I have ponied many ponies over the years in many combinations, but I’ve never ponied a stallion and a mare. I’ve ponied a stud colt from a gelding and a stallion from a gelding and a gelding from a stallion, but I’ve never mixed breeding stock. The dynamics between the ridden and led equine are always on my mind when I pony, to ensure the success and safety of the outing. This past week I finally had a breeding stock combination whose inter-equine dynamics I felt could be successful, and I was right. I rode the mare and led the stallion, and both were quiet and well-behaved.
For management reasons I’m moving my senior stallion Guards Apollo between paddocks at the start and end of each day. I quickly tire of leading, and so Apollo gets ridden bareback with a halter and lead rope past the gate to the mare paddock and past the paddock containing my young stallion. He’s good about staying quiet instead of returning calls from the ladies or prancing along the fence with the boys. When we reach our destination where there is a mare awaiting us, he sometimes announces his arrival, so we have room for improvement in the quiet department. Nonetheless, I’m pleased with how quiet Apollo is on this sort of outing.
When I was in Cumbria in 2015, I got to meet in person a stallion I have long admired at a distance. He had great Fell Pony movement, which I expected, and very traditional conformation, which was definitely pleasing. I was disappointed, though, to see that he seemed uninterested in people. I had been warned that his temperament was the one question-mark about his quality, and indeed I left wondering if I still wanted his lines in my herd. I was delighted, then, when I received word that after just a few weeks of ridden training, he was like a new pony, very quiet and compliant, with no signs of his previous standoffish behavior.
I have several Fell Pony colleagues who are able to breed their mares without owning their own stallion. I will admit to being envious at times that they are able to move their breeding program along without the year-round management burden that comes with owning a stallion. When I have asked, the answer is typically that a stallion may be a possibility in the future, if it’s quiet. In the Fell Pony breed, of course, we are fortunate that most of our stallions are considered mellow and easy to handle, so this answer made me start pondering whether there is such a thing as a truly quiet stallion.
Thinking about my own stallions and about that stallion in Cumbria, I concluded that quiet stallions are both born and made. The right temperament bred into a colt is incredibly important; I know colts whose sires were handfuls, and the colts turned out the same way. In my experience, though, it is also the handling that the colt gets on the way to maturity that makes the mature stallion quiet or otherwise. To own a quiet stallion probably means to buy a mature one or raise one that’s been properly bred. The stallion I admire in Cumbria was a reminder the even something properly bred won’t be quiet without the right handling.
Ponying, at least the way I do it, is a reasonable test of how quiet a pony is, and I was pleased with how Apollo did. My next aspiration in the ponying department is to ride the stallion and lead the mare. That set of dynamics is an unknown that I will approach carefully, as I did the other mare/stallion ponying combination. In the mean time, I’ll continue to enjoy my quiet stallion.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2016
There are numerous stories about Fell Pony stallions in the book Fell Ponies: Observations on the Breed, the Breed Standard, and Breeding, available internationally by clicking here.