With less than a month until the Your Horse Live Search for a Star (SFAS) Championships, we bring you a run down of the horses and ponies that impressed at the SFAS finals at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS).

A second-generation homebred took the amateur showing title in the SEIB Insurance Brokers Search for a Star Championship at the HOYS. British Warmblood, Bassingfield Dark Secret, and his rider, vet and new mother, Jennifer Church (pictured top) executed a foot-perfect final show to take the title.

“I’m thrilled with him, me and my mum are delighted to have achieved this with a horse we bred ourselves,” said Jennifer. “This is our first proper season showing and Zeus as he is known at home has been to just five shows this year. Zeus is out of our homebred riding pony mare who we showed a bit in her younger days. He is by British warmblood Dark De Niro. We have another foal due from her next year as well!”

The winners of each of the seven SFAS finals throughout the week at HOYS went forward to the Search for a Star Championship in the International Arena on the Friday afternoon. Judges, Katie Jerram-Hunnable, Chris Hunnable and Hannah Horton spoke over the microphone during the classes, sharing their insights.

Jennifer and her mother, Helen Church’s, Basingfield Dark Secret was crowned champion, and hunter winners,
Killycloghan Masterson and Hayley Came-Boyce took the reserve spot.

“Its just a dream to even get to HOYS!” Hayley said. “Ron is such a gent and has been superb here, in the ring and in the warm-up he’s taken it all in his stride. I’ve owned Ron since he was four and was just broken, he’s six now. A friend suggested we gave Search for a Star a go and we qualified first time out!”

‘Lucky to survive’

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The Search for a Star traditional cob final saw Kelly Driver and her piebald gelding, Billy Wilson (pictured above) head off some strong competition to take the class title.  Billy Wilson was bred by Kelly’s late uncle of the same name.

“My uncle Bill would be so proud today,” Kelly said. “Before we went into the ring I thought, we’ve made it here so we will just go out and enjoy it! Winky as we call Billy Wilson at home is lucky to be with us, he got pneumonia as a foal and was lucky to survive, we nursed him back to health. We had to sell all my uncle’s other colts after he died, but my dad Graham Driver said we must keep this one!”

Livestock transporter, and “TikTok queen”, Rebecca Giles won the working pony final with her grey Connemara gelding, Lochân Beag Rôgaire, known as Finnbar at home.

Finnbar is a full Connemara by I Love You Melody, this pair have also evented to BE Novice level. Rebecca works for her family business St Mary’s Livestock Transport Limited.

“Finnbar is feeling really well, he went amazingly today,” she said. “I have a good following on TikTok from my lorry driving exploits. I’ve now got to find a way to make sure I get the time off tomorrow to be back here for the final!”

Harriet Johnson and her grey gelding, Mein Rebel, won the Working Horse Search for a Star final.

“He just pinged round today, gave me a lovely ride and took it all in,” she said. “I bought Mein Rebel from the Goresbridge sales in Ireland as a four-year-old. He does everything and hunts and jumps and leads ponies as well! We did Search for a Star in 2019 and came 3 rd in the hunter class. Ever since then I’ve wanted to go back to have another go! We watched the small hunters this morning and will definitely give that class a go in 2024!”

‘An absolute dream’

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The riding horse hack final runs as one class at HOYS, with one hack winner and one riding horse winner, both going through to the Search for a Star Championship.

The Search for a Star champions, Jennifer Church and Bassingfield Dark Secret won the Hack final. Holly Gray and her ex-racehorse, Symphony of Kings (pictured above) won the Riding Horse final.

“Its an absolute dream,” Holly said. “I was gifted Sid as we call him five years ago and its taken a long time to get where we are. He had an accident and fell over injuring his hock, at one point the vet advised for him to be put down, but with box rest and patience we have got there. He was placed as a racehorse, but didn’t make it and I don’t think he enjoyed it. I work as a cleaner and have lessons each month with Sharon Edwards.”

The cob final was the final Search for a Star championship and was won by Lisa Hardy and her bay five-year-old gelding, Cortina. Lisa bought Cortina as a two-year-old.

“My challenge when I bought him was to get to HOYS!” Lisa said. “I can’t believe we have done it and even gone and won! I’d considered giving up horses before Cortina. I’ve spent the last three years bringing him on and we have gone to loads of local level shows and plenty of walk and trot classes. Its only fairly recently that we’ve started cantering in the ring. Its thanks too to Danielle Furniss that helps me with him.”

Lead image by 1st Class Images

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