I love hearing stories that illustrate fundamental characteristics of the Fell Pony. The other day I heard three in the space of a few hours, and I felt like I’d hit a jackpot.
The first two stories came from Eddie McDonough who has friends that are both curious and skeptical about Eddie’s enthusiasm for the Fell Pony. On two occasions, Eddie invited friends to accompany him on their chosen mounts when Eddie took his pony Bess out for a drive. The first friend was on a Welsh Cob, and after a fair distance at a traveling pace, Eddie asked Bess to stop. She was as fit and fresh as when they had started out, but Eddie’s friend’s Welsh Cob was greatly lathered. A Fell Pony’s gaits are expected to be active but economical, and while a Cob has active movement, it is so high-stepping as to be uneconomic and energy sapping.
On another day a second friend was mounted on his Thoroughbred, and Eddie and Bess set off down the road as before. When they pulled up, Eddie’s friend was visibly frustrated. While Bess had been trotting along, the Thoroughbred kept breaking gait. The larger horse couldn’t trot and keep up with a Fell Pony. A ground-covering trot is a hallmark of our breed.
Joe Langcake shared the final story of that day with me. He was in Holland several years ago and was taken to see some high class warmbloods. When their owner asked what sort of horse Joe raised, he told them Fell Ponies. “Oh, those dreaded Fells,” the owner exclaimed. The warmblood owner then went on to describe a driving trial he’d recently competed in. His horses easily bested the Fells in the arena portion of the competition, but the cross country phase was another matter. The Fells, being smaller and perceived as being less athletic, had been started twenty minutes behind the larger horses. Half way through the race, the warmblood owner heard hoofbeats coming up behind, and then a voice called out “If you can’t go any faster, move over so I can go on.” Not only did the Fells catch up to the field of larger horses, but they passed their vet check faster and went ahead. The Fells ended up finishing first and second. The breed’s stamina is a hallmark and obviously surprises people.
© Jenifer Morrissey