Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Black and white

The ponies....not the photos !

A very interesting fact about the Eriskay ponies is that they are born black, but hardly any of them stay black - they nearly all go white or grey and occasionally bay.

Black Eriskay pony yearling

In the small herd that I saw on Eriskay all the adults were white or grey and the 3 young ones were black or very dark grey.

Black Eriskay pony yearling

This mare is so white she is really glowing in the sun, but her baby is really dark black. 

Mum and baby

These photos were taken in March and you can see how lovely and thick their coats are - their coats are really dense and waterproof and they are able to live out on the hills all winter in the harshest of the Scottish weather - which I can tell you is sometimes really bad, especially on the West coast !  It can get very cold, wet and windy, and very often snows.  They have quite generous tails and manes to keep out the weather.

Even though they are quite small ( 12hh - 13.2hh ) they are very strong and can easily carry a small adult ( which is good because I would like to get one some when ! )

Just on a bit of a side note -
I find it very interesting to see that even without much interference from humans these feral horses do really well - some people may look at them and think "poor ponies out on the hills with no lovely lush grass, no buckets of feed, no cosy stable or rugs and no shoes on for the rocky ground" but I look at them and see very well adjusted and happy ponies - none of them are too fat, none of them are too thin and their hooves are in excellent condition.  They don't seem to suffer from so many of the common ailments of our pampered and fussed over horses and ponies.  This sort of terrain and rough pasture suits them much more than our conditioned ideas of what is good for them.  Maybe we should more often consider what is natural to the horse and try our best to imitate this in the way we keep our equine friends at home.

Rocky rough terrain

Thanks for reading, and hope you will read the next post. 


Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Eric the Eriskay pony

I have been finding out more about how a pony called Eric saved the breed of Island ponies that we now call Eriskay ponies.  Here is his story :

At the start of the 1970's there were only about 20 pure Eriskay ponies left on the Islands. 

Eriskay ponies on Eriskay

Then in 1971 a small group of people on Eriskay, including a local priest, a doctor, a vet, a scientist and some crofters, got together and decided to save the Island ponies, because they realised what a special breed they are.  They realised that the number of Island ponies left was dangerously low, and that the breed was actually facing extinction.  As far as they knew there wasn't even a stallion left to continue the breed.

In 1972 they formed the 'Comann Each nan Eilean' – the 'Eriskay Pony Society' (CEnE), to ‘preserve and develop’ the breed.  

Eriskay pony studbook society ( CEnE )

Because they couldn't find a pure stallion they considered finding ‘lookalike’ stallions to serve the Eriskay mares, as they thought that was their only option.  These stallions would be found from the Highland ponies and the local Island of Rhum ponies.

Then, in 1973, a pure Eriskay stallion was discovered in the neighbouring island of South Uist - his name was Eric.  As the only stallion around for quite a while, Eric must have had a great time after that !

Eric took his work very seriously and sired six pure females and five pure males. 

The lovely breed of Eriskay pony was saved from extinction, but they are still on the rare breeds endangered watchlist as category 1 -  'critical'.  Critically endangered means there are under 300 registered, adult, breeding females in the world.   Other British horse breeds in category 1 are the Cleveland Bay, Suffolk, and Hackney horse & pony  Although I'm not sure if these would be classed as a British native pony, they are still breeds that have been in Britain for a long time and it would be sad to see these disappear.

My photographs are of the small feral herd on the Island of Eriskay, but most of the Eriskay ponies are now domesticated.

Feral Eriskay pony

I prefer him in black and white -

Black and white Eriskay pony

More information about the ponies can be found on these sites: 

But I will be writing more about them and posting more photos  if you would like to follow my blog.

Also if you like any of the photos they can be purchased here:


Thursday, 9 August 2012

Eriskay ponies save the whisky !

“Without the people of Eriskay there would be no pony
but without the pony there would have been no people on Eriskay”
Quote by Fr Calum MacLellan, a native of Eriskay.

 Eriskay pony

I love the fact that the Eriskay pony is one of the few breeds that hasn't changed for thousands of years.  The breed known as the Scottish Highland pony is descended from the Eriskay type, but has had other breeds introduced which makes it larger.  It has been suggested that many types of other breed have been bred with, and influenced the Highland pony, including Arab, Percheron, Clydesdale, Dales and Fell, but the Erisky pony remains pure.  The reason for this is because of the Islands remote location.  The Outer Hebrides - Uist, Eriskay, Barra, and the other small Islands were very cut off from the mainland until recently.  In the olden days people living on the Islands would of had to row or sail to get to the Islands !

When we visited the Islands we went over a bridge from the mainland to get to Skye, then a ferry to get to North Uist - North Uist is connected to South Uist by a bridge, then we crossed another bridge ( only built very recently ) to get to Eriskay.  To get to Barra is another ferry.  

The bridge between South Uist and Eriskay

There were once many of these ponies throughout Scotland - particularly in the crofting areas, where they helped people with many jobs like carrying peat, working the land, transporting kids to school.  They are very good all-rounders.

There is an interesting story of one very good use the Islanders found for the pony.  In 1941 the cargo ship the  SS Politician foundered off the Eriskay coast, and the islanders, using the Eriskay ponies, carried away the cargo of 250,000 bottles of whisky !

Unfortunately, because of the invention of cars and tractors, and other modern 'conveniences' the pony started to decline in numbers.  In 1971 it was realised that there were hardly any left, and no one knew of any stallions, so the breed was faced with extinction.

Read the next blog to find out how an exciting discovery of a horse named Eric saved the day :-)

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

My first blog !

Hi, I'm Mitch ( female in case you wondered )  I sell prints and take photos of pets and horses and their people.

my website

At last I have got round to writing the first post in my new blog !  I have had plans to do it for a long time, but have been so busy.

Please bear with me as I get used to writing - it seems a bit weird at the moment as there are no followers yet, so it seems like I am talking to myself :-)

Any way this is my plan -

I am going to travel the length and breadth of Britain to photograph all the British native ponies in their native environment.  I don't want photos of them in owner's fields, paddocks, etc - they have to be where they are supposed to be - so I will have to travel as far North as the Shetland Isles to see the Shetland ponies, and as far South as Dartmoor and Exmoor in Devon to photograph the ponies there.

I am also going to research the history and background of each of the pony breeds, as well as their different characters.  Many of the British native breeds are declining, in the wild and domestically - some are even on the rare and endangered breeds list, which is very sad.   I want to make people aware of this and show why we should look after the ponies and not let them disappear - they are a part of our heritage.

Here is a chart showing which horse and ponies are on the equine watch list provided by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust

Sadly there are some British ponies that have already become extinct:  the Cushendale, Goonhilly, Tiree and Longmynd pony.  I hope this never happens to any of the others.  Sadly, I have never even heard of these.

I have already been to the Outer Hebrides and the Island Eriskay to photograph the wonderful, friendly and inquisitive Eriskay ponies

Eriskay pony

And the Carneddau area of Snowdonia National park in North Wales to photograph the beautiful, wild, and rugged Welsh Mountain ponies

Welsh Carneddau pony

But I still have the rest to see and I can't wait to meet them all.

If you are interested in native ponies then please follow my blog to see more photos and interesting facts about the native ponies of Britain - I will be starting with the Eriskay ponies that I visited in March and got some lovely photos of.

Also many of the photos are for sale in my Etsy shop