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A Walk On The Wild Side
A Walk On The Wild Side
Cumbria is a landscape of mountains, lakes and rivers. Hidden away in this wild scenery are Fell ponies and native breeds of sheep.
They are as special as the Dartmoor or New Forest ponies, but not as well known. This book hopes to redress the balance and tell the story of these almost wild herds of ponies in their natural landscape. It's a testament to the author and to the horses she understands so well.
250mm x 200mm paperback
'A Walk on the Wild Side' gives a fascinating insight into the lives and interactions of these semi-feral Fell ponies. A very interesting, and at times amusing read, Carole rightly highlights the importance of these ponies to the Cumbrian fells and to the future of the Fell breed itself. A book that will undoubtedly be enjoyed by all native pony enthusiasts. Ian Smith, breeder and judge, Bracklinn Fell Ponies
Fell ponies are herd animals. They require a leader and that leader is usually the dominant stallion. Dominance is determined by courage and often violence.
Carole Morland tells of a feral pony, Lunesdale Henry, which went berserk in her farmyard, running around with “ears laid back and charging (open-mouthed and roaring) at anyone he saw”, Her husband, Bert, risking life and limb, stood and faced the charging pony armed with a length of alkathene hose. Bert whacked the pony across the nose with the hose, each time he charged. He was told, “If you miss him Bert, he will kill you.” Eventually, after several whacks Henry submitted to Bert as leader, allowed a halter to be placed around his neck, and from that day on has been “a perfect gentleman”, and a happy pony.
The sense of hierarchy, of acknowledging who is the boss, extends even to allowing the leader to drink first or to be first to roll over in one of the dry or boggy areas that the ponies use.
Among the feral herds the stallion and the highest ranked mare live in marital harmony, but when the young colts are two years old, they’re sent packing and join up with other colts to roam together across the fells. After another four years, when they reach maturity, they will find mates among the fillies that have left the herd and form harems of their own. Sometimes a stallion will challenge for the leadership of an established herd.
The challenge has a ritualistic process of its own: “Each stallion tenses his muscles and with his head and tail in an erect position snorts loudly and menacingly. They each move around in a circle taking turns to deposit a small amount of excrement on the same pile. If one stallion submits, then the other deposits the final amount of excrement and the whole thing comes to a halt. If neither animal submits, the ensuing battle can be ferocious and the resulting injuries, which are usually bites on the neck, broken jaws and skinned knees, can result in death.”
Friendships form between the animals,
Some mares will take pleasure in grooming and being groomed by their friends. The mutual grooming consists of scraping each other’s skin with the teeth. It is a pleasure both ponies enjoy as their ears are always in a relaxed position. However, they will also show a sharp dislike for other mares and even avoid grazing near to them.
Stallions will often be seen playing gently with young foals.
On the farm, covering a mare is a routine, pre-arranged business. On the fells, among the wild herds, the stallion will play court to his chosen partner: “With his tail lifted, his neck arched and his nose facing inwards to the mare, he will perform a series of steps in front of the mare to finally impress her.” If she will not respond, he will repeat the process.
Fell ponies communicate with each other – they need to in order to function as a herd – through a series of whinnies, snorts, squeals, bellows, groans and murmurs.
Carole Morland is passionate about the feral and semi-feral herds of Fell ponies. Her life has been spent working with horses, but it is the wild pony found on the Cumbrian Fells that is her first love. She has a rare sensitivity to the animals, almost an instinctive feel for their complex behaviour.
This fine book with its atmospheric pictures of the ponies out on the open fells will delight every horse lover.
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