His name is Rio and he prances on the sand

Claire Lay has qualified for Horse of the Year Show 2012 with nine-year-old grey gelding Aturio.
Claire Lay has qualified for Horse of the Year Show 2012 with nine-year-old grey gelding Aturio.

An amateur rider from Hemel Hempstead has won the chance to compete alongside seasoned professionals at the prestigious Horse of the Year Show 2012.

Claire Lay took second place in the Show Hunter class at the South Essex Insurance Broker’s Search For A Star 2012 qualifier, held at Vale View.

Riding Adrian Lupson’s horse Aturio – known as Rio – Claire fought off stiff competition from other riders in the class to gain qualification for famous event, which takes place later this year.

Claire, 28, who has been riding Rio since autumn 2011, said: “Adrian has owned the nine-year-old grey gelding for five years, but has done very little except hacking.

“He may have done a bit of hunting and showing with his breeder when he was young, but since then he has been a bit of a pet.

“My own horse was lame and I met his owner, Adrian, in the pub and he said I could start riding Rio.

“We started eventing in March and were placed at BE90 level at Milton Keynes.

“We were ready to go at BE100 level when everything was cancelled due to the rain, so we decided to go showing instead”.

Claire had done some show jumping in working hunter pony classes when she was young and she did Search For A Star with her own horse last year, so decided to have a go with Rio at the Bury Farm qualifier.

“He was very green but we were fourth, so we put in some practice and decided to have another go to try to qualify for Horse of the Year Show”, she said.

“Adrian will be surprised and his children, who show jump, will be ecstatic! I have got three events lined up this season, but then Rio will be wrapped in cotton wool and got ready for Horse for the Year Show.”

This year’s HOYS takes place at the NEC Arena in Birmingham from October 3 to October 7.

> Picture - Claire Lay has qualified for Horse of the Year Show 2012 with nine-year-old grey gelding Aturio. Picture by SMR Photos