The Moreton in the Marsh show held every year in Gloucestershire is one of the biggest one day shows in the country. This year, it celebrates the 70th running of the show. It is held on parkland very near the famous Batsford Arboretum on the edge of the Cotswold town. Together with cattle and other country fayre attractions, this year it had 56 equine classes with 1000 horses forward . A huge amount to get through in just one day!!!
In this article, we concentrate on the pony classes native to the British Isles. Just to emphasis just how many come to this show, there are eleven different classes for different breeds of pony with 187 ponies competing for the native pony championship classes.
All pony breeds native to Great Britain have a few things in common. The first is that they are all natural foragers and that originally, they were feral wild horses who roamed certain areas of the British Isles. However, man has tamed them, used them as work ponies and in recent times has turned them into riding horses, particularly for children.
In these classes, there are two judges, one to assess and give marks for riding, presentation and freedom of movement, out of 50 and the other 50 marks are given by the confirmation judge. They assess how close the animal is to the official breed type and how well it moves at the walk and trot, not under saddle. The winner is the one who achieves the highest marks from the judges out of 100. All the classes are qualifiers for the famous Horse of the Year Show.
First, to come under the beady eye of the judges, Pippa Balch and Allan Robertson, was the New Forest pony. Native to an area in southern Hampshire, the New Forest pony is thought to be one of the oldest native breeds, dating back to around William The Conqueror. They are commonly a light chestnut colour with a white mane and tail, but can be any solid colour as well. They should stand about 54 inches at the withers. The winner was a 17 year old gelding ridden by Elizabeth Etchells.
The Connemara is originally from Ireland. It is known for its strength, good temperament and athletic prowess. They should average a height of 55 inches, have a good length neck with a short head. They can be any solid colour, and definitely not multi coloured. At this show there were 18 forward. The class was won by Miss E James riding a 10 year old gelding.
The Fell pony comes from the North West of England. The Fell is noted for is sure footedness, rather important for working in the mountainous region of the UK. They are noted for their hardiness, agility and strength. They average a height of 54 inches and they can come in any solid colour. Multi coloured is a definite no no. This year, 13 came before the judges. The class was won by Molly Simpson on a 7 year old mare.
The Highland pony is another which hails from Scotland. Again this pony should stand about 55 inches. They have particularly thick coats, needed for all the inclement weather experienced in the highlands of Scotland. They are generally white in colour, but can be more a dun. They very often have a dark dorsal down their spines. They were used for timber work in the forests and light agricultural work before being domesticated as a riding horse. From only six entries, a small class for this show, the winner was a 12 year old stallions owned and ridden by Zoe Holmes.
Welsh section C and Welsh section D are the most common Welsh ponies, obviously hailing from the principality. These are the bigger Welsh types. They are more like a small cob, although many may dispute my description. In my defence however, the breed is titled ‘The Welsh Pony and Cob Society’ I rest my case! As a breed they are usually grey or white in solid colour and are quite stocky in build. It is thought that during the 17th century, Arab blood was introduced to give them more poise.
They were used for agriculture and when mining coal became so important to the Welsh economy, they were sent down the pits to pull the coal to the surface. Now they are commonly seen in show rings and in showjumping as good solid riding horses. There were 13 forward in the Welsh C section and it was won by a 7 year old gelding ridden and owned by Sharn Linney. The Welsh D section had 11 forward and was won by Heather Comley riding her own 7 year old stallion. She was ecstatic and from her reaction, she was astonished to be pulled in first. Rather nice to see really!
The Welsh section A and B are similar to those described above, but they are definitely smaller and more refined. They are more akin to a child’s riding horse, whereas its bigger version can carry an adult with considerable ease. With all Welsh breeds, if they are not white/grey, they have a large white symmetrical blaze down their faces. However, even white/grey ponies have a lighter white blaze down their faces. The winner of the Welsh A section was won by a 10 year old gelding ridden by young Henry Green owned by his mother Welsh section B was won by an 11 year old mare ridden by Matilda Masters.
The Dartmoor and Exmoor, we have lumped together as they are very similar and both come from the west country. The Dartmoor is usually a dark brown solid colour and is generally only 47 inches high. There used to be thousands of them working the tin mines in Devon and Cornwall and also for less onerous tasks around the farm.
They are particularly known for their kind temperament. Sadly, today, they have rare breed status as there are now only about 300 pure Dartmoor ponies left. The Exmoor pony also sadly has rare breed status as there are not very many of them around either. It is very similar to the Dartmoor, but has a slightly lighter coloured coat which is much rougher to look at than the Dartmoor, who has quite a sleek coat. The Exmoor does not have quite such a kind temperament, but both make excellent first riding horses for young children.
The Final pony breed, also lumped together in this class was the Shetland. Everyone knows what a Shetland is and where it comes from. In my opinion, they are stroppy little animals who will happily give you a sly nip when you’re not looking. There are two sections in the Shetland stud book, the miniatures who are the smallest of breeds, and the larger Shetlands which are commonly seen in Shetland Grand National racing, which happens up and down the country at county shows and Olympia etc. They are small very woolley creatures which are generally a light brown solid colour. However they can be other solid colours as well. They are hardy and strong. They need to be considering they come from the weather inclement Shetland Isles! The winner of this class with the three different types of small pony was the Dartmoor. A very well proportioned 10 year old stallion ridden and owned by Megan Hewitt.
The editor Bernard Simpson has been involved with horses and the industry for over 40 years. Together with his wife, he bred many flat racehorses including some which were Royal Ascot winners. He is also experienced in equine media using video, photography and journalism. Bernard currently lives in Wiltshire. He and guest authors now present this blog and hope you like our articles.
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