A Cleator seven-year-old will be one of the youngest competitors at a prestigious horse show after the rising star came top of his class in a major working hunter qualifier.

Paddy Smith wowed the judges with his expert ability on board Welsh Mountain pony Ben, who is owned by the Sproat family.

Together, Paddy, of Cobble Hall, Cleator, and 16-year-old Ben topped the charts in the open nursery stakes working hunter pony category at the BSPS Scottish Finale to gain first place and overall mini working hunter champion.

After their success in Kilmarnock, Paddy, who attends Egremont’s Bookwell Primary School, qualified for next year’s prestigious Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh in June.

Even more remarkable about Paddy and Ben’s success is the fact the pair have only been a partnership and training together for three months.

Paddy is committed to his craft, and spends every day with Ben and his other pony Rookery Bertie, who is five.

After the school bell signals the end of the day, Paddy is back mucking out the stables and training with coach Susie Gibson.

Mum Rachel Starkey said: “I’m incredibly proud of what Paddy has achieved and aspires to achieve at such a young age. To be the youngest in the competition and qualify for the Royal Highland Show is incredible. He shows determination and courage well beyond his years.

“Paddy is mad about his ponies and spends all of his spare time with his friend and riding partner Darcy Sproat, who he aspires to follow in the footsteps of. He is totally committed to improving to the best of his ability and is often really hard on himself as he aspires to be the best.”

Paddy competes at least twice a month and Rachel added: “Being with the ponies and competing is teaching Paddy a number of vital life lessons, including respect, hard work, dedication and good sportsmanship. Respect for animals and for his fellow competitors. It’s a joy to see him compete and the fact he’s doing so well at such a young age shows his hard work in the stables and training is certainly paying off.”