Fell Pony History
Fell Pony History
One of the classic native breeds of England, the Fell Pony is noted for its hardiness, courage and adaptability. Its docile temperament makes it popular with riding and trekking stables, and it is also well suited for driving, is a creditable jumper and has the ability to trot for long distances at a steady speed. Bred for the harsh environment of England's north country where feed is always at a premium, the Fell requires less keep than most horses and ponies, and given sufficient shelter, will live out in all weather. Generally, the native breeds were named after-their local habitat and in relation to the work for which they were bred ... thus the name "Fell" or hills.
The Romans, in their endless search for conquests, first landed on the shores of Britain around about 55 B.C. A considerable number of Friesian horses were imported into the north of England either by the Romans or by mercenaries in their employ. Eventually when the Romans withdrew from Britain to go to the aid of their besieged home city of Rome, they left behind about one thousand Friesian horses, most of which were stallions, and which were bred with the native ponies. From these not only the Fell was bred but also the Old English Black (now merged into the Shire Horse) and the now extinct Galloway and Fen ponies.
The Fell Pony's similarity to the Friesian horse has always been striking. Apart from looking very much alike, the Friesian horse was, and still is, noted for its ability to trot, and this characteristic was passed on to the Fell Pony, which soon attained fame likewise for its speed and stamina at this gait. There is no doubt that the Fell Pony and the Welsh Pony were the foundation for the modern Hackney Pony with its extravagant high stepping action (from A History of British Driving Ponies by Anthony Dent and Daphne Machin Goodall).
The present day Fell Pony stands up to fourteen hands, which is the height limit, although most average thirteen hands two inches. The head should be neat and pony-like and set on a fairly long neck which together with well laid back shoulders gives the rider a good length of rein. Large or coarse heads should be avoided, and a pony with a short, thick neck will never be a good ride. The ribs should be well sprung and the loins strong. The quarters should be muscular and powerful and the hocks well let down. Good legs are one of the qualities of the breed, and these must be strong with plenty of bone. Pasterns should slope moderately, and the hooves should be hard and open with the characteristic blue horn. The feather, which extends up to the knee should be straight and silky, and the mane and tail long and thick.