I heard a story this morning about a Fell Pony who is twenty years old, nine months pregnant, and can still ‘go like a locomotive’ when offered a chance at pasture. Her legs churn underneath while her top stays smooth. This particular mare has frustrated her owner on numerous occasions over the years because she doesn’t like to be shown. She never moved as well in a show as she did in her pasture at home.
In my February 2012 newsletter Fell Pony News from Willowtrail Farm, I wrote an article about Fell Pony movement and action. In it I posited that movement is a better way to think about a Fell Pony in motion than action is. Action seems mostly about the legs, while movement encompasses the entire body’s way of going.
Since I published my newsletter, I’ve wondered why traditional Fell Pony movement is so rare. I’ve been fortunate to have some information come my way to help answer that question. For instance, someone said that in dressage, it is important that an equine go ‘long and low’ during certain evaluations. Long and low is often called daisy cutting and is specifically not what Fell Pony movement is supposed to be. Our ponies are increasingly used in the dressage discipline, though, so it’s understandable that traditional movement may be out of place there.
Fell Ponies were historically multi-discipline athletes, being driven as much as ridden for instance. It has occurred to me that traditional Fell Pony movement might be more valued in the driving discipline than it is in the ridden arena. As our ponies are used less in driving, it makes sense that traditional movement isn’t as highly sought after.
On the other hand, people do try to recapture traditional movement, even if it doesn’t necessarily come naturally. I was told recently that some people will actually weight their ponies’ feet, so that when the weights are removed at show time, the pony’s action is more elevated than normal. A good eye, though, can apparently pick out this type of action as not being correct because it is more up and down than out and round, as needed to be ground covering.
While the mare I heard about this morning never showed well, her foals did, including when shown at foot. I was told that people would often come up to the foals’ handlers after they’d won their class and remark upon the extensive training the foals must have had to move so well. The handlers responded that the foals had first been haltered that morning of the show. The movement was natural.
A few weeks back a friend commented that I couldn’t have written my article on movement three years ago. It’s true that I’ve learned a lot in the past few years about traditional Fell Pony movement. Fortunately, my schooling comes as I’m doing chores, watching my ponies as they move about, comparing and contrasting their ways of going. I am blessed to share my life with these ponies.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2012