This article originally appeared in the April 2017 edition of Fell Pony News from Willowtrail Farm.
- One of the criticisms my husband has of many modern day Fell Ponies is that they lack power in the hind end. A mountain pony, to his way of thinking, should have a sufficiently muscular hind end to enable them to carry themselves (and a rider or load) strongly up steep inclines and hold back those same loads on the way back down. Many modern day Fell Ponies, in his estimation, have hind ends inadequate to that task.
- There is an important question to answer of course. Is the strong, round, well-muscled hindquarter that I like consistent with the breed standard?
- After considering the breed standard from various perspectives, I conclude that the hind end I liked on my first Fell mare falls within the breed standard and may even have been a good representation of it.
- It turns out that light hind quarters and straighter-than-desirable hind legs like I’m seeing in my search for males isn’t just a Fell Pony problem.
- I received a phone call from a Fell Pony owner, and after asking me several other questions, they asked if sticky stifles were common in the breed.
- Stifle issues may be as much or more a management issue than a conformation one; a good colt in one person’s hands/management situation may develop stifle issues and in another person’s hands/management situation be just fine.
- It doesn’t take much reflection to realize that if work on hills is a first-line of defense against sticky stifles, then Fell Ponies who are raised on their native fells are getting the movement-on-hills work in the course of their daily life that they need to have to avoid the problem.
- Because of the presence – and perhaps prevalence - of straight hind legs and less-muscled hindquarters, we modern day Fell Pony enthusiasts have an opportunity to make a contribution to the breed. We can and must make strengthening the hind quarters of our ponies a priority – through managing them for movement and selecting better breeding stock - especially since more and more ponies are living away from the fells where their bodies evolved.
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