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Fell Pony - The Oldest Horse Breed That Originated In The Age Of Roman Empire

Sep 11, 2008
The Fell Pony gets its name, FELL, from the Norse word meaning "hill." During the four centuries of Roman occupation on the border between England and Scotland, extra troops -- French, Dutch, German, Polish, Spanish and eastern European cavalrymen -- were brought in to protect Hadrian's Wall which separated the countries and to maintain law and order. Since bones of foreign horses have been found in Northern Britain, its thought that the Fell pony may be a mixture of these horses and local ponies. A cross between foreign horses and the Celtic pony might have produced an animal closer to horse size, but larger animals couldn't have survived in the northern fells without extra food. It's believed that the breed stabilized through natural selection as a pony.

After the Romans withdrew there weren't many roads until the 18th century. Fell ponies were used to transport goods throughout the country. As canals, roadways and train lines were developed in the 18th and 19th centuries, other forms of transport developed and Fell ponies were used for light farm work, carrying mail, sports events, shepherding and or carrying goods to market by cart.

Size and Showing Characteristics

The ponies average 13.1 to 13.2 hands high; the maximum height allowed for a Fell pony is 14 hands. Fells come in black, brown, bay and gray. A star and/or white on or below the hind fetlock is acceptable for showing today. Fell ponies are well groomed for shows, yet untrimmed to emphasize their natural looks.

Most Fells mature late, sometimes not until they're seven years old. In their native country Fell ponies are left to run free until two or three. They're brought in for basic training and turned out again for another year. They're started under saddle around five years old. Today Fell ponies are still used for logging, farming, and shepherding. They have been quite successful in competitive endurance at the Olympic level, LeTrec, jumping and dressage and also excel at competitive and pleasure driving, and therapeutic riding.

Preserving the Fell Breed

Sue Millard of England, talked about the importance of unseen traits of a native pony at a rear equine breed event at the Kentucky Horse Park. "A good example of a native pony should tell us, just by looking at it, what kind of life its ancestors led," Millard said. "A well built body is the first requirement. Good teeth for grazing and a well designed coat that sheds rain. Hoofs that take the wear of rough terrain. You can see all these. But natives ponies have other qualities: an even sensible temperament, hardiness, vigor, self reliance and brains. These qualities are vital to the breed but they are not visible. They're the inner pony, the bits that you only get to know by doing the job and living the life. These invisible characteristics can't be retained without giving the pony a job to do and if possible, allowing it to live and reproduce as its ancestors did and still do."

For more information on the Fell pony, contact the Fell Pony Society and Conservancy of the Americas, 125 Edwards Farm Lane, Dobson, NC 27017. An FPS overseas branch is committed to conserving and promoting the Fell pony as the hill breeders of northern England have done for many centuries.
About the Author
Philippe Wiskell is a writer for HorseClicks, classifieds of horses for sale Kansas, horses for sale Kentucky, horses for sale Louisiana and other states. Philippe is also a featured author at www.ArticleKing.com
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