HOYS-winning young rider provides former show pony with a new career in racing

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  • She might only be 15 years old, but India Till has been at the top of the showing game for the majority of her career on show ponies. But recently, the talented young rider has forayed into the world of pony racing, giving her family’s former top level show pony the chance to enjoy a new job after an injury cut his own showing journey short.

    Courtland (JP) Splendour (Harold) was a former Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) 138cm show pony finalist in 2015, but the gelding was unable to attend the final after he was kicked on the hock. After recovering from his injury, India took Harold on as a project, teaching him to jump and enjoying several hunting outings with him.

    “Harold then suffered a leg injury after a freak accident in the field,” says India’s mother, Henrietta Till. “It was touch and go as to whether he’d make it, but thanks to our amazing vets he survived and made a full recovery.”

    India, who had always wanted to race Shetlands but was unable to due to her height, decided to see if Harold had the potential to flourish in another sphere.

    “She’s always been mad on racing and after a friend of hers had taken up pony racing, she decided to see if Harold would be a candidate for the job,” continues Henrietta. “Last November, once Harold was given the all clear to come back into work, she commenced his training as a racing pony. I wasn’t convinced that it would come off as Harold has his quirks and is tricky to ride.”

    India, who was supreme pony champion at the 2019 Royal International with her late 138cm contender Drakemyre Puttin On The Ritz, began her training with Harold, building up his fitness and stamina. She used her prize money accumulated from her showing victories to source her racing kit and suitable tack and equipment for Harold.

    In their second pony race together at Cotswold Vale Farmers, India and Harold led until the home straight and finished third out of 10 runners.

    “As a parent I’ve been anxious and worried about her starting racing, but India is so dedicated, inspired and motivated to compete,” says Henrietta. “It’s a totally different sphere. On race day I just drive her to the venue and she does the whole thing herself. India has spoken to a nutritionist about the best feeding plan for Harold, follows racing form and goes to jockey training when she can. She likes to be so clued up and she now wants to be a jockey.”

    India, who is home-schooled, trains Harold from home.

    “Most of the ponies who race are trained at Newmarket, so I feel lucky that I can train him from home,” says India. “It’s great fun and I’m getting an insight into what life in the racing industry is like. I’d love to be a jump jockey, but I’m not sure my parents would be too keen on this career option!”

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