|The Fell Pony - Equiworld horse breeds and horse breeding.|
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The Fell Pony has been recognisable as a breed since Roman times when they were employed as draught animals in the north of England within local industry and the building of the Roman walls. In addition, they were the main form of transport for the raiding Picts and later on, the Border Reivers - both of whom needed sure-footed ponies with great stamina to assist in the success of their raiding campaigns in the Border country.
Fell Ponies vary a good deal in weight and size, so that ponies may be found to carry almost any rider. Being very hardy they keep fit running out all year round, though of course hay should be provided in winter unless running on a very extensive range. Hard feed should be given if the pony is in regular work. Hereditary unsoundness is practically unknown.
The Wild European pony migrated to the British Isles approx 1500BC. One type predominated in northern England, and can be credited as the progenitor of the Fell Pony. When crop farming and animal husbandry replaced hunting, wild ponies were drastically reduced to conserve available pasture. In northern England ponies became almost extinct in some parts and those that remained existed in small pockets which encouraged inbreeding and so led to regional characteristics.
By the time the Romans were well established in the North there must have been a definite type of dark coloured pony, standing perhaps just over 13hh, bred within the local catchment area of Hadrian's Roman Wall. Bred from Fresian stallions and indigenous pony mares the resulting progeny inherited the strength and quiet nature of the Fresian along with the hardiness, thriftiness and pony character of the north country ponies. Most of the ponies were black, dark brown or bay, white markings were very rare, and as the size of the pony was governed by the quality of grazing, it is unlikely that ponies exceeding 13hh could have survived on the northern moorland.
The Vikings used the ponies for ploughing and sledge pulling, the Normans for shepherding, by the thirteenth century there was a brisk trade in wool to Belgium, and local ponies were used to transport merchandise around the country, old packways can still be seen today.
The advent of the Industrial Revolution was a comparatively rapid innovation but one that, directly or otherwise, affected the whole country. Its initial effect on the Fell Pony came by way of iron-ore mines situated in the north-west of England. Once excavated the ore had to be transported across country to the smelting works of the north-east coast, and because of the uneven topography of the country and complete lack of suitable roads and canals, other feasible methods of transport had to be found. The coming of the railways meant redundancy for many of the pony teams and their dependant tradesmen, within an incredibly short period of time hundreds of ponies disappeared, many being sold abroad for slaughter. Fortunately the Fell Pony was still surviving in its native Lakeland home, and despite its dramatic rise and fall at the hands of the industrialists, as a breed it was quite unchanged, for the disbanding of pony teams had not affected the true pony breeding stock at home on the Cumbrian hills.
Ref: "The Fell Pony" - Clive Richardson 1981, 1990
The Fell Pony Today
There is a demand for an all-round family pony capable of carrying all members of the family and versatile enough to fulfil a wide variety of jobs previously done by two or three more specialised animals. In this capacity the Fell Pony is ideal being well up to the weight of a heavy adult, yet quiet enough and not too big for a child. In many respects the present day family Fell Pony is mainly continuing to apply to modern demands, the same adaptability which endeared it to the Lakeland farmers of approximately a hundred years ago.
All these attributes make the Fell Pony an Ideal Family Pony.
Ref: The history of the Fell Pony The Modern Fell Pony - Fell Pony 2000
HEIGHT: Not exceeding 14 hands (142.2 cms).
COLOUR: Black, Brown, Bay and Grey, preferably with no white markings, though a star or a little white on the foot is allowed.
HEAD: Small, well chiselled in outline, well set on, forehead broad, tapering to nose.
NOSTRILS: Large and expanding.
EYES: Prominent, bright, mild and intelligent.
EARS: Neatly set, well formed and small.
THROAT AND JAWS: Fine, showing no signs of throatiness nor coarseness.
NECK: Of proportionate length, giving good length of rein, strong and not too heavy, moderate crest in case of stallion.
SHOULDERS: Most important, well laid back, and sloping, not too fine at withers, nor loaded at the points a good long shoulder blade, muscles well developed.
CARCASE: Good strong back of good outline, muscular loins, deep carcase, thick through heart, round ribbed from shoulders to flank, short and well coupled, hind quarters square and strong with tail well set on.
FEET, LEGS AND JOINTS: Feet of good size, round and well formed, open at heels with the characteristic blue horn, fair sloping pasterns not too long, fore-legs should be straight, well placed not tied at elbows, big well formed knees, short cannon bone, plenty of good flat bone below knee eight inches at least, great muscularity of arm.
HIND LEGS: Good thighs and second thighs, very muscular, hocks well let down and clean cut, plenty of bone below joint, hocks should not be sickle nor cow-hocked.
MANE, TAIL AND FEATHER: Plenty of fine hair at heels (coarse hair objectionable) all the fine hair except that at point of heel may be cast in summer. Mane and tail are left to grow long.
ACTION: Walk, smart and true. Trot well balanced all round, with good knee and hock action, going we from the shoulder and flexing the hocks, not going too wide nor near behind. Should show great pace an endurance, bringing the hind legs well under the body when going.
GENERAL CHARACTER: The Fell Pony should be consitutionally as hard as iron and show good pony characteristics with the unmistakable appearance of hardiness peculiar to mountain ponies, and, at the same time, have a lively and alert appearance and great bone.
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Updated: October 2005.