Although Eriskay Ponies are steadily increasing in number, so many ponies are geographically far flung or busy breeding in the Summer that it is difficult for anybody interested in the breed to see enough ponies together to develop an eye for what makes a good example of the breed. In an attempt to remedy this, the Eriskay Pony Society is to host a Judge Training session at its annual Breed Show to be held on 20th May this year.
The Show, which includes Showing, Youngstock, Dressage, Performance,Jumping, Young Handlers and Games classes this year, will be held at Tullibole Fish Farm, Crook of Devon, by kind permission of Mr & Mrs Murray Wallace.
The Eriskay is the last remnant of the original Western Isles type of pony, and has ancient, possibly Norse origins. It evolved to cope with the harsh climate of the Islands and was in the last few centuries specifically bred for its temperament and human friendly attitude.
Originally the Western Isles type was widespread throughout the islands and north west of Scotland, but with crossbreeding to produce bigger animals, some of the ancient characteristics died out. On Eriskay, however, the difficulty of getting ponies on and off the island, and the lack of vegetation to support bigger animals, meant that no other blood was introduced and the ponies remained pure. DNA testing by the University of Leicester has proved that the ponies are distinct from other breeds and of ancient origin, similar to, but different from, the Exmoor.
For our Judge training session we invite anyone interested in the ponies to come along and learn what to look for in an Eriskay. We will have a number of different pure and crossbred ponies on show for comparison and will point out what an Eriskay really is. We are very conscious as a Society that we must not breed for particular characteristics to the detriment of others as we want to keep the ponies in their original form. By educating judges and breeders alike, we are sure we will continue to produce ponies which are versatile, hardy and true to the Breed Standard.
We are very grateful to the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, who list us as a Category 1 Critical breed for their ongoing support. They are currently assisting us in setting up DNA profiles of our breeding stock so that we can assist breeders to choose the genetically best suited stallions for their mares. We are currently setting up a stallion guide and have leased the handsome young stallion Auchenbrook Ptarmigan who stands at Aberdeen Farm Park for members to use on their mares. His bloodline was rare in Scotland. He had spent most of his early life in England so we felt that Ptarmigan could spend make a useful contribution up here.
With an increasing number of opportunities for us to show the ponies now, including special Eriskay Classes at the NPS Spring and Summer Shows, the Royal Highland Show and our inclusion in BSPS Heritage Mountain and Moorland Classes, we want people to know what they are looking at and whether it is a good example of the breed. We hope this seminar will assist in the education process.
The Eriskay Pony Society Breed Show will be held at Crook of Devon from 10.00am on 20th May. Anyone interested in the breed will be made most welcome and refreshments will be available. To book a place at the Judge Training session which commences at 12.00pm, contact: Celia Harper Gow, Tel: 01577 850203 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.