IT’S iconic, legendary, the stuff dreams are made of as jockeys and ponies tussle in the cut and thrust that is the Shetland Pony Grand National.
This adrenaline fuelled sport – and yes it is a sport – is one of the family highlights of the Liverpool International Horse Show – December 29 to 31.
Here we talk to Seb Garner of the Shetland Pony Grand National organising team to find out more about this face-paced race that involves many hours of blood, sweat and tears to cross the finish line in first place.
1, What is it about the Shetland Pony Grand National that makes it so special?
The races really do get your adrenaline going and as a team of riders and ponies a lot of hard work and training goes into the event before they even get to a show.
For a number of the team the Shetland Pony Grand National is a stepping stone to becoming a full time jockey and over the years there have been quite a few former riders who have gone on to make racing their career.
Anyone who has ever been involved will say the race is definitely a sporting event and although a lot of fun it is also very serious in many ways as the riders really do want to win.
2, How old do you have to be if you are looking to be a jockey?
We take riders from the age of eight to 14 or until they are 5ft tall. Anyone over that height has really grown too tall as the Shetlands are obviously quite small and we don’t want them to look like they are being ridden by an adult.
For some of the young riders it is quite heart breaking having to leave the squad but it is a rule made for the right reason and they do understand.
3, How much experience do the riders need?
Lots! No seriously, the ponies really do go and get very fired up so we need riders that have plenty of experience, are used to riding at speed, jumping and turning tight corners on small ponies that can do what they want when they want to!
In the electric atmosphere of a major show some of the ponies get very fired up and can become sharp so we need to know the jockeys are capable riders and also used to taking a bit of rough and tumble that is all part of the sport especially when the ponies have a mind of their own.
4, What should visitors to the Liverpool International Horse Show expect?
A great spectacle and frenzied activity thrown in! The tension mounts as the starter lines the ponies up and there are numerous occasions when the ponies burst over the start line and have to be recalled due to a false start.
Without doubt the tension mounts and for some the nerves get a bit frayed but in the end it is down to each individual jockey and their pony to do their best and find the tightest line to the fences before turning down the centre of the arena to cross the finish when the crowd goes wild.
There is a lot of camaraderie amongst the jockeys and there is a great buzz, we have some very talented and competitive riders in the team at the minute so action at the Liverpool International Horse Show is set to very exciting.
This year’s Liverpool International Horse Show will see a host of leading names in action from December 29 to 31, at The Echo Arena on Liverpool’s iconic waterfront.
For further information visit www.liverpoolhorseshow.com