How Prefixes Matter

It was recently suggested to me that prefixes don’t matter when considering a pony’s breeding.  This comment was made when I was inquiring about Fell Ponies carrying a specific prefix.  The commenter suggested that a particular pony was representative of the prefix that I was researching even if it didn’t carry the prefix itself.  For me, though, as a breeder, the fact that the pony didn’t carry the prefix I was researching was very significant indeed.

Prefixes, in the Fell Pony world, are registered names that precede a unique name of a pony.  Heltondale is one example of a prefix, preceding for instance ‘Black Prince III’, with ‘Heltondale Black Prince III’ being the name of a stallion that was a Supreme Champion several times over.  Prefixes are specific to a person or group of people and often refer to the place where the breeder lives or has an historic connection.  Prefixes also allow ponies bred by the same person to be listed in the stud books together.  The Fell Pony Society states that prefixes are “of much service in tracing the pedigree of a pony.” (1)

While I agree that there are times when prefixes don’t carry much information, there are other times when they do.  I have a broad article on the topic, so for now let me just address the question that arose recently:  whether a pony is representative of a prefix even if it doesn’t carry that particular prefix in its name.  It is in this case that I think prefixes matter.

As a breeder, I have the hard job of culling my foal crop each year, assessing whether a particular foal is worth keeping to perpetuate my breeding program or whether it should be sold.  I have to ask myself whether the particular animal will help me further my breeding goals or whether it will not.  Many breeders are proud of their prefix and the ponies that carry it.  For them their prefix represents their brand, and the ponies that carry their prefix are statements about their brand.  Since the stud books of the Fell Pony Society are interesting reading for me, I have become very familiar with the breeding programs of the principal long-time breeders.  I take note of which animals they retain and which they sell.  The ones that they retain are worthy of their continued efforts in breeding the type of Fell Pony that reflects well upon their brand.  The ones that they cull won’t contribute as much.

When the topic of whether prefixes matter came up, I was researching a particular breeder whose ponies I admire.  The comment I received was in the context of ponies that are ‘one-off’, that are descendants of ponies carrying the prefix I admire.  It is possible that those one-off ponies are similar to the ponies that do carry the prefix.  However, knowing that breeders have to cull their breeding stock says to me that the one-off ponies are likely not completely representative of the prefix since their parents weren’t retained by the breeder.

From my perspective as a breeder, then, prefixes do matter.  They provide valuable information about the ability of a particular pony to help perpetuate a particular breeding program.   Especially for breeding programs that I admire, the presence of a prefix – or lack thereof- speaks volumes to me about individual ponies.  If a pony carries the prefix, then the breeder likely saw something worth retaining.  If a pony doesn’t carry the prefix, then the breeder likely saw something of concern.  Prefixes, then, are useful in prompting follow-up questions.  And how much they matter depends on the breeder who uses them.

1)      Regulation 12.2 of the Fell Pony Society,

© Jenifer Morrissey, 2012


About workponies

Breeder of Fell Ponies, teamster of work ponies, and author of Feather Notes, Fell Pony News, and A Humbling Experience: My First Few Years with Fell Ponies. Distributor of Dynamite Specialty Products for the health of our planet and the beings I share it with.
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