It occurs to me that there are three possible meanings for ‘collecting Apollo:’ 1) fetching him home from somewhere, 2) harvesting his semen for breeding, and 3) asking him to assume a particular bodily frame while moving as in dressage. It’s the first two that have happened recently. Our ridden work hasn’t progressed far enough for the third, though Apollo collects himself quite often when moving at liberty, especially when showing off for the girls.
A few days ago we brought Apollo home from Colorado State University’s Equine Reproduction Lab where I had his semen collected for the first time. While the comment, ‘he has wonderful semen’ was useful given the reason for his visit there, it was all the other comments from the staff that I found most interesting since they don’t see Fell Ponies very often.
I interacted most with Paula Moffett, a research associate at the lab. I found her to be very observant and direct in her communication, which I appreciated. She looked familiar when we first saw her when dropping Apollo off, and I later confirmed with her that she had spoken to a class we took several years ago on semen collection and artificial insemination. Paula’s first comment when seeing Apollo come off the trailer was, “He’s well put together.” I of course felt very proud of my boy because Paula’s comment was so spontaneous, and she sees a lot of stallions in her job. When we picked Apollo up, Paula admitted to taking a liking to Apollo, which she said doesn’t happen with all her clients’ horses.
After his second collection session, Paula called me and said more than once how smart Apollo was. Apparently the second time he only had to be shown the phantom and he knew what was expected of him. Paula also said that Apollo manages his strength better than many warmblood stallions that she’s handled. That comment warmed this draft pony enthusiast’s heart. Draft pony people tend to believe that ponies can pull more pound-for-pound than the heavier horses, and Paula’s observation gave support to that claim.
During one of our last conversations, Paula asked if people ever cross-breed Fell Ponies. I explained that people have crossed Fells with other breeds and that in fact I have too. I shared that I felt one must be careful in what the cross is to, as I have observed that crossing to something dissimilar doesn’t improve on the parents. Paula said she couldn’t imagine why you would cross as you would lose something that makes Fells unique and important as a breed. While I couldn’t agree more, I tried to explain that all standardized breeds begin as someone’s idea of something new, and they have to begin by crossing something to something else at some point. I shared that Hackneys, for instance, began with a good dose of Fell blood.
In Colorado, Quarter Horses, Paints, and Arabs easily make up eighty percent of the horse population. Paula confirmed that these were the breeds she saw most often. It was a delight for me to interact with Paula and the rest of the staff at the Equine Reproduction Lab and get their perspective on equines, equine owners, and equine breeding. I learned once again that my interest in conformation and manners is worthy of pursuing and I’m told is in contrast to many people’s interest in the more cosmetic characteristics of color and hair. Collecting Apollo had more benefits than I ever imagined!
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2012