Photos © SMR Photos

The SEIB Search for a Star Riding for the Disabled (RDA) Championship qualifier took place at the RDA National Championships on Friday 13th July. 10 delighted riders from this competitive class qualified for the Search for a Star RDA Championships which will be held at the British Show Horse Association National Championships in September.

The panel of judges – David and Chris Bartram-Lawton, Katie Jerram-Hunnable, Chris Hunnable and Richard Ramsay – were at Hartpury to oversee this exciting qualifier. Katie made clear what the judges are looking for in this class: “We are expecting show quality with great turnout and the horses’ manners have to be absolutely 200%. This is a great class which has come on a lot since last year”. Richard Ramsay added: “We have had some nice, correct, quality animals coming forward. We expect the riders to perform what they are capable of – if they can’t canter then it doesn’t matter.”

1st – Tracy Steel riding John Hackett’s Johan’s Debut
The qualifier was won by Tracy Steel riding John Hackett’s, 16 year old gelding, Johan’s Debut. Tracy, a grade four rider with the Tyne and Wear RDA group, has been riding for over 20 years and this was her 15th year of competing at the RDA Championships, though her first time competing in showing. She said: “’Devlin’ knew what to do and just got on and did it. His owner, John has shown him in hunter and working hunter classes. It will be really exciting to go to the championships and this win has really given me confidence that we can go and do it. Who knows, we might even go out to compete in the open Search for a Star classes next year.”


2nd – Kassia Dudek riding Natalie Burns’ Rio
10 year old Kassia Dudek rode Natalie Burns’ black pony, Rio to second place. Kassia learned to ride on Rio and has been riding him for around three years. She said: “This was the first time we have done showing and the third time we have been to the RDA Championships. I was really excited about doing showing as you get to do your own show. We normally compete in dressage so this was quite different.” Kassia and Rio have done several BYRDS para dressage competitions and also won the Walk and Trot Carl Hester Dance Trophy at the 2017 RDA Championships. Rio’s owner Natalie Burns runs the East Liverpool RDA Group which has 28 RDA ponies and the group attends the RDA Championships every year.


3rd – Alex Stevens riding Briony Sellar’s Caplor Hill Billy
Speaking of his placing on Caplor Hill Billy, Alex Stevens said: “Billy’s owner, Briony Sellar thought that me and Billy would get on well together showing so she suggested aiming at this class. We have had a pretty intensive 12 weeks of training to get ready for the competition. I work really hard to be competitive with my riding and we have a really great group of people at Briony’s Ride 2 Achieve RDA group.” 20 year old Alex works as an engineer and mainly competes in para show jumping.


4th – Kirsty Mabin riding Kay Mabin’s Barracks Soloma
12 year old Kirsty Mabin rode her mother, Kay Mabin’s Welsh section A palomino pony, Barracks Soloma to fourth place. Kirsty has been riding for the last four years with the Erme Valley RDA group in Devon, competing at the National RDA Championships for the past four years. Kay said: “It is so lovely that SEIB have put on the RDA showing, Kirsty absolutely loves her showing and it the opportunity this new class has provided is really exciting.” Kirsty, who suffers from global learning difficulties, has been out competing in M&M first ridden classes with ‘Solly’ as well this season.


5th – Isabella Benfield riding Alison Benfield’s Cookies and Cream
Isabella Benfield took fifth place riding her mother, Alison Benfield’s, skewbald gelding, Cookies and Cream. 13 year old Isabella is a member of Stratford-upon-Avon RDA group and has been riding since she was three. The Benfield family have owned Cookies and Cream for two years though 2018 was Isabella’s fourth year competing at the RDA National championships.
“Isabella entered the showing competition at the RDA National Championships last year for the first time but did not qualify,” said Alison. “Since then she has been placed second and third in coloured classes at a local showing competition. We are lucky to have very supportive people around us and Cookie is well looked after at the stables where he is kept. It is tricky to fit in with school work mainly due to Isabella’s tiredness and aches and pains but we manage to get a balance.”


6th – Eleanor Currington riding the Cambridge College RDA Group’s Drunkeen Boy
Grade three rider, Eleanor Currington took sixth place with The Cambridge College RDA Group’s Drunkeen Boy. Gillian Newsum, of the group, explained: “We raised the money to buy ‘Boyce’ however, we would never be able to raise enough money to cover his keep, so the group operates through the College of West Anglia who pay for the livery. The horses are used by the students and our RDA riders have one day a week with them. Eleanor was very sporty at school and had won a place to go and study at Oxford when she suffered a stroke at just 19 years old. She had ridden a bit before her stroke but now rides regularly.” In addition to qualifying for the Search for a Star RDA Showing Championship this year, Eleanor was the RDA national grade three champion in dressage.


7th – Chris Bradley riding Quintus
Chris Bradley and his own Quintus took seventh place to qualify for the Search for a Star RDA Championship. Chris has been riding since he was eight years old. He said: “It is very exciting to have qualified for this championship. I belong to the Cambridgeshire RDA group and have owned Quintus for four years now.”


8th – Fleur O’Donohue riding Marley II
Fleur O’Donohue rode Marley II to finish eighth place. Fleur said: “Marley is such a good boy, we do lots and lots of practising and training and I work really hard at my riding. I have found the showing quite challenging – particularly the turnout side of things. It all needs to be perfect.” Fleur has been riding for 24 years and has mainly competed in show jumping prior to the Search for a Star showing, she owns Marley herself and is a member of the Lowlands RDA group. Fleur added: “Ro and Charlotte at Lowlands have helped me and Marley a huge amount. We are all so excited about heading to the championships.”


9th – Phoebe Whitfield riding Claire Robinson’s Alice
Qualifying in ninth place was 19 year old Phoebe Whitfield riding Claire Robinson’s Alice. Phoebe has cerebral palsy and has to ride with special reins. Phoebe’s mother, Lynn Jobson said: “Phoebe just loves the horses. She is so determined to do well and is over the moon to have qualified for the Search for a Star Championships. Claire who owns Alice is absolutely brilliant, Phoebe wouldn’t be able to do it without her encouragement and enthusiasm.”

Phoebe has been riding for about seven years and has attended the RDA Championships for the past six years and has just completed a level two diploma in horse and pony care. Lyn added: “Phoebe is keen to go to Askham Bryan College in the autumn to do the level three in horse and pony care.”


10th – Lesley Sayers riding Janet Alderton’s Marteg Victory
Another combination from the Ride 2 Achieve group in Hereford completed the top 10. This was Lesley Sayers riding Janet Alderton’s Marteg Victory. This is the second time that Lesley, who is registered blind, has competed in Search for a Star. She said: “I have ridden since I was a child. When I lost my sight, I had been having a break from riding, but once I had my guide dog I found Janet and decided to give riding another go, she has been so supportive. When I am riding, it is the one time that I feel truly independent and doing something on my own. I don’t need my guide dog or my mum to help.”

SEIB’s marketing manager Nicolina MacKenzie said: “SEIB is renowned for putting something back and I think we have really achieved this with the RDA Search for a Star. Many of the riders here at Hartpury had never competed in showing before and they have hugely enjoyed the opportunity and are now looking forward to the finals and are keen to go out and improve their performances”.
For full details, rules and entry forms visit and click through to the RDA section. Find SEIB Search for a Star on Facebook at:
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Coming up in the October/November issue of Showing World – out on Thursday 27th September – reports from SEIB Search For A Star at Vale View, the final SEIB Racehorse to Riding Horse qualifier… and so much more! Members of ALL showing societies can subscribe for FREE here) – don’t delay, subscribe today!