The other day I was talking to my Fell Pony mentor, and I asked him what factors had caused him to cull a particular pony from his herd. I knew a few of the reasons, so I asked him about temperament. He said that temperament was part of it; the pony wasn’t as likely to greet him at the gate. His ponies tend to greet him at the gate when he arrives, and if a pony doesn’t do this, and it’s otherwise healthy and all right, then he attributes it to innate temperament which becomes a factor in selecting breeding stock.
I immediately began reflecting on my own herd, and indeed the ponies whose temperaments I most enjoy pass the “greeting at the gate” test. Since caring for ponies the way that my mentor does, and the way that I do, requires a lot of work, getting enjoyment from the ponies counts for a lot. Being greeted at the gate is one of those sources of enjoyment. “If they haven’t got the temperament,” my mentor said, “you won’t get the good times with that pony.”
As a breeder, it is of course my goal to breed ponies that I enjoy being around. So after I learned about the ‘greeting at the gate’ test, I paid attention when I next went out to feed. I was thrilled when Willowtrail Mountain Prince, my weanling colt, met me at the gate. I was so appreciative that I took a few minutes with him for scratching in his favorite places. The next time I saw him, I was further rewarded (and perhaps he was further motivated?) because he chose to hang out with me for a few minutes instead of going back to his pile of hay, which of course resulted in more scratching in his favorite places. When I bred Prince, I chose his parents in part for their temperament. It’s a good feeling as a breeder that the choice paid off.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2012