Before I was even fully dressed this morning, I went out and gave Sleddale Rose Beauty a hug. I had just learned of the passing of Mr. Henry Harrison, breeder of the Sleddale Fell Ponies, and my heart was heavy. Beauty is the Fell that got me started in the breed and helped me understand the type that I like; the passing of her breeder hits close to home.
I was privileged to speak with Mr. Harrison last year when I interviewed him for an article in the Breeder Profile series of The Fell Pony Express, the newsletter of the Fell Pony Society of North America. I’ll never forget the day when a large envelope arrived, marked by Royal Mail but with no return address. There was no letter inside, but it was clear who it was from. Mr. Harrison had sent several photos of his ponies when his herd was at its apex in the 1980s. Also included were programs from the Breed Shows when his ponies were ‘covered in rosettes’ as Barry Allen remembered in a Fell Pony Society newsletter. (1)
Beauty is the oldest Fell Pony in North America. This year she is 26 years old, so I treasure every day that I have with her. Knowing that her breeder is no longer part of the Fell Pony community, I will give her a treat when she asks with new appreciation.
Another pony in my herd has Sleddale in her breeding, Bowthorne Matty, through her grand-sire Sleddale Mike II. I thought of Mr. Harrison and his preference for brown Fell Ponies when Matty’s daughter was born earlier this year. Willowtrail Mountain Honey is my first non-black Fell, colored brown/bay like her mother. Honey gave me a real appreciation for why some breeders prefer browns; I find the color captivating, perhaps because it is such a contrast to all the black ponies in the herd.
This morning I also gave Beauty’s daughter, Willowtrail Wild Rose, a hug. She is becoming a very good friend just like her mother and accepted my hug with more aplomb than her mother did (she’s heard me say ‘It’s A Human Thing’ quite often.) I can’t wait to continue Beauty’s line through Rose and to continue Mr. Harrison’s favorite Fell color through Honey. For now, though, I am remembering with appreciation Mr. Harrison’s stewardship of the Fell Pony breed.
- Allen, Barry. “Where did all the Browns come from?”, Fell Pony Society Newsletter, Spring 1998, p. 22.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2013