Eriskay Pony - Ponies & Breeds
Eriskay Pony Article and Photos Copyrighted - see credits below
In previous centuries the Eriskay pony was quite numerous, but due to cross breeding is now one of the breeds listed on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust list. With changing times, breeding was at first directed at producing larger, heavier ponies for field work. Heavy horses from the mainland were used to produce a cross, while a variety of horses including the Norwegian Fjord were used to produce the present day Highland pony from smaller island ponies.
Related to other northern breeds such as those on the Faeroes and Iceland, the ponies of the Hebrides , one of the last pure surviving native ponies of the Western Isles of Scotland, may have been as much the prototype of these other ponies as the other way around and their origins go back to the time of the Celts and Norsemen.
Eriskay is the most southern island of the Outer Hebrides and is about 2 miles long by 1 miles wide and Eriskay is the last place where people continue to breed what was once the unique and original Scottish horse. It is due totally to the efforts of the people who live on Eriskay that the pony survived at all until a protective society was formed for that purpose.
At the point of extinction in 1972 an association was formed to try to save the ponies, which included the efforts of the local parish priest whose parish included Eriskay, as well as the local physician, four vets , the principal of the Veterinary School in Glasgow, and the official Department of Agriculture veterinarian for the area. One stallion and roughly twenty broodmares were all that could be found to build on for the future.
The most common color of the Eriskay pony is a variable grey, never chestnut, piebad, skewbald, or with white marks on the head or feet. The average height is12.2 hands. The conformation in general is very similar to that of the exmoor except that the Eriskay is shorter in the back. It is noted for its grand temperament and suitability as a child's mount and also for it usefulness on small agricultural holdings such as the Highland crofts.
The Eriskay pony is extremely capable and willing to work and makes a good riding animal, with the noted feature of moving more like a horse than and pony. Foals are born dark in color and turn grey in degrees as they mature. In winter they have a dense coat that is notable waterproof, and the forelock, mane and tail are substantial deriving from survival in a fierce, hostile climate.
The action of the Eriskay pony is exceedingly comfortable, again making them highly regarded as mounts for children. Their temperament is very good and they are easy to train. In modern times they have had spectacular success in driving competitions, but they are also ridden with success. It is the mandate of the Society that all Eriskay ponies will be left in a natural state and untrimmed when shown, including whiskers, legs, jaw, ears, manes and only very minimal trimming of the tail.
Photo Credits: Top photo is of Callernish Milly in competition. The two photos above are of the stallion Braincroft Samson and then Thrift and Sundew in the snow are courtesy of The Eriskay Pony Society.
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