The Fell Pony is a versatile, working breed of mountain and moorland pony which originates from the North of England around Cumbria. This large pony averages 13-2 hands (1.37 m), with the upper height limit at 14 hands (1.42 m). It was originally from the fells of north west England, and is a prized as a riding and driving pony. They are closely related to their geographic neighbor, the Dales Pony, but are generally smaller and more draft-like.
The Fell Pony has a free and easy stride. As a hack and general riding pony, the Fell's fast walk and easy paces make it a pleasant and comfortable ride, and its sure-footedness ensures a safe passage over the roughest country. It is possible to ride a Fell pony through places where other lighter bred ponies would come to grief. Fells seem to have a sixth sense which alerts them to possible danger; they also seem to know which is the soundest track through soft marshy ground, or the safest descent of a rocky hillside.
Fell Ponies are creditable jumpers, particularly across country, being both agile and very clever on their feet, which is a valuable asset when jumping "blind" when out hunting. Although most lack the scope to make top class jumping ponies, their abilities are well up to local shows or Pony Club events where many prove their worth.
Large numbers of Fell Ponies are used in riding and trekking stables throughout the country because of their steady temperaments and useful size. The Riding for the Disabled movement employs a number as mounts for disabled children and adults.
Color and Markings: Black, brown, bay and grey. Chestnuts, piebalds and skewbalds are debarred. A star and/or a little white on or below the hind fetlock is acceptable. An excess of white markings is discouraged.
The Fell Pony should be constitutionally as hard as iron and show good pony characteristics with the unmistakable appearance of hardiness peculiar to mountain ponies, and at the same time, have a lively and alert appearance and great bone. All these attributes make the Fell pony an all round versatile family pony.
The Fell Pony is believed to have originated on the border between England & Scotland during Roman times from the crossing of imported war stallions with the local Celtic ponies. They were originally brown in colour, though over the last few decades black has become predominant, followed by brown, bay and grey.
They are primarily a working breed of pony with activity, stamina, hardiness and intelligence that enables them to live and thrive in tough conditions out on the Fells in the Lake District.
Records show that the progenitors of the Fell Pony were used as packhorses, carrying lead and coal. With their sturdy bodies, short legs and equable disposition, and being good, fast walkers, these 13 hand 2-inch ponies would travel up to 240 miles a week. However, many Fell Ponies were famed throughout the North as fast trotters. There are many tales of distances covered at great speeds by these ponies.
Now in the 21st Century, we are looking for well-trained riding and driving ponies, and the Fell makes a delightful ride and drive, for his activity, strength and hardiness, born of generations of scrambling about the mountains, give him great balance.
In fact, it has been said, "You cannot put a Fell Pony to the wrong job".
The Fell shares its origins with the now-extinct Galloway pony which was also the root of the Dales pony.
In 1916, the Fell Pony Society was formed "to keep pure the old breed of pony that has roamed the northern hills for years". The breed’s numbers became very low in 1945, and a breeding "stallion enclosure" program was started, which ended in 1970. The affluent 1950's saw the beginnings of the popularity of riding for pleasure, a pursuit that has gained momentum ever since and in its wake guaranteed the future of many native breeds. The number of ponies being registered with the Fell Pony Society has risen gradually ever since.
All Fell Ponies are registered through the society, with an annual Stud Book published each year. The Society's patron is H M Queen Elizabeth II.
Today, there is a demand for an all-round family pony capable of carrying all members of the family and versatile enough to fulfil a wide variety of jobs previously done by two or three more specialised animals. In this capacity the Fell pony is ideal being well up to the weight of a heavy adult. Their size still makes them suitable for experienced children. The rediscovery of Carriage Driving has given the Fell Pony the means of continuing in a job which it has traditionally done for centuries. They are well suited to this work, having great stamina and presence when in harness. A few Fell Ponies are still used in Scotland carrying the stags and grouse panniers down from the moors. Some of HM The Queen's ponies are sometimes used for this purpose at Balmoral while others are used for both riding and driving by the Royal Family. The Fell Pony is now becoming popular in the showing world, doing well in both in hand, under saddle, and Worker Hunter Pony classes. They also do well in Private Driving classes.