He has model looks, he’s in demand from major brands, he does appearances at celebrity’s children’s parties, and at four years old he has amassed more than 120,000 followers on social media. Meet Teddy the Shetland, the palomino pint-sized mega star who is one of the most famous ponies on the internet.
He’s owned by Surrey-based event rider Alice Goring, who along with her sister Molly has built up Teddy’s page from nothing to celebrity-worthy in less than four years. But she is quick to point out that his fame was more accident than design.
“I think some people buy pets with Instagram in mind, but it wasn’t like that with Teddy – I wanted a companion for my young event horses to travel with them to their first events,” says Alice, who bought Teddy from the Pinglewood Stud when he was five months old.
At the time, her younger cousins had created online profiles for their guinea pigs, to share photos and videos, and it was them who suggested that Teddy was more than cute enough to have his own page. Alice and Molly began sharing updates about the Shetland, and his followers steadily grew. “I remember being excited when I reached 100 followers,” says Alice. “Then his page got shared on a few cute animal pages, then by Unilad, then BuzzFeed started doing stuff about him and it just took off. When you think how many followers he has and imagine them all in a room, it’s quite amazing to think about.”
He’s now a bonafide influencer, working with various equestrian brands and doing appearances at horse shows and racecourses. He’s also a model, working for brands such as Amazon, Penguin Books and Paramount Pictures.
“One of the best things he’s done was a 14-page fashion shoot in Town & Country Magazine,” says Alice. “A crew of about 20 people came with catering and everything and took over our house for the day. We went to several different locations and Teddy traveled in the trailer with the cast and crew.”
In addition to promotional work, Teddy does some charity work, regularly visiting a local hospice where he is small enough to be taken into the children’s rooms. One little girl there had a dream of sitting on a pony, and Teddy was able to make her dream come true. In addition, Teddy is a mascot for the Wilberry Wonder Pony Charity – Alice was good friends with Hannah Francis, the event rider who died from bone cancer at the age of 18.
“He does a lot of appearances with Hannah’s shetland Doris. They’re like boyfriend and girlfriend!” says Alice.
The overwhelming response to Teddy’s fame has been positive, although Alice has had some strange comments – one follower declared that he was lying down too much and that ‘that could be dangerous for a horse’. More alarmingly, she’s had a few threats from people saying they’re going to steal her beloved Shetland, so she’s had to be more careful about how much information she shares online. She’s also had a few odd requests, including people who want Teddy to send signed things for family members.
“And he was asked to be on the radio once – I did wonder how that would work, though fortunately it was just me doing all the speaking.”
Despite his fame, Teddy has a very normal life out in the field on the yard alongside Alice’s string of four event horses. “He loves it all, he is a real attention seeker. He tilts his head to the camera, he knows his best angle. Having said that, he has no idea how famous he is. He is just a normal pony.”
Teddy has recently been broken under saddle, and has been ridden by fellow social media star Kizzy, from Kizzy & Etties Pony Adventures. The pair have even done a spot of cross-country schooling!
Teddy’s profile has helped Alice as well, with her top event horse sometimes appearing alongside Teddy in photoshoots to show off the ‘little and large’ aspect – though funnily enough, The Little Frenchman is less than 15hh and one of the smallest event horses competing at advanced level. But the Teddy phenomenon has taught Alice more about marketing herself and her sport, and he has become a familiar face on the eventing circuit as he accompanies his owner to events.
“I was really rubbish at Instagram before starting Teddy’s page. I didn’t really have my own account, so it’s been really useful in terms of learning more about social media. But we try to keep Teddy’s page quite separate from mine, and not put pictures of my sister or me on his page, as I think his followers like that it’s all about him.”
Even though there’s a growing demand for Teddy the Shetland’s media appearances, it is still very much a sideline for Alice, who has a full-time job as a PhD student, working in osteoporosis research. With four horses to compete, she’s often riding at 10 p.m. at night, alongside keeping Teddy’s legions of fans up to date. But his popularity continues to grow, and it seems the world just can’t get enough of Teddy the Shetland.