John the donkey boss wins star search to qualify for Horse of the Year show

John Wilson aboard Silver Dream Spirit (picture by Sue Robb)
John Wilson aboard Silver Dream Spirit (picture by Sue Robb)

An amateur rider from the Borders has secured a place at the prestigious Horse of the Year Show.

Donkey sanctuary manager John Wilson, of Lindean, near Selkirk, clinched qualification by winning his section at the recent SEIB Search for a Star event.

He rode his horse, Silver Dream Spirit, also known as Silvester, to a win in the hunter class in the meeting at Alnwick Ford Equestrian Centre in Northumberland.

SEIB Insurance Brokers set up the Search for a Star series over 20 years ago, to give amateur riders and their horses the chance to compete at the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS). The series has led to many thrilled competitors achieving this dream.

John, manager of the Scottish Borders Donkey Sanctuary, said: “I am quite surprised and chuffed to bits.

“I am 55 years old and only began riding properly when I got Silvester six years ago.

“I am very lucky to have such a good horse and we are having quite a special journey together.

“We took third place in the hunter class at the Royal Highland Show at Edinburgh and my partner Diana said Silvester deserved a chance at qualifying for HOYS.

“I think we have been really lucky that we are now – all being well – heading there. The conformation judge at Alnwick said we need to work on Silvester’s paces, so I have already lined up some dressage help over the next few months.

“I should think HOYS will be a once in a lifetime experience!”

Each SEIB Search for a Star qualifier holds classes for working ponies and horses, riding horse hacks, show hunters and cobs. Competitors have the chance to qualify for HOYS in each of these classes.

SEIB Search for a Star is professionally run, with strict entry criteria.

SEIB marketing manager Nicolina Mackenzie said: “The Search for a Star finals are now in their 20th year at HOYS and are something a huge number of amateur showing riders aspire to.

“The standard of competition increases year on year and the true amateur spirit of the series is something we are very proud of. Holding this new qualifier at Alnwick has given many more riders in the north of the country the chance to be a part of Search for a Star.”

Nicolina also had a word of explanation and advice for prospective competition entrants.

“We have been presented with some passport irregularities this year,” she said.

“The Search for a Star ruling is clear and it states the owner details on the entry from must be identical to those of the keeper in the passport.

“Sadly, every year, we have to disqualify competitors because they have not updated their passports.

“We would urge every competitor to check their passports and make sure they are correct before they attend our competitions.”