There’s less than one week to go (4 days & counting!) until the 2014 Royal Agricultural Winter Fair officially kicks off in Toronto. To celebrate, all week long we’ll be posting about fun things to get you Royal ready, and remind you why Royal season is like Christmas in November for equestrians.

To get you in the spirit, and to beat those Monday blues, here’s a little joy to brighten up your day in honour of Grand National Pony racing making its Canadian début at the Royal this year.

While living in the UK, I had the chance to attend the annual Royal Windsor Horse show, where I saw these pint size pony riders in action at the Shetland Pony Grand National event. Having never seen (or heard) of such an event before, it was definitely entertaining – and I give credit to the jockeys for staying on those pint sized ponies, because they gain some serious speed.

The Shetland Pony Grand National is a popular UK based horse competition that has been around since 1981, and can be found as a staple in many British horse shows. It is an event that provides an entertaining display for spectators while also raising money for charity.

The parade of ponies and jockey’s around the ring prior to the start of the race.

To compete, riders must be between 9 and 13 years old, and be 5’1″ or shorter. And while it may seem like a simple and fun competition, riders work hard year round to participate in the first qualifier at Windsor in the spring, and a chance to compete at subsequent competitions across Britain, with the goal of qualifying for the Olympia horse show at the end of the year.  The race is staged much the same way an ‘adult’ race that you would see with thoroughbreds or quarter horses. Each horse has a number, and each jockey their own colourful set of silks. The riders ride a series of laps around the arena, jumping small fences that resemble those you would see on a steeplechase course. For many riders, getting to ride in the Shetland Pony Grand National is a great honour, and something they work very hard for. Its also a huge crowd pleaser!

And they’re off!

So if your down at the Royal on Friday (Nov 7) and Saturday (Nov 8), make sure you get a chance to check out the Grand National Pony Racing in the Ricoh during the horse show (evening on Friday, matinee on Saturday) – as its sure to be entertaining.

Here’s a look at one of the races from the Royal Windsor Horse show when I last attended back in 2010:

The pre-race parade  begins.

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