A seven-year-old part-Warmblood, part-Dartmoor pony who was conceived by accident in the field is heading for the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) after winning his first even SEIB Search For A Star (SFAS) working show horse qualifier at Stretcholt.

Melissa Northwood and her partner bought the 15hh gelding Mendip Voyage (Barney) from his breeder Sandra Partridge when he was a four-year-old.

“I was looking for a bigger horse to event and actually had one I was going to buy, but was let down at the last minute,” said Melissa. “I saw him on the internet and thought he’d make a good project so went to see him — he was only 14.2hh.”

It was not until after she’d bought him that Melissa, who works as a saddle fitter and also teaches dressage and eventing students, found out how he came about.

“He was a complete accident. His mother is a 16.1hh eventer by the stallion Tallents Asa and his sire is a naughty Dartmoor pony who escaped into her field,” she said. “No one knew she was in foal.

“He has a big jump but is also very nimble and quick, which is where the pony is evident.”

After a a couple of seasons eventing, Melissa made the decision to hit the show ring and in four shows, the pair have had four victories. “He was looking so well and had matured so much, mentally and physically, that I thought we’d give working hunter a go.”

Although she has successfully competed in British Show Pony Society classes and rode for the Hunnables as a young girl, Melissa will be making her Birmingham debut.

“HOYS is the one thing that has always eluded me,” she said. “So I’m excited to get the chance to compete there after a lot of near misses when I was younger.”

Even though the duo beat 20 other competitors to win their SFAS qualifier, Barney and Melissa’s pre-Stretcholt training did not quite go as planned, as the gelding suffered an injury over winter.

“We’d only jumped twice before going to the show,” she added. “But on the day he jumped a beautiful round. One of the judges said he was a lovely chap.”

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Barney will be aimed at competing at Bath and West show and Melissa also has hopes of trying some elementary dressage with him this summer.

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