A friend alerted me to an historic image for sale on Amazon of a Fell Pony stallion. (1) Of course I had to investigate!
According to the seller, the pony pictured is Mountain Hero II, and the print is dated 1912. The same image is on the Fell Pony Museum website, reproduced here with permission (click here and scroll down). On the Museum website, the image is said to have come from the 1910 British Agricultural Encyclopedia. (2)
Mountain Hero II appears in Volume VII of the stud book. He was foaled in 1897 and was measured at 13.2hh when he was registered. He was a bay, and while the stud book doesn’t list any markings for him (not uncommon for older registrations), the photograph suggests that he had white on his left hind. According to the stud book, Mountain Hero II had the following prizes: “1901, Silver Medal, Polo Pony Society. Penrith: 1902 1st (Fell Pony Stallions), R.A.S.E. at Carlisle.” (3)
According to the Fell Pony Museum website, Mountain Hero II was advertised in 1900 as having “spectacular action,” and “will serve mares at 15s each, and heath-going Ponies at 12s 6d each…” (4)
What I find interesting is that, according to my research, Mountain Hero II doesn’t have any descendants in the modern Fell Pony population. My research is based on the stud books. It is of course entirely possible that Mountain Hero II left descendants who weren’t registered but who may have been let into the registry later through the various inspection schemes (for more information about the inspection schemes, click here or see the chapter in the book Fell Ponies: Observations on the Breed, the Breed Standard, and Breeding).
Why might Mountain Hero II not have been valued as a sire? Evaluating a pony from a photograph is always a dicey proposition. Especially when a pony is standing (versus trotting), there just isn’t a lot of information to go on. Fortunately Mountain Hero II is stood in a way that does allow for some evaluation. What do you see in the photograph that would deter you from breeding your mare to him? It’s especially useful to look at the image on the Fell Pony Museum website (click here) because you can easily compare and contrast Mountain Hero II to the image directly above of Heltondale Victor who does have descendants in the modern Fell Pony population.
One person suggested that Mountain Hero II’s head lacks pony character. Since stallions often pass their head structure to their foals, this could have been a turn-off for mare owners (there are a number of photographs in my Observations book illustrating the influence of stallions on the heads of their offspring.) Of course a pony’s head is one of the first things we see, and we all know how influential first impressions are, so having a proper pony head is important.
One thing that I see in the photograph is that Mountain Hero II isn’t very well coupled. One way to evaluate coupling is to compare the length of the topline (roughly withers to high point of hips) to the length of the bottom line (roughly elbows to sheath or udder). The topline should ideally be shorter than the bottom line. When you compare the image of Heltondale Victor to Mountain Hero II, you can see that Victor’s topline is much shorter relative to his bottom line than Hero’s is.
While Mountain Hero II’s influence on the breed may not have been lasting, the photograph of him that is for sale definitely had one benefit for me. I appreciated the Fell Pony Museum website that Sue Millard so faithfully maintains for the information that it provides.
I am grateful to intrepid Fell Pony researcher Eddie McDonough for seeing the image of Mountain Hero II on amazon.com.
- Fell Pony Stud Book Registrations 1898-1980, The Fell Pony Society, Penrith, Cumbria, p. 5.
- Same as #2.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2014