A groundbreaking competition has been launched to find the top equine apprentice in the country.

Six advanced apprentices, training at yards from riding schools to professional stables, will battle to win a £500 training bursary at SkillHORSE.

The competition, set up by Stubbing Court Training (SCT) to showcase vocational talent, will take place at Chatsworth International Horse Trials on Sunday, 17 May.

Belinda Turner, SCT’s chief executive, told H&H: “It’s a great character building exercise and will give apprentices a unique opportunity to show their skills with horses through competition.”

Six apprenticeship providers from around the country, including livery stables, riding schools and professional yards, will nominate their best student based on criteria such as commitment and ability to turnout horses to a high standard.

Former Olympic eventer Ian Stark OBE will be on hand to judge the competitors on their grooming, plaiting and lungeing skill.

Their riding will be tested on the flat and over jumps in the event’s main ring.

The project has also attracted the support of British Eventing chief executive Mike Etherington-Smith and Yogi Breisner, chef d’equipe to the British eventing team.

Highlighting the need to encourage younger people into the industry, Belinda said: “It’s not just about the people who are doing it now and we would really like people who are interested in a career with horses to come and watch.

“We want these people to be working for the Olympic riders in 2012.”

Derbyshire-based SCT was awarded Beacon Status by the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS), a government agency, in recognition of the quality of apprenticeship schemes it provides throughout the equestrian industry.

Part-funded by the LSIS, SkillHORSE was developed as part of a Beacon Status Innovation Project to promote excellence and motivate young people to reach world-class standards.