The South Essex Insurance Brokers Search for a Star competition starts its eighth year with a frank statement from one of its judges: “At last, the professionals are taking us seriously.”

Anne Pritchard, who, with Robert Oliver, has judged every final since the series began, said: “Because the competition is for amateurs, many of the top people in the showing world refused to take us seriously. Now I look around the audience at the Horse of the Year Show final and recognise so many faces.

“I listen to Search for a Star owners talking about the offers they are refusing for their horses and realise that this competition really has been accepted into the showing calendar.”

Search for a Star is designed to give amateur owners and riders the opportunity to compete at a major national show. Selection days are held around the country and chosen horses are invited to the Horse of the Year Show, to be held for the second time at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham (17-21 September).

New venues in Surrey and Yorkshire have been added to this year’s competition and, for the first time, there will be championship rosettes for both riding horses and hacks.

Selection days this year will be held at:

  • 7 June, Osbaldeston EC, Lancs
  • 28, West Wilts EC, Wilts
  • 19 July, Merrist Wood College, Surrey
  • 20, The College EC, Beds
  • 10 August, Richmond EC, Yorkshire

Categories for the 2003 season are: working hunter, riding club show horse, show ponies and show hunter ponies, cobs, show hunter and riding horse/hack.

Entry fee is £30, with reductions for British Horse Society members and anyone insuring through South Essex Insurance Brokers. Entry forms and more information is available by sending a self-addressed envelope to the secretary, Search for a Star, 5 Magpie Drive, Totton, Southampton, SO40 8TE.