A second-generation homebred horse took the amateur showing title in the SEIB Insurance Brokers Search for a Star Championship at the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) on the 6th October. British Warmblood, Bassingfield Dark Secret, and his rider, practising vet and new mother, Jennifer Church executed a foot-perfect final show under the bright lights of the HOYS main arena 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. 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 Search for a Star finals throughout the week at HOYS went forward to the Search for a Star Championship in the International Arena on the Friday afternoon. Each combination performed a show of their choice for judges Katie Jerram-Hunnable, Chris Hunnable and Hannah Horton in a taut atmosphere under the bright HOYS main arena lights. Jennifer and her mother, Helen Church’s, Basingfield Dark Secret were crowned champions, and hunter winners, Killycloghan Masterson and Hayley Came-Boyce took the reserve spot.
“It’s just a dream to even get to HOYS! 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!”
Nearly a thousand competitors have entered SEIB Search for a Star qualifiers this season to chase a total of 50 much-coveted HOYS tickets in the series. Search for a Star qualifiers have taken place from April through to August, across the country from Perthshire right down to Sussex. SEIB Insurance Brokers set up the Search for a Star series in the mid-1990’s; it has been a popular fixture at HOYS ever since and grows in size each year.
Judges, Katie, Chris and Hannah spoke over the microphone during the classes which provided some very educational and entertaining insights. Many previous Search for a Star competitors and finalists have made the most of the expert support offered by the team of top judges and gone on to success in open classes.
The Search for a Star traditional cob final was held on the Wednesday of HOYS. This popular class is in its fourth year at HOYS and is open to traditional cobs registered with the Traditional Gypsy Cob Association and ridden by amateur riders.
Kelly Driver and her piebald gelding, Billy Wilson headed off some strong competition and took the class title. Billy Wilson was bred by Kelly’s late uncle, Billy Wilson. She said:
“My uncle Bill would be so proud today. 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!”
WORKING HORSE / PONY
The working horse and pony was the first Search for a Star final held on the Thursday. The final, was as always, run as one class at HOYS, with one horse winner and one pony winner, both going through to the Search for a Star Championship on the Friday.
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.
“Finnbar is feeling really well, he went amazingly today. 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. 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 3rd 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!”
RIDING HORSE AND HACK
The riding horse hack final was as always run as one class at HOYS, with one hack winner and one riding horse winner, both going through to the Search for a Star Championship on the Friday. 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 won the Riding Horse final. Holly said:
“Its an absolute dream. 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 on the Thursday of HOYS. The class is open to cobs and maxi cobs and their amateur riders.
The cob final was won by Lisa Hardy and her bay 5-year-old gelding, Cortina. Lisa bought Cortina as a two-year-old.
“My challenge when I bought him was to get to HOYS! 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.”
The Search for a Star Hunter championship was run on the Friday of HOYS before the Search for a Star championship in the international HOYS arena later in the afternoon. The final was won by overall Search for a Star Reserve Champions Hayley Came-Boyce and Killycloghan Masterson.
SEIB Insurance Brokers set up the Search for a Star series, with its HOYS finals nearly 30 years ago to give amateur riders and their horses the chance to compete at the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS). The series has led to many thrilled competitors achieving this dream.
SEIB Marketing Manager Nicolina Mackenzie said:
“Search for a Star provides a unique opportunity for our amateur riders and this year has been a massive success. We have received lots of great feedback from competitors who are delighted by the support, advice and positive attitudes offered from our team of judges and stewards. Search for a Star is about so much more than getting a red rosette. One of our competitors this year waited 53 years from her childhood dream of competing at HOYS to entering the ring on her cob last week!”
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.
For full details, rules and entry forms visit www.seib.co.uk/competitions. Find SEIB Search for a Star on Facebook.