Footing Sense 2

Assessing footing on especially treacherous ground: snow over ice

Assessing footing on especially treacherous ground: snow over ice

I’ve received several comments from Fell Pony owners about my post “Footing Sense.” Some of the people have ponies with footing sense. Some explicitly bought fell bred ponies because they wanted footing sense. Some have ponies with poor footing sense. Some have ponies on both ends of the spectrum that are manifestations of the long-time breeder’s observation: the more generations away from the fell, the less footing sense they have.

One set of comments I received from a Fell Pony owner I think is particularly worth sharing:
“This topic has been on my mind recently. Where my pony is stabled, there’s no riding facility available at the moment. Everybody is complaining; there are no riding lessons, and all the horses are bored, cross and ill-tempered. As are the riders, except for me. I have no problem at all; the little snow and ice we have is no problem for us. I notice that my pony is very clever in choosing her way through branches and shrubbery , and she also is very careful on muddy and icy ground. I tend to think that those big hooves from her Sleddale breeding are helpful, too, to make her a safe ride.

“Before I went hacking with a friend on a big, big warmblood last autumn, I did not know that not all horses take care of their own feet. This horse is a retired dressage and jumping horse, who was well known for his talent in his time. I’d rather trust my little, stubborn, hairy, grass-inhaling pony with the safety of my bones!”

This Fell Pony owner also asked some very good questions, which I will add to my own:

  • How is it that a pony one generation removed from the fell still retains footing sense?
  • Why is it that a pony one generation removed from the fell has footing sense while a pony two generations removed doesn’t?
  • We are losing hill breeders faster than we’re adding them, and more and more ponies are born away from the fell, with some being bred as far away as Australia and the United States. What might breeders away from the fell do to retain footing sense when returning to the hill breeders for breeding stock isn’t feasible?
  • Is the loss of footing sense a matter of selection of breeding stock or is something else going on? Would giving ponies a chance to roam over rough terrain build or retain footing sense?
  • Does the age of a pony affect footing sense?
  • Does the conformation of a pony affect footing sense?

These questions and undoubtedly more will be on my mind as both a breeder and working partner of Fell Ponies. Just one more thing that makes this breed intriguing!

© Jenifer Morrissey, 2013

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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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