy love being out, they compete in all pony club activities from hunter trials to showjumping to dressage. They have done some local showing and are really looking forward to Pony Club camp which takes place at Southwell Racecourse. They will get to have a good canter on the track!” Eight-year-old Emily is a pupil at Muskham Primary school.
Malton College student, Jessica Ross won the Pony Club open Search for a Star class at Vale View riding her grey Connemara, Rooan De Goariva. Jessica said: “He is such a great pony, we have owned him for the past four-years and he is brilliant at everything we have had a go at.” The pair compete in side saddle classes and Jessica won the Side Saddle Newcomers Rider of the Year award in 2021 at the Side Saddle Association. They also compete at 90cm unaffiliated eventing and are planning to take part in some working hunter pony classes. Jessica is studying animal management at college.
Finn Williamson and Kirsty Spencer’s dark bay mare, Port Lou Lou won the in-hand plaited horse Your Horse Live qualifying class. Finn said: “This was our first Search for a Star outing, we came 6th in the ridden Riding Horse Hack class this morning before this win this afternoon! We will go to two more Search for a Star qualifiers for the ridden class this year. The ridden judge just said she needs to be a bit more forward in her canter.” Finn is also planning to go to Equifest with Port Lou Lou this year. Finn is a year 10 student at Fallibroome Academy in Cheshire.
Dales gelding, Fulford Mickey won in the in-hand mountain and moorland class with Georgie Lewis-Roberts. Georgie said: “This was our first time out at Search for a Star, we thought we’d go along and learn and find out more about the series, and we have only gone and won! The thing that stood out for me was quite how nice everyone at the show was. I was flustered getting my number and the secretary was so kind and helpful. I was made to feel that it was all ok and this really helped. I bought Mickey two-years ago from his breeder. We had an old Fell stallion that was coming to the end of his showing career and I was really keen on having a Dales so I bought Mickey. We also competed in the ridden mountain and moorland class this morning and would love to qualify in this class too.” Georgie works as a physics teacher at Wycliffe College. She continued: “Many of my pupils are in to sports and some of them enjoy riding, I love being able relate equine things to physics to help their interest. We talk about things like pressure points of the saddle and the leverage action of a pelham in physics classes. It makes it a bit different.” Georgie is hoping to take Mickey to Equifest and Showfest ahead of the Your Horse Live Search for a Star finals.
The in-hand traditional and native class was won by Neil Jordan and Clickham Junior, owned by Neil’s wife, Nicola Jordan. Clickham Junior is known as Ted at home, Nicola said: “We are over the moon with him. Originally we were coming to Search for a Star with our other traditional cob for the ridden class, but the lady that rides him for us had Covid so we didn’t bring him and just Ted came for the outing. We’ve had an aspiration to do Search for a Star for a while. Ted can be nervous indoors and so we will just do the in-hand class with him this year and take it steady and then maybe aim for the ridden traditional Search for a Star class next year. Neil used to show Newfoundland dogs and now is really enjoying showing the horses in-hand.” Neil works as a commercial architect.
Gemma Viles and her dark bay gelding, Peter Pan won the in-hand plaited pony class at Vale View. This was the first search for a Star qualifier that the pair have competed in. Gemma has owned Peter Pan – known as Harvey at home – for the last 18 years. She said: “We are really looking forward to going to Your Horse Live! He’s a very special pony and loves to be out competing. I bought Harvey from Endon Riding School where I used to ride, we compete in Veteran Horse Society classes, mainly in-hand and we do some ridden classes – and a few local dressage tests. Last September, we thought we were going to lose him as he was on box rest and we took it very slowly. He was back in full work by January this year and it is lovely to have him back out doing what he loves. Gemma works at the Royal Stoke Hospital as a Discharge Facilitator.
The open veteran class was the final class of the day. Horses that had formerly had success at HOYS came forward for judging, including former Search for a Star HOYS Champion, Rustic Midnight Moonshine ridden by Nicola Wilkes and Racehorse to Riding Horse 2014 HOYS finalists Ingleby Hill and Shelley Heywood. The class was eventually won by another former HOYS and Your Horse Live Search for a Star finalist, Redbackcappuccino and her owner and rider, Katherine Jones. Redbackcappuccino is an ex-racehorse and has also contested several Racehorse to Riding Horse qualifiers. Katherine said: “I was really chuffed with her in this class. The judge gave me some lovely feedback and said that she went forward beautifully for her. As we also compete in dressage at medium level it is great that she can adapt for both jobs. Going to HOYS in 2019 for the riding horse hack Search for a Star final was an amazing experience as was taking part in the open veteran final at Your Horse Live last year. This time we will be aiming to do better! We will also be going to more Racehorse to Riding Horse qualifiers this year to try to get to HOYS again.” Katherine is also aiming to start competing Redbackcappuccino at advanced medium dressage later this year.
SEIB’s Marketing Manager, Nicolina MacKenzie said: “Search for a Star is providing more opportunities than ever this year. I am thrilled by how well this qualifier has gone, the first ever Pony Club showing classes were just great and it was wonderful to get the in-hand Search for a Star series under way too. I can’t fault our many competitors today, they have been enthusiastic, respectful to each other and entered into the real Search for a Star spirit. I am so proud of both the competitors and the team who made the whole day happy and inspirational for everyone involved”
For all Search for a Star and Racehorse to Riding Horse information and to enter, please see www.seib.co.uk/competitions.
Further qualifying competitions 2022:
22nd May 2022 at Bury Farm Equestrian Village, New Bury, Farm, Mill Road, Slapton, Buckinghamshire LU7 9BT
11th & 12th June 2022 at Netherton Equestrian Centre, Netherton Farm, Aberargie, Perthshire, PH2 9NE, Perth, Scotland. Search for a Star Weekender including training, competition on Sunday 12th June
NEW – 25th June 2022 at Laurel View Equestrian Centre Limited, 18 Knowehead Rd,
Templepatrick, Ballyclare, BT39 0BX Northern Ireland. (ONLY Classes 10, 11, 12 and 18 will be held at this qualifier.)
23rd & 24th July 2022 during SEIB Trailblazers Championships at Stoneleigh Park, Coventry CV8 2LZ
Search for a Star Weekender, competition on 24th July (Stabling will be available via a link that will be published in due course).
15th July 2022 at the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) National Championships at Hartpury College, Hartpury GL19 3BE (RDA Riders Only)
7th August 2022 at Science Supplements Onley Grounds Equestrian Centre, Willoughby, Rugby CV23 8AJ
13th August 2022 NAF Five Star International Horse Trials, Hartpury College, Hartpury GL19 3BE. (SEIB Racehorse to Riding Horse only)
14th August 2022 at “ShowFest”, Three Counties Showground, Malvern, Worcestershire.
WR13 6NW (ONLY Classes 10, 11, 12 and 18 will be held at this qualifier.)
4th September 2022 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, Burghley House, Burghley Park,
Stamford PE9 3JY. (SEIB Racehorse to Riding Horse only)
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