‘She’s totally fearless’: five-year-old rider is off to HOYS solo with her super Shetland

  • A pony-mad five-year-old is heading to Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) off the lead rein with her super-cute Shetland pony Briar Puzzle.

    Alexia Lilley and her mother Amy Lilley’s home-produced Briar Puzzle won their first ridden class at Stoneleigh Horse Show, beating more than 30 other entries, before standing HOYS mini mountain and moorland (M&M) champions .

    “I just stand at the side of the ring and hope they have a good time,” says Amy, who bought standard Shetland Puzzle last October with the intention of showing him solely as a lead rein contender this year. “When he arrived he very quickly impressed us with his temperament and ability; after only being with us two weeks he finished champion at the BSPS Heritage championships in the Tiny Tots section, and he was also second in the Royal International (RIHS) qualifier.”

    Prior to him joining the Lilley family, Puzzle had been ridden off the rein by a 12-year-old jockey as an all-rounder, enjoying hunting and jumping.

    “I hadn’t planned for Alexia to come off the lead rein this year, but over winter she went from strength to strength with both Puzzle and her other Shetland, a palomino and white mare named Pinglewood Pasha, who she has been riding solo at shows since she was three,” continues Amy. “Alexia has always ridden well beyond her years, but I never expected her to be aiming for her HOYS first ridden ticket aged five!

    “Puzzle is a forward little pony, but he does look after Alexia. He comes down the gears for her, and they are a great combination.

    “As she began on super-safe Pasha, she is totally fearless with her riding. She’s always had relatively novice ponies to bring on, and she really has to ride them; she can’t just sit there!”

    On the day of their HOYS qualifier win, Amy said that the combinations kept filing into the ring: “It was one of the biggest first ridden classes I’d seen. The ring was bursting with ponies! Alexia and Puzzle have been knocking on the door this year so I was hoping for a place, and they did perform a lovely show. They are quite an impressive combination, even if you’re not a Shetland person, as Alexia is so tiny and Puzzle is chunky. She nailed her conformation, too, standing Puzzle up to perfection.

    “The steward called the results out in reverse order and it was so nerve wracking as they moved down the line-up. When they were called into top, and then into the top spot in the championship held just moments later, I really couldn’t believe it and I was so proud of them both.”

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