A new Fell Pony enthusiast asked whether the breed is lazy or spunky. The inquirer’s most recent equine experience has been with off-the-track Thoroughbreds, so it seemed important to answer carefully. I replied that in my experience, Fells are generally mellow but ready to go. In all the ponies I’ve had, I’ve only had one that I would consider lazy, and he was my first stallion, so it was a blessing that he was that way while I learned to manage that male energy!
I think about the ‘lazy or spunky’ question in terms of the jobs Fell Ponies were historically asked to do. For instance:
- Commute ponies: driven to the train station in the morning; stabled all day, then driven home at night. Mellow enough to stand all day but be ready to go when asked. There’s a story about one pony that would cause the local pub to empty at a particular intersection because she was so fun to watch take off when it was time to head home!
- Shepherding ponies: ridden high into the fells to tend to flocks, expected to stand while the shepherd was checking things but then able to cover ground and not waste time getting home.
- Pack ponies: expected to walk at a brisk pace all day every day, with time off overnight. Covering ground was of the essence.
The question about lazy or spunky came after the new enthusiast had watched a video of a pony they were interested in buying. The video showed the pony being routinely handled (feet, leading, standing tied), and the pony was very mellow, which the person found a little alarming. Like many horse people, they find spunky equines easier to motivate than ‘lazy’ ones.
I shared the lazy versus spunky question with a fellow Fell Pony owner, and she replied, “Being thought lazy might be common for Fells. People often can’t believe when my pony gets her thoroughbred minutes when flying free in the arena, or when I tell them it’s difficult to keep her from running when we are out…. They only see her calmly tolerating kids, noises, vet, etc.”
I must have done a good job allaying the new enthusiast’s fears because they are making the transition to Fell Pony owner. Of course time will tell how they get along, but at the moment the new enthusiast/owner is excited about the differences between Fells and Thoroughbreds.
If you enjoy stories about Fell Ponies like this one, there are more in the books A Humbling Experience (click here for more information) and Fell Ponies: Observations on the Breed, the Breed Standard, and Breeding (click here for more information).
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2014