The initial Search for a Star and Racehorse to Riding Horse qualifiers at Vale View got off to a flying start, with 250 horses and ponies vying for a ticket to the Horse of the Year Show and Your Horse Live finals.

Livestock transporter, and “TikTok queen”, Rebecca Giles won the working pony class of 18 entries with her grey Connemara gelding, Lochan Beag Rogaire.

“We came along today but I didn’t think we had a chance,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to go to HOYS and now ‘Finnbar’ has made this dream come true. He came from Ireland as a three-year-old for me to sell on and he is still here eight years later. He is a full Connemara by I Love You Melody, we also have evented to BE Novice level and he came fifth in the working hunters at Royal Windsor last year.”

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Another pair of Search for a Star first-timers won the working horse class. Libby Taylor and her buckskin and white gelding Geronimo took their HOYS ticket in the very competitive class.

“He is only five and this is our first stay away show,” she said. “We came as we thought Search for a Star would be a good experience and to get some feedback from the judges. I’ve owned him for two years, he came from Dorset originally to a local lady, I was asked to break him in and he never went back.”

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A huge hunter class was judged by Richard Ramsay and Nicola Taylor, with SEIB brand ambassador, Alex Osborn shadowing Richard in assessing conformation. Hayley Came-Boyce and her own Killyclog came out on top.

“HOYS has always been a dream and he has done it for me,” Hayley said. “This was our first Search for a Star qualifier and we came hopeful that we would do well but ultimately we were expecting some helpful feedback to work on before coming back for another qualifier later in the season. He is a young horse and jumps beautifully, we have done some novice workers and evented and showjumped. In the future we will aim at open working hunters.”

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The riding horse hack qualifier saw 18 horses come forward for judging. Senior Search for a Star judge, Richard Ramsay said: “Our winner was very flashy, very much a show horse and gave Sam (ride judge, Samantha DeCaprio) a beautiful ride.”

The winner was Helen Forster and Greannanstown Jackpot.

“I am so shocked we won,” Helen said. “I lost my intermediate working hunter last Christmas. Around the same time, I’d noticed Jack for sale. My other half said to go and see him, he ended up being a Valentine’s day present – way, way better than the year I got a hoover!”

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The cob class was taken by Lauren Bull and her maxi-cob grey gelding, Grane Valley Mr Bedford, known as Hector at home.

“I am always doubting myself, I broke him in myself, we know each other inside out and he takes me round,” Lauren said. “I just need to concentrate on sitting up and owning it! I have always wanted a maxi-cob and bought him as a foal. Hector is Percheron cross Gelderlander. We did a little bit of showing in 2022 and will really get out now and have fun. It’s really busy as I have five horses at home and combine them with working as a tree surgeon.”

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Retrained racehorses

The SEIB Racehorse to Riding Horse qualifier was as competitive as ever. Following a hugely successful 2022 season in the show ring, the dark bay middleweight, Rich Man Poor Man, ridden by Kirstine Douglas took top spot. Rich Man Poor Man is owned by Morean Hamilton.

“He is the sweetest horse, he was young when he came out of training and it has taken time, we haven’t rushed him and he just gets better and better,” said Kirstine. “He’s had a lovely break through the winter and enjoyed his down time; the children at the yard love him and he is so gentle with them. Rich Man Poor Man has come out looking really strong this year and has now already qualified for the Royal International and now HOYS.”

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More than 20 traditional cobs came forward for the SEIB search for a Star traditional cob qualifier. The class was divided into two sections and the eventual winner was Kelly Driver with her piebald gelding, Billy Wilson. Kelly has a variety of horses at home – Billy Wilson, an ex-racehorse and a showjumper.

“I took my ex-racehorse to the Racehorse to Riding Horse qualifier last year before deciding to come and have a go in the Search for a Star traditional qualifier today,” she said. “Winky as Billy Wilson is known at home has done nothing for the past three years. He has several stories to his name, he was bred by my late uncle, Billy Wilson and even went to his funeral. Winky had pneumonia as a foal and was very lucky to survive, we nursed him ourselves. We showed him a few years ago in coloured classes, but never in the traditionals until now.”

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Palomino Welsh Section D, Saulire Thunder Struck and his owner rider, primary school teacher Caroline Edgson, won the ridden Mountain and Moorland. This pair took third place in Search for a Star in 2022 at Your Horse Live after qualifying at Onley Grounds.

“He is so much more grown up and I’m thrilled to have done so well in what was a massive and really competitive class today,” said Caroline. “I’m delighted to have won the class, the standard was definitely higher this year. We have already qualified for the Pretty Polly at RIHS and we enjoy plenty of hacking and we are looking forward to heading to a pleasure ride at Adam Henson’s farm.”

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Former Search for a Star Steward of the Year winner, Liz Twite and her Highland pony, Kirtonian Loch Birnie had a day to remember at Vale View. The pair won the Mountain and Moorland in-hand qualifier before taking second place in the ridden Mountain and Moorlands.

“I feel vindicated in coming today, my mother passed away last week and it was a big decision to come, but she must be looking down on us,” Liz said. “We drove up from North Devon and went to the Malvern NPS Spring festival yesterday where he won and took the championship in the British Isles competition. I’ve owned him since he was a foal after a very good friend, Carrie Quick bred him. We’ve done everything together, he jumps, goes side-saddle and dressage.”

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The Open Veteran qualifier was won by Xanthe Banks riding her bay mare Elmhurst Bizzie B side-saddle. Twelve-year-old Xanthe is in her first year riding Elmhurst Bizzie B.

“Bizzie has done a bit of everything including having a foal,” she said. “She’s done British Dressage, some eventing and learned to do side-saddle with my mum. We will carry on with the side-saddle and have qualified for RIHS and will aim for the SSADL championships too.”

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A competitive lead rein Pony Club class saw six-year-old Charlotte Knight and Welsh Section A Thistledown Magpie take the win. Charlotte is a member of the Worcestershire Hunt branch. Thistledown Magpie, known as Pie at home is owned by Charlotte’s mother, Jamie Clarke.

“We’ve owned Pie since December when she was broken in,” she said. “She has been great so far and even made the front page of the Showing Journal magazine. Charlotte competed in Search for a Star last year with her Exmoor pony Dixie and was keen to come back again with Pie.”

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Tilly Wilks and Welsh Section A, Amilas Chorizo took the Your Horse Live ticket in the First Ridden Pony Club class. The pony, known at home as Sausage, is owned by Tilly’s mum, Teresa Wilks. Tilly is a member of the Grafton Hunt branch.

“He is so good, we also compete in eventer challenges and showjumping,” Tilly said. “We have come first in both of these. We will go to Pony Club camp and do some working hunter pony classes in the summer.”

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The open Pony Club qualifier went to Cotswold Vale member, Rose Chugg-Martin and Tregaire Tiger Lily.

“She was so good today, we are both eleven years old,” Rose said. “We don’t really do that much showing and we have also qualified for the Riding Clubs combined training championships and we are also doing Pony Club area dressage and show jumping.”

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In-hand classes

The winners of the Search for a Star Your Horse Live veteran championships 2022 won the in-hand plaited horse and hogged show cob class at Vale View.

Following the win, handler Lucy Ashworth said: “Last November he was only given a 50/50 chance of survival. He was rushed into the vets where it was discovered he had a displaced colon. He was being prepared for surgery when it righted itself. It is just so great to be here today.”

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Sam Crutchlow and her British Riding Pony, Rhos Elodie won the in-hand plaited pony class. Sam and Rhos Elodie qualified for the Search for a Star Your Horse Live finals in this class in 2022 and took third place at the championships.

“Elodie was bred by the Rhos stud and we are delighted to have her,” Sam said. “I bought Elodie for my daughter Phoebe to eventually compete in the children’s riding pony classes and maybe one day qualify for HOYS in that.”

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Bee Parks and her skewbald traditional cob, Trish won a six strong in-hand native and traditional class at Vale View. Trish was previously rescued by the RSPCA around ten years ago.

“This is the first time we have done Search for a Star, we’ve done a few local shows and plenty of practising,” Bee said. “I really enjoy the in-hand showing, it gives me and Trish the confidence to work towards competing in ridden showing. We will go to a few more shows over the summer including to Weston Lawns.”

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Heidi Bull and her 18-year-old homebred mare, Romany (Play The) won the in-hand veteran class. Heidi bred this dark bay mare, she was shown successfully as a foal and then competed up to elementary level in dressage.

“I’ve got six plates and screws in my pelvis so I’m suited to in-hand classes! Romany is out of an Irish Sports Horse mare who did everything, she bred two lovely foals, and sadly her other foal died which makes Romany really special,”  Heidi said.

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Fiona Clark judged eight heavy horses in the Search for a Star in-hand qualifier at Vale View. The class showcased five different breeds of heavy horse. Shire horses were the most numerous with three in the class. Also represented were the Suffolk Punch, Percheron, Comtois and Clydesdale. The 2022 Search for a Star in-hand traditional and native champion, Lucy Parr, was instrumental in securing this new in-hand, heavy horse class for Search for a Star.

“It’s great to see one of every breed here,” she said. “I came to Search for a Star last year with my Shire mare to raise the profile of heavy horses and am delighted to see amateur heavy horse enthusiasts supporting this new class. I’m getting married in a couple of weeks so its been a bit frantic in the run-up to today!”

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Jasmin Butler and her Shire gelding, Fifield Donald took first place.

“I’ve owned Ronald for the last three-years and we began showing last year,” Jasmin said. “This opportunity from Search for a Star is just amazing. I’ve had other horses but always wanted a Shire and spent two years looking for one before getting Ronald. He is a grade A registered Shire, the judge today said Ronald is the perfect weight which is really reassuring. He is so versatile, I ride him at home and we go on hunt rides and he schools nicely. He is six now and 18.3hh! He probably won’t get that much taller but should fill out.”

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Lead image by SMR Photography

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