Young miniature horse enthusiast Tilly Norris is proving to children who don’t want to ride that a special connection with a horse can be achieved out of the saddle.
Tilly, 10, has been showing miniature horses since she was just seven years old. This year, she made her debut at the Royal International Horse Show (RIHS) leading her five-year-old mare Model Farm UK Pretty Little Miss (Saffy). She was the youngest handler in the class by six years.
Tilly’s mother, Vicky Norris, has been breeding miniatures for the past four years. Vicky won at last year’s RIHS final handling her own stallion, Kitana Knights Royal Reflection.
“Tilly is brilliant with the horses and the bond they have with her seems very special,” explains Vicky, who first showed miniatures some 20 years ago and now breeds her own under the Temptation prefix. “Saffy is better behaved for Tilly than she is for me!”
Like most children born into equestrian families, Tilly began riding ponies on the lead rein as soon as she could walk.
“She did all sorts on the rein, but when it was time for her to come off she just didn’t want to do it,” Vicky explains. “She didn’t have the confidence to ride in front of anyone and riding just wasn’t for her. However, she still loved horses and loved the idea of showing. So, we started her with some in-handers and it went from there.
“It’s often assumed that riding is the only avenue for children to explore, but there are many ways to enjoy horses out of the saddle. Some children feel that they have to ride if their parents want them to, but there are other things to do.”
Tilly has an Instagram page run by Vicky and she has amassed over 12,000 followers. She is also sponsored by children’s toy company Crafty Ponies and she travels across the country performing in displays with the brand.
Tilly has also been incredibly successful in young handler classes, and she recently finished reserve champion in a 27-strong young handler field at Royal Cheshire County.
“We’ve had parents come up to us and say that their children similarly don’t enjoy riding, but they hadn’t even thought about in-hand showing,” Vicky continues. “Miniatures are a great breed to get into. They’re not as strong as Shetlands and they are completely different temperament wise. They seem to bond really well with children – perhaps as they don’t feel as intimidated by their size. Plus, there are a lot of breed clubs for children to get involved with.
“Saffy is also in the process of being broken to drive; Tilly has a black and pink cart which she is so excited about.
“Tilly is so keen and she’s always out practising. To get to the RIHS was a major achievement for her.”
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