I’ve just finished reading Bridle Paths by A.F. Tschiffely. Tschiffely is best known for his horseback ride from Buenos Aires to Washington, D.C. beginning in 1925. After writing a book about that journey, Tschiffely rewarded himself with a ride through Britain. That shorter journey is the subject of Bridle Paths. My copy of the book bears a 1947 printing date, though his ride seems to have been made in the early 1930s.
While Tschiffely’s mount for his 43 day trek was not one of Britain’s native pony breeds, Tschiffely nonetheless expressed great admiration for the mountain and moorland breeds. “[The] invaluable characteristics of the British pony are docility, hardiness and powerful physique – wonderful qualities which are always weakened through experiments in cross-breeding them with ‘blooded’ ponies which, usually, are just undersized thoroughbreds.” Tschiffely saw ‘half-wild’ Fells during his days in the Lake District and credited their native environment with making them “into strong weight carriers, unexcelled for work in their native regions.” He was also notably impressed with their sure-footedness. “Fell Ponies are so used to rocks and stones that they can travel at full speed over them, straight up or down steep slopes, picking their way with the agility of mountain goats.”
My attention was drawn to the book because it contains pictures of Fell Ponies taken in the 1930s. Tschiffely visited the Charlton family at The Linnels on more than one occasion, and several of the photographs were taken of Linnel Fell Ponies. Sarah Charlton has kindly identified a few of the photographs. I have not yet learned, however, the name of a striking stallion that is pictured. Like many pictures of Fells from that era, the substance of the animal is more pronounced than the hair which we see in such profusion today.
More than once I got a good chuckle out of stories Tschiffely tells about people he met on his ride or about the mare Violet that was his mount. Reading about his journey helped me close out several recent days very pleasurably.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2011