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Mountain & Moorland Ponies

March 2008 Trip to the UK !!

I arrived home on March 25th from 13 days in England and Scotland. It was truly a treat!  

The trip began at the invitation of the NPS (National Pony Society) to represent NPS America, the first ever international chapter of the NPS, at their Annual General Meeting and Judges Study Day.  As chairman of NPS America, this was a great opportunity for me to network and learn more about the organization. Kelly Davidson (Dales Pony Breeder and NPS America Vice Chairman) joined me on the trip and was a fine traveling companion. For more information about NPS America, please see the website www.NPSAmerica.org

 Our trip was spectacular with far too many events, visits, adventures, and antidotes to share in full detail ..... BUT .... In a nutshell .....

 The NPS meeting was held in the city of Winchester, a very quaint and historic small town which we were able to explore for a few hours before the NPS meeting. The NPS meeting was very informative and we were very warmly welcomed. Everyone, including new NPS Chairman Sheila Brooks (Highland Pony breeder from Scotland), was very supportive of what we are doing in the States with NPS America and the opportunities we are creating for the Mountain & Moorland ponies. The following day, we attended a judge's seminar which consisted of a number of informative presentations and an afternoon roundtable with breed representatives. This was especially educational and I enjoyed the short talk given my Mr. Blackburn on the Connemara - he focused on the breed's roots in Ireland.

 We left Winchester and headed to the York area with our friends Melanie and Gemma Stafford who breed Highland ponies. They graciously opened their home to us and chauffeured us on an adventure in "Dales Country" the following day.  Gemma has an up and coming young Highland stallion, Torrin of Croilla, who is very handsome and gives new meaning to the words "a big pony" - he is simply massive (as were all the Highlands we saw)!

 Our first adventure into UK Studs took us to Dennis Urwin's Colliery Stud and then to Julie Penille's Nipna Dales Stud. Having only seen a handful of Dales Ponies prior to this visit, it was a real learning experience for me to see easily a hundred Dales ponies that day. WOW! Spectacular ponies, and seeing them in their natural habitat, running down the green hills to meet us, was an experience I will not soon forget.

 We then travelled by train (along the North Sea) to Glasgow, Scotland where we were graciously hosted by Bill Ireland and his partner Catherine, of Kilmanan Dales Stud. We had two sunny days (a rarity we were told) and visited with yet  more Dales ponies, including Bill's Olympia winning mare, Kilmanan Black Pearl and her filly by Village Defender, Bill's sadly deceased legendary stallion. It was obvious this filly is something special, even to my novice "Dales Eye". We hiked to the top of a small hill near Bill's home for a gorgeous view of Loch Lommond and the surrounding snow covered mountains, and later went for a relaxing drive round the same Loch.

 Next, we flew to Bristol and headed to a small village outside the town of Bath. We took advantage of an unplanned opportunity and attended the NPS Area 25 Easter show. This was one of the highlights of our trip - to see an NPS competition and each of the nine M&M breeds and the British Riding pony represented. I saw my first "live and in the flesh" Exmoor, Dartmoor and Shetland ponies and my first British Riding pony. It was truly a treat and worth the effort of learning to drive on the left (wrong!) side of the road, negotiate roundabouts, and shift with one's left hand!

 I was able to see the town of Bath and take a wonderful Jane Austin themed walking tour of the city (despite the freezing temperature, strong winds, and snow!) while Kelly attended a TTouch class at the renowned Tilly Farm.

 The highlight of the trip came on Easter Sunday, when we visited Jackie Webb and her husband at Mistrel's Farm to see Bunowen Castle Ri. After an early morning drive (often in the snow) to see the towns of Wells and Glastonbury (each with their own impressive cathedrals and historic sites) we arrived at Mistrel's Farm. "Ri" was every bit as impressive as we expected! We also saw Jack's Cuckoo (who Mrs. Webb is part owner of) and a young stallion out of Village Queen (a treat for me, as I am a real fan of the "village" ponies.) We saw two Ri babies and a number of youngsters recently brought over from Ireland. Mr & Mrs Webb treated us to a lovely Easter dinner at the local Pub where two ladies on horseback - one on an Exmoor pony - relaxed out front having a pint. Gotta love that life style!

 We finally headed to Chelmsford, outside London to stay with our good friend, NPS America mentor, and former NPS chairman Linda Impey. Linda showed us her own lovely Highland mares and took us to Janet Robert's Lyncrest Highland Ponies, were we saw a number of great examples of the Highland breed.

 We finished off the trip with a visit to Carol Prentices's Scottsway Connemara Stud, where Kelly and both picked Silver Fox Oisin as our favorite resident Connemara at Scottsway.

 Overall, it was an incredible trip that brought me such an appreciation for the native Mountain & Moorland ponies and I was thankful to view so many wonderful ponies in such a short time. I was impressed by everyone's willingness to share their time with us.

Photos from my trip were too numerous to put here! They will added on a separate photo page - Coming Soon!

Email Comments or Questions:  Kathryn@freeraynhill.com