I have watched a Fell Pony extract itself from of a Cumbrian bog, comfortably sat a traditional trot bareback, benefited from a speedy walk, and put hock and knee action to use in rough terrain. Fell Pony traditional movement is for me something quite real and to be cherished and preserved. I never thought, though, that it would make me a single issue voter.
I grew up in a political family where campaign strategy was a regular part of each election year. Single issue voters were sources of frustration because they were uninterested in comprehensive platforms and nuanced policy positions, and they often defied efforts at compromise. Now though, I’m on the other side and can see why they chose to stand steadfast.
I received my ballot in the mail for the election of the Fell Pony Society (FPS) council. While I always participate in the annual council elections when given the chance, this year was unusual. After going down the list voting the names of people I knew and respected for their service to our breed, it came down to filling the last of four spots by choosing between two candidates. One made showing and dressage an emphasis in their candidate statement, and the other mentioned the need to preserve traditional movement.
In a conversation with another breeder that I thought was unrelated, I had asked how they liked what a particular stallion had done with their mares. I was somewhat surprised at the answer. The breeder appreciated the less-active movement of the foal crop “because it’s better for showing and dressage.” I’d heard before that showing and dressage have different preferences for how an equine moves than is standard for our ponies, but this was the first time I’d really had evidence for the allegation.
The candidate that emphasized the need to preserve traditional movement in our breed also expressed concern that preferences in the dressage and showing worlds and the use of our ponies in those realms was adversely impacting traditional movement in the breed. Suddenly I found the choice for the final slot on the ballot easy.
I have ridden Fell Ponies through deep snow. I have needed them to jump downed timber at a walk. I have appreciated their comfortable and speedy gaits on pony express runs to our distant mailbox. Rarely a day goes by that I don’t find reason to appreciate traditional Fell Pony movement. I’m usually not a single issue voter, but the traditional movement of Fell Ponies gave me reason to become one.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2017
There are many stories like this one about the Fell Pony breed in the book Fell Ponies: Observations on the Breed, the Breed Standard, and Breeding, available internationally by clicking here or on the book cover.