‘I count my lucky stars’: meet the Scottish native pony specialist with big plans for 2024

Over this festive season, we are shining a light on up-and-coming talent across the equestrian disciplines. These are people you really need to keep an eye out for during the 2024 season

  • Ellis Grierson is a rider on a roll. The 30-year-old amateur working hunter competitor and native specialist finished her 2023 season with a second place at the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) after racking up a tally of impressive results over the summer.

    Also a keen event rider, Ellis Grierson has been involved in showing for nine years.

    “I got into showing after moving into our first home that had land and stables,” Ellis explains. “I didn’t ride during university, and my event horse was semi-retired, so I was a bit stuck on what route to go down next. At the time, we had three horses, and four stables. It was a simple case of equestrian maths — the numbers didn’t add up for us!

    “My sister spotted a beautiful little Welsh mare for sale half an hour away. She was my childhood dream come true; liver chestnut with a flaxen mane and tail — the ultimate Barbie pony. We didn’t have the faintest clue about showing, but we soon started venturing out to some local shows. We started making great friends on the circuit and the thrill of competitive outings became addictive, as did the buying of very cute native ponies to compete with.”

    Ellis has enjoyed success on some brilliant ponies, one of her most successful being Dunally Jane (Jenka) who she credits for putting her on the map.

    “She helped me get to where I am now,” Ellis says. “My sister bought her unseen as a feral two-year-old. I’ll never forget the feeling of dread when the transporter called to warn us to brace ourselves as she was a bit wild! To think, we took her from that crazy baby pony to being a Badminton Grassroots contender. She’s had countless wins and top placings in the show ring in workers, some highlights being winning the Scottish Horse show in 2021 and qualifying for the Royal International Horse Show (RIHS) this year.”

    Ellis’ ride of 2023 was undoubtedly her Welsh section D Derradda Rummy (Hummy) who finished as runner up in the exceeding 143cm M&M working hunter pony final at HOYS.

    “It takes a great pony to qualify for HOYS, and an even greater one to finish second on their first visit there,” Ellis says. “I never thought I’d be competing at HOYS, let alone jumping clear around a 1.10m course there. I don’t think I’ll ever get over the shock of them announcing my number in front of that huge crowd!

    “He has also led me to dipping my toe into the world of British Dressage, qualifying for the Winter Champs at Hartpury earlier this year. We are very much winging it when it comes to dressage, but we’re looking forward to stepping up the levels over winter. He is one in a million and he gives anything a go with a smile on his face.”

    Ellis keeps her ponies at home in Scotland. Her set-up boasts an indoor barn with eight stables and indoor and outdoor schools.

    “I count my lucky stars,” she says. “When we first moved to this home seven years ago there were no equestrian facilities. We had temporary stables put up next to my house while the yard was built. I really loved our little set-up back then but I do not miss the heavy Scottish rain bursting through the temporary roofs on a regular basis!

    “My family all live around me and we work as a very good team. Everyone chips in as and when they need to and we are always there for each other when we need that extra support.”

    Ellis Grierson — “I hope I can tick some off in 2024”

    Ellis has also amassed a strong following on social media. She began her Instagram page five years ago.

    “When I worked for the equestrian company Eqclusive I started taking photos and videos using the products for their own Instagram and it just went from there,” she explains. “I’ve met so many like-minded friends and I’ve been able to meet lots of these people face to face at shows and events after years chatting online.”

    Adding another string to her bow, Ellis is gearing up to continue her eventing career in 2024: “I currently compete at BE90 and was lucky enough to compete at Badminton this year. Unfortunately the number of BE venues in Scotland is quite low now so we have struggled to get to many events this year, however I have a really exciting up-and-coming pony that I am planning to event next year and really hope he will be the one to get me ticking off my BE100 goal! I missed out on Badminton 2024 by one place so perhaps we can aim to get a 2025 qualification next year.”

    Showing wise, Ellis is keen to return to the RIHS: “I went there for the first time ever this year and absolutely loved the atmosphere, so I’d really love to go back with a couple of ponies next year!

    “For dressage, I’m hoping Hummy and I can qualify for the Winter Championships again at a higher level.

    “An ultimate goal of mine is to step up to the horse working hunter classes one day, but I’m still waiting to find that special unicorn horse to tackle those courses. A non-competitive goal is to work towards my UKCC coaching qualifications. I really enjoyed training for my stage one and would love to get to my stage two and start doing some coaching. I have so many ideas in my head for 2024, and I hope I can tick some of them off.”

    You may also be interested to read…

    Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.

    You may like...