Animals Video


Take a look inside the Shetland Pony Grand National – where wannabe jockeys learn their trade as kids by racing on miniature horses.

The pictures from this year’s event, held at the Liverpool International Horse Show this week, show tiny children saddled up in their silks to take on fences and jumps – all replicas of the real race at Aintree – on their Shetland Ponies.

Riders must be between the ages of eight and 14 and under 5ft tall, as Shetlands grow to just 3ft 3ins high, less than 11 hands, on average.

For many competitors, the event is a stepping stone to becoming a full time jockey and many former winners have gone on to make professional horse racing their career.

Event organiser Seb Garner said: “The races are a great spectacle with some frenzied activity thrown in.

“Without a doubt the nerves get a bit frayed but in the end it is down to each individual jockey and their pony to find the tightest line to the fences before turning down the centre of the arena to cross the finish.

“To take part the young jockeys need lots of experience at riding at a cracking pace.

“The ponies really do go fast and get very fired up – riders need to be brave and used to riding at speed, jumping and turning tight corners on small ponies that can do what they want when they want to!”

The fences on the course look identical to those at a national racecourse, and everything the children wear is the same as a racehorse jockey – from the silks to the breeches and helmet.

Seb added: “A bit of rough and tumble is all part of the sport, especially when the ponies have a mind of their own.

“The races really do get your adrenaline going – it is definitely a sporting event, although it’s a lot of fun the riders really do want to win.”