Pippa Funnell wannabes have a chance to prove their worth in a new competition for young eventing talents.

Quest-X is a nationwide search for the future star of British eventing and offers the winner an opportunity to learn from Funnell herself. The competition is the brainchild of Windsor International Horse Trials’ marketing department and is supported by British Eventing.

“I won’t claim all the credit for it, but it is something I have been involved in from the start,” says Windsor International Director, Jonathan Warr. “We were looking for something a little bit new to do at Windsor and we went through everything — kites, balloons, Pavarotti — then we thought with the marketing people: what about running an equestrian X-Factor? The idea is for eventing to engage with the riding clubs to identify someone with eventing skills and with a little bit of star quality.”

Quest-X is open to any member of a BRC Affiliated Riding Club who is 16 years old or older and has reached “a reasonable standard” in dressage, cross country and show jumping.

But amateurs beware: earning “the magnitude of the chance to train with Pippa,” as BE Chairman Mike Tucker describes the prize, will be hard work. Demonstrating great dressage and jumping skills will be a must — and it may not be enough. At every stage of the Quest, riders will have to show in a mock media interview that they can handle pressure and know what they are talking about when it comes to eventing. Having a sense of humour — and some cheek — will help.

Talented novices will take part in qualifying rounds at their nearest riding club. Those who make it past the qualifiers will have to prove their mettle at the selection day held on 25 May 2005 during Windsor International Horse Trials.

“We would like 70 to 100 people to be part of the day,” says Warr.

Each competitor will have to perform a number of movements and jump a selection of show jumping and cross country fences. Two interviews — one before and one after the test — will help select winning personalities.

The day will narrow the field down to 25 riders, who will be divided into five teams. Team members will have to work together and “learn team philosophy,” as Warr puts it, in an effort to better their rivals. They will also get the opportunity to hone their skills under the watchful eye of top international eventers on a two-day training Ccamp, which will take place at Windsor on 26 and 27 May.

“We will produce a video diary which will be shown during the gala evening on Friday [27 May]. During the evening, trainers will come down with their teams and present them. The teams will be asked questions and at the end of the evening the top three teams will be selected to go forward to the semi-final on Saturday, where they will perform as individuals,” explains Warr.

The semi-final, which will take place in one of Windsor’s main rings, will test presentation, dressage, show jumping and personality skills. But, this time, participants will have to dazzle the public as well as the jury, because spectators’ votes — sent in by text message — will be added to points from the judging panel to determine the final ranking. “[The public] can contribute up to 50% of the marks,” says Warr.

The five best riders will make it to the final on 29 May, where they will try their hand at dressage, show jumping and cross-country, with the obligatory presentation test and interview thrown into the mix. “There will be cross country fences — not a course — but there will definitely be a cross-country element [set up] outside the arena,” says Warr.

The winner, who will once again be selected by summing public votes with judging points, will train with Pippa Funnell over the course of a year with a view to competing at CCI* level during 2006.

“I’m delighted to be working with British Riding Clubs to find new talent,” says Funnell. “I know the Quest-X champion will have to display the kind of skill, determination and commitment it takes to succeed – I look forward to helping them train to the next level.”

Aspiring champions can register for the qualifiers online at www.quest-x.co.uk