‘Dreams really can come true’: overweight £100 Shetland transforms into showing star

  • A Shetland who was the “weight of a 16hh horse” when he was bought for £100 has been transformed into a showing star.

    Shandwick Bentley wowed the judges at this year’s Royal Windsor Horse Show (9-13 May) and was placed second in his class.

    Owner Cheryl East explained that the gelding is unrecognisable from the pony she bought last May.

    Cheryl and her husband Ian Hickman were looking for a pony suitable for their daughter Jocey.

    Jocey has special needs and so required a particularly understanding pony, so Cheryl and Ian planned to have the new pony backed under their supervision.

    They spotted the then nine-year-old Bentley for sale in their local paper and went to see him.

    Bentley had been a companion pony all his life and was in a poor condition; very overweight and with bad feet.

    Bentley last year

    “He was in a state,” Cheryl told H&H. “I knew he would take a lot of time and work but I couldn’t leave him.”

    Cheryl paid £100 for the gelding and took him home where he was “like a raging bull” and struggled to settle.

    “We called our farrier and got him to start work on his feet as they were in such bad condition,” Cheryl said. “He was footsore as so much of his feet was missing.

    “When our vet first saw Bentley he said he was the weight of a 16hh horse. He was shocked he did not have any other health issues.”

    As Bentley’s condition improved he was gradually introduced to tack and backed by a local dressage trainer.

    The family familiarised him with the farm machinery and livestock surrounding the yard before taking him to his first show.

    They had little expectations of success, but were shocked by how well Bentley got on.

    “He won his big class and went on to win the in-hand championship,” said Cheryl.

    “His condition was still not perfect but the judge said his movement and stature were fantastic and he was a real old-fashioned type.”

    Cheryl took Bentley to a second show where he won his class, qualifying for Equifest, and went on to win in-hand championship at the same show.

    With this experience under their belt, the family took Bentley to Windsor.

    “It was our first time at Windsor and we didn’t want people thinking, ‘What the hell have you bought that pony here for?’” said Cheryl.

    “Bentley entered the ring with some of the best Shetland stud owners and producers in the country, in a huge class. The judge’s eye was on him the whole time, I was nearly sick at the ringside.

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    “But Bentley looked fabulous and the judge pulled him in second. Tears rolled down our faces.

    “Bentley has been with us for 11 months and we have worked our socks off as a family getting this pony to accept everything.

    “He truly deserves a mention. Dreams really can come true.”

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

    This week’s magazine, out tomorrow (17 May), features our full report from Royal Windsor Horse Show, including all the showing, showjumping and dressage action plus much more

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