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‘The frozen kickback is hard’: meet the 10-year-old jockey gunning for glory on the snow (and dreams of Royal Ascot)

The first ever pony race took place at White Turf earlier this month (February 2019) on the frozen lake at St Moritz.

The spectators, wrapped up against the wintry elements, were treated to a field of youngsters aboard their mini mounts battling it out on the snow, alongside the main Flat racing.

The ponies can be up to a height of 140cm, and one of the smallest in the field was in fact one the oldest ponies, aged 19. There are different categories depending on the size of the ponies.

One young rider gunning for glory is 10-year-old Gian von Ballmoos, who lives near Zurich, and has been visiting White Turf since he was a baby and has racing in his blood.

“My father and two uncles were amateur jockeys and my grandfather was a breeder,” said Gian, who is already a pony racing victor.

Racing on the snow takes some brave riding whatever age you are but these youngsters show boldness beyond their years, and are not fazed by the concept of racing on the frozen white stuff.

Wearing special face masks to protect them from the frozen kickback, the young riders look like proper mini jockeys — honing their skills in the saddle and donning racing silks and white breeches. The ponies too are tiny versions of their larger counterparts.

“It is cold riding on the snow, and the kickback is very hard,” explained Gian.

The young rider clearly loves his riding, and racing in particular, and he has some big ambitions too.

“My dream is to ride at Royal Ascot because I want to ride in front of The Queen,” he said with a smile.

Since it’s inception in 1907, the White Turf has grown in popularity and, alongside the Flat racing and pony racing, there is trotting races and skijoring, a race which sees horses pulling people on skis.

For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.

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