The rules are simple: there are no rules. Kidding! Safety is the first priority for all equestrian sports. And actually, there are a lot of rules. In this case, all ponies must be registered with the Shetland Pony Stud Book Society and stand between 37 and 42 inches tall; all ponies must have a high level of fitness and stamina to race; all riders must stand under 5’0”; and last but not least, all riders must be under age 14.
Ring a bell to anyone? It’s the Osborne Refrigerators Shetland Pony Grand National held at the Olympia London International Horse Show.
Although not known for their speed, these Shetland Ponies put the pedal to the metal.
The Shetland Pony Grand National is one of the most highly sought after events to watch and compete in at Olympia (step aside, grand prix jumpers – the ponies have arrived). Drawing over 90,000 spectators over seven days of tight competition, racing fans rejoice to watch the young jockeys and ponies live (let's be honest, no one can resist these miniature jockeys and their fleet-footed mounts).
Racers lining up, adrenaline pumping, fans on the edges of their seats, pony and rider combinations (we tried to count but they gallop so fast!) set their marks and race laps around Olympia’s Grand Hall in the heart of London, emulating the ever popular British steeplechase, the Aintree Grand National. Guaranteed to gallop down to the wire with a photo finish, the Shetland Pony Grand National is always a crowd pleaser.
Not only do these pint-sized racers have to qualify to compete, they also have the honor to be trained by some of racing's brightest. This year's jockeys come from some of racing’s ‘royal’ families including Olive Nicholls, the daughter of 10-time British National Hunt Champion Trainer, Paul Nicholls, as well as Alice Crawley, the daughter of 2016 British Flat Racing Champion, Jim Crowley. Not only have many of the bright, young stars we've see at in the Shetland Pony Grand National climbed the ranks in the equestrian world, some have gone on to become professional race jockeys including Sam Twiston-Davies and Tom Garner.
Waving to her adoring fans like a seasoned pro.
It may be fun and games in the ring (although to all jockeys it’s strict business), the Shetland Pony Grand National dedicates all its proceeds to the Bob Champion Cancer Trust. Last year, the young riders raised a whopping £42,500!
Who are you placing your bets on to win? It may be too close to call!
This Shetland Pony is focused and ready to race.
Adorable overload racing down the back stretch to the finish.
Dressed to the nines, this pony definitely looks the part of a miniature American Pharoah.
Turn and burn little dudes!
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Photos by Sophie Harris.