To qualify and compete under the bright lights of the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) is a dream for any showing rider. And one amateur competitor went one step further when she was crowned champion on her debut back in 2019.
“I decided to go and just enjoy it; there was no pressure but it was pretty daunting to say the least,” reflects actuarial technician and mother of two Lisa Sergeant when she chats to H&H’s showing editor Alex Robinson on episode 36 of the Horse & Hound podcast.
Lisa was riding her own home-produced Connemara gelding Linsfort Ear To The Ground (Leo) when she took the overall SEIB Search For A Star (SFAS) accolade after winning the working pony class.
Lisa, who has a background in dressage, bought a four-year-old Leo — who was nine when he won HOYS — a few years ago with the intention of jumping him.
“I was put off jumping when I was younger so I went down the dressage route,” says Lisa, who worked with international dressage judge Peter Storr and won the BD talent spotting finals when she was 19. “I had dabbled in showing a little bit but when I lost my big dressage horse in 2016 I’d lost my spark for competing. I had a friend’s pony on loan and had started jumping, so decided to look for a Connemara to have a bit of fun with. I knew as soon as I sat on Leo that he was the one for me.”
Lisa decided to give the SEIB SFAS series a go after some encouragement from her mother-in-law.
“There was a qualifier not far from us and I thought it would be great to get Leo in front of some top judges to see what they thought,” continues Lisa, who won the qualifier held at Osbaldeston Equestrian Centre. “Leo lives out most of the time so we dragged him in from the field at 5am. He went super, but there we some lovely ponies forward. We were sat in the line up and it was unbelievable when we were called out top.”
After attending some SEIB SFAS workshops and lots of practice events, Lisa and Leo were HOYS ready.
“It was a long time to wait until October,” she says. “Leo can be quite claustrophobic and he doesn’t enjoy being indoors. With it being at the NEC — it’s like a postage stamp — I didn’t think it would be up his street at all.
“I watched the SFAS cob class the day before and my chin was on the floor; the lights, the noise and the amount of people watching.
“When we went into warm-up the night before everyone just set off, so we just went with it. I rode him really forward and didn’t give him time to look at anything. On the morning of our class we worked in in the main arena, which was incredible.”
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Little did she know, Lisa would be back in the legendary international arena for the SFAS championship the next day.
“It was a really nice atmosphere in the class, but when they called us forward to win it was just WOW; though I had to stay another night in the trailer as the championship was the following day.
“The championship was incredible; I was blown away. Leo thought it was great and he floated across the arena. The last time I was at the NEC I was watching Disney On Ice so to be in the centre of the arena was strange. It was lovely to have the whole family watching; it really was a dream come true.
“I do wish I could do my centre line moment again though; I was told to wave coming up the centre line and I just did this pathetic little wave. If I could do it again, I would give it my all!”
If you’d like to hear more from Lisa, including her top tips for success as an amateur show rider, and much more listen here to episode 36 of the Horse & Hound podcast or search “The Horse & Hound Podcast” in your favourite podcast app.
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