The Fell Pony Enclosure Scheme and a Narrow Gene Pool

This article appeared in the April 2014 edition of Fell Pony News from Willowtrail Farm.

Highlights:

 Wet Sleddale enclosure circa 1970.  Photo courtesy the late Henry Harrison

Wet Sleddale enclosure circa 1970.  Photo courtesy the late Henry Harrison

  • In place from 1945 to 1976, the enclosure scheme was unique to the Fell Pony breed.  It was used to encourage breeding of ponies in the post world-war years
  • The enclosure scheme involved the Fell Pony Society securing land where a stallion could run with a herd of mares during the breeding season. 
  • The stallions were chosen at the Stallion & Colt Show each year, often by people planning to send mares to the enclosure for breeding.
  • Three consequences of the enclosure scheme could have led to a narrowing of the Fell Pony gene pool. 
  • It’s certainly likely that some narrowing of the gene pool resulted from the enclosure scheme.  However, we as modern stewards of the breed are fortunate that this adverse impact of the enclosure scheme hasn’t left us with a dangerously narrow gene pool.  We can thank past breeders for their breeding practices, whatever they were, that have ensured a healthy genetic diversity in the breed today.

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