I had the great good fortune to attend the Wellbrow Stud Open Day in Lancashire on August 30. Nice weather, a good crowd, and a well-organized event by the Thorpe family made for an enjoyable outing. And it wasn’t just enjoyable for a Fell Pony addict like me. I talked to a local young woman who was new to the breed and looking to downsize from bigger equines. There were ponies for sale that day, but she wisely was choosing to take her time and take advantage of her proximity to work with the Thorpes to find just the right pony for her.
I made the Wellbrow Open Day a priority on my visit to England for many reasons. First, the Wellbrow Stud is one of the biggest breeders of Fell Ponies today. Second, the stud got its start in large part from the liquidation of the Heltondale herd twenty years ago, so I got to see the results of crossing many old bloodlines. I also thought it likely it would be a good place to put faces to names (I was right!) And of course it was a good way to see lots of Fell Ponies all at once.
What impressed me most was Andrew Thorpe’s ability to stand in a herd of twenty or so ponies and identify them by name and even their breeding. It was clear that the ponies are not just a casual hobby for this family. I saw the same thing the day before when walking with Bill Potter amongst his Greenholme ponies. Our breed is lucky to have these stewards.
In the faces-and-names department, I am thankful that Elizabeth Parkin, former secretary of the Fell Pony Society (FPS), sought me out to say hello. I also appreciate that Claire Simpson, FPS publicity officer, did the same. It was a pleasure to talk to Mary Longsdon, former FPS chairman, in person after our several phone calls over the years. Walking the fields looking at ponies with other breeders was very enjoyable, too. I look forward to staying in touch with them and watching their herds evolve.
The final formal presentation of the day was a stallion parade. It was a rare opportunity to compare and contrast different ways of going. The best movement got oohs and ahhs from the crowd. I feel that a pony’s movement, especially at the trot, is a quick way to assess proper conformation. I shot video of each stallion moving so that I can study them in more detail in the future.
I know that Open Days are a tremendous amount of work. Andrew mentioned that he had been up late one night prior to the event laying stone in the road to accommodate visitor traffic. I am grateful that the Thorpes, and on the previous weekend the Townend and Greenholme Studs, are willing and able to host the Fell Pony community and help us learn about our breed.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2015
If you enjoyed this story, you might also enjoy the book Fell Ponies: Observations on the Breed, the Breed Standard, and Breeding, available internationally by clicking here.