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Fell pony

Fell Pony
Fell Pony
Country of origin: Cumbria, England
Horse (Equus ferus caballus)

The Fell Pony is a versatile, working breed of mountain and moorland pony originating in the northern England around Cumbria. It was originally from the fells of northwest England, and is used as a riding and driving pony. The breed is closely related to their geographic neighbour, the Dales Pony, but are generally smaller and more draft-like. The Fell pony is noted for agility, strength, hardiness and balance.


Breed characteristics

Fell Ponies vary a good deal in weight and size, so that ponies may be found to carry almost any rider. The average height of the breed is 13.2 hands (54 inches, 137 cm), and the upper height limit for the breed is 14 hands (56 inches, 142 cm). The breed was bred for the harsh environment of Northern England, so they are adaptable to almost any climate.

The colours accepted in the breed are black, brown, bay and grey. Chestnuts, piebalds and skewbalds are not allowed. A star on the head and/or a white on or below the hind fetlock is acceptable. However, excess white markings are discouraged.

The Fell Pony should be constitutionally hardy and show good pony characteristics, including the traits of the mountain and moorland pony breeds, and at the same time, have a lively and alert attitude and good bone structure. The breed generally has a steady temperament.

The Fell pony has free-flowing gaits, and is generally sure-footed even in rough terrain.

Fell ponies are reliable jumpers and agile, which makes them useful for cross country riding or hunting. Most animals of the breed lack the scope to make top class jumping ponies, but Fell ponies generally are well up to local show or Pony Club event standard.

Breed history

The Fell Pony shares its origins with the now-extinct Galloway pony which was also the root of the Dales Pony. It is believed to have originated on the border between England and 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.

Use as packhorses

The Fell Pony was originally used as packhorse, carrying lead, slate, copper and iron ore. They were also used for light agriculture and the transportation of lighter goods, such as wool.[1] With their sturdy bodies, short legs and equable disposition, and being good, fast walkers, they 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.

Fell ponies today

Fells at the present time are being used for pleasure riding and competitive riding, showing, driving, hunting, trekking, shepherding and are very suitable for riding and driving for the disabled.

A Fell pony can be used as an all-round family pony - it is capable of carrying all members of the family, even heavier adults, and versatile enough to fulfil a variety of jobs previously done by two or three more specialised animals. Their relatively small size still makes them suitable steeds for children. The new rise of carriage driving has provided the Fell pony with the job which it has traditionally done for centuries. The breed is well suited for driving. A few Fell ponies are still used in Scotland carrying the stags and grouse panniers down from the moors.[citation needed] Some of the ponies of Queen Elizabeth II 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 Driving classes.[citation needed]

Fell Pony Society

The Fell Pony Society was formed in 1916[2] "to keep pure the old breed of pony that has roamed the northern hills for years". The breed's numbers decreased greatly in 1945, and a breeding "stallion enclosure" program was started. The program was discontinued in 1970. In the affluent 1950's riding for pleasure began to gain popularity, securing the future of many British 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 Queen Elizabeth II.

See also

  • Mountain and moorland ponies


External links


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