Is there something you are able to do that your mother or father or grandmother or grandfather taught you that is easy for you but hard for other people? The first thing that comes to mind for me is pie crusts. My mother took ribbons at county and state fairs for her pies, and her lessons when I was young helped me take reserve champion once myself. I know many people who are petrified of recipes calling for pie crusts, and their lives are unfortunately devoid of these wonderful foods as a result. I am definitely the beneficiary of the generation behind me in the pie-making department.
The other day I was talking to my friend and colleague Doc Hammill about his mentors. He reminded me that his step-father’s family has been training horses for harness work for generations, going back to training for General George Washington more than two hundred years ago. (Some of Tom Triplett’s life experience is included in an article I wrote for Rural Heritage magazine (click here for more information.) If you’re curious about horsemanship in George Washington’s time, you might be interested in Volume 1 Issue 2 of The Partnered Pony™ Inquirer (click here for more information.))
That sort of multi-generational equestrian experience and accumulated wisdom leaves me in awe. So many things would be easy because you already knew they worked, and other things you wouldn’t waste your time with because you’d heard from your elders what the likely outcome would be. Of course it’s possible that that sort of inherited wisdom could get in the way of good new ideas, but with the right mindset, the possibilities for benefit from generations of equestrian wisdom seem to me to far outstrip the possible downsides.
The other day someone remarked after seeing a picture of my ponies, “You’re herd is growing!” And another person remarked that the fruit of many years of hard work was evident in the ponies I have now. The first comment is factually true. The second comment was very much appreciated for the compliment that it was. And the second comment is only possible because of the first one.
At the moment, my herd population is smaller than it was at its peak and is 40% bigger than it was ten years ago. I hope in another ten years that it is 40% smaller again. Which ponies will still be with me in ten years is something I can’t begin to guess. There are two reasons for that, besides the general truth that predicting the future is a dicey proposition at best. At the moment, for instance, less than a quarter of my herd was with me ten years ago. I had no idea that would be the case ten years ago. But the bigger reason is that I’m just not sure which of the four mare lines I currently have, when bred to my two stallions, will best help me achieve my breeding goals. How do I get the bone and substance that I value in a pony that moves optimally for the breed with a temperament that is second to none? Some may think that’s not so hard. The problem with careful and detailed study of the breed is that you learn how elusive this sort of pony can be to breed consistently. I can’t help but wonder if I had generations of equestrian wisdom behind me if the path would be easier to predict and easier to tread. I admit to being particularly envious of people like Tom Triplett at the moment as I ponder how to best progress my breeding program.
The past nine years I have of course been blessed with the friendship of my mentor Joe Langcake, who has spent eight decades around Fell Ponies. Joe is the closest I’m likely to get to multi-generation equestrian wisdom, so I treasure every opportunity to learn from him that I am offered. Perhaps in another ten years I’ll feel as confident about breeding ponies as I do now about making pie crusts!
©Jenifer Morrissey, 2014
Much of the wisdom I’ve gleaned from Joe so far is captured in the book Fell Ponies: Observations on the Breed, the Breed Standard, and Breeding, available internationally by clicking here.