Horse & Hound visits the Shetland Grand National ponies in their wow-factor stables

If you don’t watch the Shetland Grand National at Olympia and groan with envy as the pint-sized riders race around the arena on their even more pint-sized mounts, we’re afraid you’re probably in the minority.

We paid them a visit in their stables at Olympia this week (12-18 December 2017) and the envy didn’t abate…

1. Navigate your way through the stables of the plethora of horses competing at this equestrian extravaganza — police horses, driving ponies, top showjumpers… — and you will eventually reach the winter wonderland of the Shetlands’ stables: a technicolour haven for these mini racing stars. Vouchers for the Olympia shop are up for grabs for the best decorated stables and the competition is tough…

2. But not all of the 11 Shetlands that make it to Olympia (there’s a tough selection day plus the qualifying races throughout the year for them to get through) are so impressed with their creative surroundings. It took just one night for this pony to put his own stamp on the carefully created decorations

3. Luckily 10-year-old Sydney Lee’s ride Coppice Bay Rose has embraced the festive spirit with a little more aplomb —  which is lucky when you consider that her and her mother have spent four weeks creating this masterpiece.

4. Olympia might look like fun, but trying being the Shetland Grand National mascot Pandora: exhausting work. There’s two races every day for seven days for her to put on her best face for. Which is why Pandora, who was bought by Vera Akehurst who runs the Shetland Grand National with Sebastian Garner at a sales in October, has a snooze whenever there’s a break in proceedings…

5. Some of the other residents know a bit more about stamina: this is Clothie Night Idiot’s fifth Olympia. After the 14-hour trip south from his home in Aberdeen, we imagine his stable was a welcome sight. Despite his name, the 11.1hh is no idiot. “He’s not silly, but just before the off, he’ll watch the flag, and start jogging to make sure he sets off in front and stays there,” says his owner-breeder Elinor Bosanquet.

6. No rest for the wicked: Pandora eventually wakes up with less than an hour to go before the afternoon race. Bed head? What bed head?

Don’t miss our full report from Olympia Horse Show in the 21 December 2017 issue of Horse & Hound magazine