There is evidence that time has passed. The aspens are yellow now, and I remember them being green. The rosehips have turned red, and they were indistinguishable from the foliage, last I knew. Sunrise is later, and sunset is earlier. The ponies’ coats are longer in preparation for the coming winter. Could it actually be true that a week has elapsed and that indeed we did spend that time in Cumbria?
I’m sure the grogginess from the 26 hour journey that was required to travel home is one of the reasons that our trip has a dream-like quality. Also, the many months that I spent thinking about and planning the trip made it seem always in the distance. There is also the strange sense of being at home away from home. I feel so comfortable there, recognizing people and landscapes from study and correspondence and photos and previous visits.
I will forever be indebted to my husband for taking time during our company’s busy season to travel with me. The timing of this trip was far from ideal, as it was during our busiest busy season in many years. But my instincts said that it had to happen, that it was important to take time right now to be able to see the people I wanted to see and do with some of those people the things I wanted to do while they were still able. Being with my husband one more time in Cumbria was high on the list: walking amongst ponies, hearing his observations of both breeders and equines, and this time focusing more than in the past on experiencing the landscape that has shaped the breed.
We don’t find travel particularly easy. Just the logistics to leave behind our business and a herd of ponies were daunting. We were blessed with the best possible house-and-critter sitter. Even then, my instructions for her ran to nine pages. She brought a smile to my face by writing a six page response for me to read when I returned!
The long journey was made easier for me by the knowledge that there were ponies to be seen. After we arrived, I knew just where to look to see my first Fell Pony. It wasn’t at Roundthwaite Farm which seemed strangely quiet after being home to so many ponies in the past. Instead I looked the other way, and a pony stood on the mid-horizon near where the Bybeck stud is based. A little further on, on the other side of the highway, my eyes were rewarded with even more ponies. It took me a bit to figure out why so many of the Greenholme herd were down at the farm, until I remembered their Open Day the previous weekend. Then in Shap there were ponies where I remembered them, so even though I didn’t touch a pony that first day, I took comfort knowing they were close at hand. Every other day, though, I had my hands on at least one.
I have more than 400 photographs that are additional evidence that I traveled to the land of Fell Ponies. In addition to ponies, there are pictures of people. I am thankful that I now have faces to put to names that I have ‘met’ thanks to the internet. If I am never so fortunate to visit again, I will at least be able to hold in my heart the love for the ponies and our breed that was shared with us by so many. And I will have the experience of having walked where many a pony has walked both on the job and at home.
Was it a dream? Yes, it was a dream in the sense that it was a dream come true. I didn’t accomplish everything that I’d hoped to, but I’m pretty sure I accomplished what I really needed to. I was asked several times whether I was shopping, and the answer was no. I was instead experiencing again what makes Fell Ponies special: the people and the landscape and the work that shaped them into what they are today. Those experiences will enrich my Fell Pony journey for many, many years to come, and I will be forever grateful for them.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2015
If you enjoy stories about Fell Ponies like this one, you might also enjoy Fell Ponies: Observations on the Breed, the Breed Standard, and Breeding, available internationally by clicking here.