Hair isn’t my highest priority in my Fell Pony herd, though you wouldn’t know it by looking at my stallion Guards Apollo – his eyes are rarely visible! I know hair is a priority, though, for a lot of people involved with the breed, so I was interested to read an article in the September issue of Equus.
“For stronger manes” describes a study in Poland: “The data showed that the hairs of the horses supplemented with organic zinc and copper had greater elasticity and strength than those of the other horses.” (p. 13) A Cumbrian friend recently told me that the home land of Fell Ponies is often rich in copper, so perhaps that’s what’s helped the breed develop so much hair.
Of course, supplementing Fell Ponies with copper is a common recommendation because it helps brown-black ponies fade less in the summer. And then there is the folk lore that connects faded coats, copper deficiency, and a tendency towards parasite infestation. (Copper is one of the primary minerals required for cellular immunity which originates with white blood cells called T-cells.) So supplementing copper seems pretty important for Fell Ponies.
Carole Morland, in her book A Walk on the Wild Side (p. 28), states that Roundthwaite Common, where the Lunesdale herd runs, seems to have a copper deficiency, so many black ponies have a brownish tinge. Carole states that this can be rectified for show purposes by providing a copper supplement.
I have had good success using a copper supplement, first to address fading black then to boost the immune system. Now I know I’m helping my ponies’ hair health, too. (The product I’m using also contains zinc and other minerals in a synergistic organic formulation.) According to Equine Color Genetics (Sponenberg, 2003, p. 33), “Horses of most colors that are in good physical and nutritional condition are frequently dappled.” Check out the dapples in Apollo’s black coat!
This ‘observation’ is one of over ninety about Fell Ponies in the 2013 book Fell Ponies: Observations on the Breed, Breed Standard, and Breeding available from Willowtrail Farm by clicking here.