Show Teams and Rising Stars Champion of Champions is the brainchild of 35 year old Sarah Harrison who received her first pony at 6 years old for her birthday. Sarah started to compete with her treasured pony at local Riding Clubs at 7 years of age and quickly got “the bug” – progressing to BSPS competition the following year and then moved to a professional producer’s yard after that. For a further five years Sarah had the benefit of experience on Team Hollings’ show team from 1992 until 1996 and competed at HOYS for the first time at only 9 years of age in 1992. Sarah then began to produce her own ponies from home and still does to the present day. Not wishing to experience life from the saddle only, Sarah took the initiative to put her desire to judge into practice and now stands as a judge for BSPS, CHAPS, SSADL and the AHS. Having not only competed at the highest levels she has also undertaken judging commitments at the pinnacle of showing including HOYS, Royal Windsor and The Royal International. Feeling she had gained so much through her ponies and showing, Sarah wanted to give other Riding Club members the chance to experience the thrill of the spotlight of big competitions . . .
Thinking back to her childhood years when she had taken her ponies to local riding club evets in an attempt to qualify for Birchinley Manor (which was then run by the late Melvern Jones), Sarah couldn’t help but feel there was something now missing for these competitors. Those days when Birchinley was considered simply the best event to qualify for, and in a time when its heyday saw 52 Riding Clubs meet to fight it out – it was truly a great honour to win at Birchinley.
And so, from a post on Facebook reminiscing on her childhood memories, and taking the initiative from the feedback she received – STARS was born and the inaugural competition will take place over the weekend of the 20th and 21st October 2018 at Aintree Equestrian Centre, Liverpool. This new “end-of-season” Champion of Champions event will give many young and aspiring equestrians something to aim for and to represent the Clubs which they ride for. What a true honour.
Sarah aims to create an truly prestigious event from start to finish – and hopes to make it the best experience for these riders and something which they will be proud to not only compete at, but also to take away special life-long memories which will hopefully inspire them in the future too.
Sarah believes this event will bring together the best of the best who will go head-to-head to be crowned Champion; with a chance to win not only the joy of victory for individual riders, but also financial reward and prestige of being crowned the STARS Supreme Riding Club of the Year. This will be done in such a manner as to make it fair whether you represent a large or smaller club – the top ten results from each section will be used and totaled to bring you your eventual Champion, Reserve and Second reserve Clubs who will share a large cash prize fund. And that’s not all – there will also be individual rewards on offer such as training days with top producers and many more worthwhile prizes.
This event will bring the “real deal” to competitors starting with their “Golden Tickets”, bridle numbers and allocated working-in slots, a walk through the curtains into the competition arena, culminating in trotting down the centre line and that oh so important lap of honour!
Have no fear – your judges will also be top flight. Sarah will only invite HOYS level judges to preside over the classes and marks sheets will be used for every class – for ridden and in-hand the split will be 50 marks for ride/show and 50 marks for conformation/way of going; equitation and young handler classes will also have their own dedicated marks systems in place.
A total of 60 Riding and Pony Clubs from cross the country have affiliated to STARS Champion of Champions for 2018 and it is anticipated that the event will grow in future years – maybe even holding regional events.
The response to Sarah’s initial post on social media was so immense that she was even contacted by HOYS themselves who expressed what a wonderful idea it was and one which would really aim to put riding clubs firmly on the map! Support has been amazing from magazines wanting to cover the event through to people wanting to get involved and take up some of the sponsorship packages and opportunities available. If you are amongst these who have already pledges your support Sarah would like to express her sincere gratitude and also states that she is still happy to take on more people and companies who would like to be “in on the ground” with this new and exciting venture via sponsorship.
So – the million dollar question is – “how do you qualify?” It’s simple. All the Clubs who have affiliated will send their end-of-year points winners to the grand finale to compete for the title of Overall Champion of their section. Qualification can be passed down to the reserve or second reserve if any points champion is unable to represent their Club. Golden Tickets will be sent out to those lucky enough to qualify and that is where the dream experience really beings.
It is safe to say that Sarah’s aim is to give all Riding and Pony Club competitors something to aspire to – like she had as a young child at Birchinley Manor – and a memory to treasure forever.