EVENTING: A Chester student reached the last fifteen in the equestrian version of Pop Idol, writes Paul Hassall.
Gareth Thomas, 23, from Milton Green near Tattenhall, was selected to take on more than 120 rivals from across the UK in the final of Quest-X.
The competition, boasting the catchline Search for the Eventing stars for the future, offered novice riders from riding clubs across the UK a chance to impress in a three-day format run by top professionals, with the winner to be coached in International Eventing by the Olympian Pippa Funnell.
Staged at the venue of Windsor International Horse Trials, Gareth was assessed on his skills in dressage, show jumping and cross-country, as well as his personal and interview skills.
He reached the semi-finals achieving a creditable fifteenth-place finish, after two days of training and coaching with four training modules.
The winners were decided by an equal share of the vote made by the judges and the public.
Having been a member and representative of Nantwich Riding Club since the age of 9, Gareth felt the experience had helped him to learn and improve.
He said: 'We received training from Lucinda Fredericks and advice on how to deal with the pressure of the media with a 40-minute session followed by a five-minute live interview.
'I took my horse Savannah and she handled it well in only her third outing.'
Currently studying at the College of Law in Christleton, Gareth intends to use the experience as a platform to achieve further success in the world of Eventing.
He said: 'It was just great to be in an environment with other riders and it gave me some nice exposure, some recognition and, of course, there was the training.
'I now hope to acquire more horses and eventually try and compete at the Olympics.'