breeding and importing

What's It Going to Take?
"Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you got 'til it's gone'" Joni Mitchell

The choice to breed a native heritage breed should encircle a good understanding of pertinent stewardship.  In contrast to breeding a non-native breed, there are a number of significant considerations that must be understood and thought through in detail.  There is a preservation component with these breeds that requires attention, research, and education in genetics/epigenetics, bloodlines, type, history, and purpose.  The essence of any heritage breed exists in its history of forming uniqueness that is directly connected to location, environment and purpose. The decision to be involved in breeding these breeds should go beyond buying a flashy pony or following fancy.  Both breeds are working breeds.  Care and strategy towards maintaining the qualities of working hill bred ponies should be priority.

My Journey

My personal journey with these breeds started with the purchase of a weanling foal to add to our family as a pleasure pony.  I was so impressed with his temperament, cognition, curiosity and motivation.  His breeder, Cheryl Dutton of Braeberry Farm, screened me as a good candidate to raise him because I was training a lot for technical trail disciplines such as extreme trail, mt. trail, and trail trials.  She knew her ponies would do well learning and competing in these types of disciplines.  As a thoughtful breeder committed to proper promotion, Cheryl understood the need to make sure her ponies were placed in homes that brought potential for promoting the breed.  In rather short order, Cheryl entrusted a few of her 2yr. olds with me for ground-work, in-hand obstacle and trail exposure training.  This then led to training and managing her stallion, older ponies, managing some breedings and foaling, and working with her in promotional events.  Through Cheryl I was provided opportunity to work and learn about several bloodlines, making notes about type, structure and temperament.  It also provided opportunity to connect with other breeders on the west coast, training and interacting with their ponies to gain more knowledge.  Having a start with an established breeder like Cheryl has greatly contributed to my passion and success in forming my own program.

The Details to Consider

Both Fell and Dales ponies are connected and still rooted in traditions established by our 'mother' breeders in the UK.  What has been given to us comes from generations of thoughtful practice, purposeful attention, and choices to help perpetuate a type with substance and meaning.  Any thoughtful breeder should take the time to research these traditions and history, to help them make informed decisions with their individual breeding choices.  Any quality breeder should commit to the guide and direction provided by the Fell Pony Society and/or the Dales Pony Society which both hold and maintain the official stud books for each breed.  Both societies provide a detailed description standard for their breed.  Becoming a member of either society provides access to the stud book databases which is vital for accessing pedigrees and researching bloodlines.
First Hand Experiences
Having one or two personal ponies may not provide enough experience when it comes to making breeding choices and decisions.  It can be challenging, but looking for as many opportunities to work with and meet ponies from different farms is very helpful.  Many North American breeders have traveled to the UK to meet ponies, visit stud farms, and attend breed shows.  Build your herd thoughtfully.  Spend time getting to know your prospects personally and by looking at their relations before deciding to breed them.
Connect With Other Breeders
In addition to our UK foundations, North America has a history and formation of its own.  As I had mentioned above, my journey involved mentorship and working with an older/established breeder as well as connections with other breeders early on.  Many of the North American breeders connect and communicate with each other, networking, supporting and promoting each other.  The success of keeping these breeds true and thriving is directly reliant to the breeders supporting each other rather than competing with each other.
Many North American breeders, promoters, trainers and individual owners connect and support each other through public social media groups, The Fell Pony Connection, The Fell Pony Society of North America, The Dales Pony Conservancy of North America.
As stated earlier, maintaining 'the heritage' and genetic diversity should be a main goal for any breeder.  Many ponies are line bred with some having very tight lines.  We don't necessarily want to eliminate these ponies from the gene pool if they show promise in type and attributes.  But there should be considerable thought and planning into out-crossing in order to maintain diversity.  Importing new stock may be necessary to achieve diversification as well as keep our herds true to type.  Such was the case for me with finding a Dales stallion for my mares.  A personal research project into the breeding gene pool in North America led me to find bloodlines that were not commonly represented here.  I also wanted type that comes from a breeder who was maintaining environment and purpose within his program.  Some might think that importing a show or title winner would be ideal, a sure thing.  Show ponies may reflect the source of their heritage, but may also be deviations from that source as well.
As mentioned above, the North American communities are more about community than most.  Should you feel the need or have interest in importing, I suggest you seek out individuals who have experience with the breed, breeding and importing.  Consultations in breeding, raising, and importing Fell and Dales ponies can be provided by Kimberly Dunn of Fiddlehead Pony Farm.

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