Dales Pony Society Centenary Year
2016 marked 100 years of the Dales Pony Society. The Society celebrated the year with many different events and activities organised by a Centenary Committee. This committee was chaired by Anne Alderson, with special responsibilities for finance with Freda Longstaff and the secretary was Anna Pennell.
The Centenary Committee worked very hard on the legacy for the Dales Pony Society centenary and secured project boxes to be held with the Durham Learning Authority as well as in the main DPS Office that fit with Primary National Curriculum that schools within the North-east (and further afield!) will be able to hire and teach the next generation about the Dales Pony and its history and heritage within the community.
The DPS also secured grant funding for new exhibition materials which were launched at the DPS Spring Stallion Show at the beginning of May. In addition, the funding allowed the Society to replicate the exhibition materials into poster format for permanent loaning to interested museums and schools. The world-renowned Bowes Museum hosted a small Dales Pony exhibition, titled "The Dales Pony - 100 years of Service" to showcase the last 100 years of the pony, from April to September 2016.
Joining together members of the DPS in all parts of the country and overseas, the rides started in the furthest reaches of the UK at the end of April, beginning at Lands End and in the south east of England. The rides slowly moved up the country passing through area groups until they reached Derbyshire. In Wales, the ride took place around Builth Wells, Powys. From here, all the northern England areas joined together with the aim of to covering the entire Pennine Bridleway through-out June and July. Two areas in Scotland also organised rides in the Scottish Borders in May and the Aberdeenshire in July. Not to be outdone the overseas groups have seen French members covering the distance from Calais to Barnard Castle and the USA riding long and vast distances over the months. Each area ride was commemorated with a brass plaque, which were all gathered and attached to a leather breast-collar for the final ride on Saturday 30 July which passed through Barnard Castle, the historical home of the Dales Pony. Uniting members across the UK and overseas, over 220 members and ponies took part in these rides.
On Saturday 23 April, a The Great All-Rounder Day was hosted by the Dales Pony Society Young Committee and the Council at Richmond Equestrian Centre. It was a day of demonstrations, training and a stallion parade covering all aspects of the Dales Pony from dressage to jumping to driving and ridden showing. The Council took the opportunity to hold a judge's training session in the morning.
Centenary Week - Saturday 30 July to Sunday 7 August
The Ride finished at Streatlam showground where there were refreshments for a small tea-party and reception. Our much loved President Mrs Iona Fitzgerald was waiting to meet and talk to every individual pony and rider and present them with their rosettes as a mark of their achievement. Society Chair, Mr Rodger James, led the gathered crowd and riders in making a toast to the Centenary and the President of the Society.
A Harness Parade and Working Dales Pony Demonstrations took place on Sunday 31 July. Showing off another discipline of the Dales Pony, 10 driving turn-outs provided the harness parade at the Streatlam showground before the drivers went off into the countryside roads surrounding Barnard Castle, in their own version of the President's ride.
Covering 11 miles at a sharp pace, the drivers travelled through Stainton before heading northwards towards Eggleston, then westwards and returning back to the showground. It was a beautiful sunny day and again many members of the public came out into their gardens and stood along village streets to see the group of ponies pass through which made both events really special and members of the Society were so pleased and proud to be able to show their ponies off on their “home-turf” so well.
Back on the showground the drivers were met by Society Chair, Mr Rodger James, who presented them with their commemorative rosettes. After lunch, the afternoon saw a very interesting display on the Working Dales pony. Led by Mr Charlie Parker and the Alderson family, interested spectators saw the harnessing of Dales Ponies fit for work and how they begin to train them to do both modern day work such as harrowing, ploughing and snigging (log and forestry work). A lot of members really enjoyed being able to get close up to seeing the working harness and speak to Charlie about his work with the ponies. John and Anne Alderson had brought with them two recently restored items of working harness with their gelding pulling the “coup cart” which was on sleds and was employed to move materials around the farm.
Monday 1 August Monday saw the start of 4 days of stud visits around the North of England. This allowed members to really get close to different herds or groups of Dales ponies as well as beginning to understand the history of some of the Dales pony studs in the North of England.
Monday was a busy day with over 60 members of the Society meeting at Highcroft Stud, Spennymoor, where Mr Jeff Daley, his son, Lee Daley and grandson, Lee Daley Jr, showed their broodmares and young foals. A lot of interest was particularly generated to see the Royal Supreme Champion Highcroft Ella and her colt foal, Now, aged 16, Ella enjoyed showing her paces off. Her yearling colt, Highcroft Ella's boy, was also much admired, as well as other young stock and mares. It was interesting to see the two differing bloodlines the stud has always had and to be able to compare the progeny of both.
Moving across the fields the group visited the Tudor Stud, owned by Dale and Sarah Harrison, alongside Mr Dale Harrison Snr and were able to see the 8 year old stud stallion Oakley Black Magic who the stud was hoping to see the first progeny of in 2017. With a small group of broodmares, including two of the elder states-women of the Dales ponies at 26 and 29 years of age, the visitors were very pleased to see such a lovely group of mares although the mares themselves were perhaps not quite so sure what to make of 60 strangers descending on their peaceful land!
After a lovely lunch the group moved onto Mr Dave Lovegreen's Earnwell stud near Hartlepool. Here the visitors met the two stud stallions Carrock Jack Daniels and Rosebarr Monarch running in herds with their mares and foals. It gave the visitors, some who would have never seen such a number of Dales Ponies in once place, a real chance to see a stallion in their natural environment running out with his mares.
After a busy day of stud visits, a very popular quiz evening was held on the showground in the marquee with “The Southerners” (as named by themselves!) marching out victorious although there was discussion of a steward's enquiry...
Tuesday saw the start of Cumbrian stud visits with the Griseburn Stud, near Appleby, where visitors were treated to a trailer ride around the farm to visit the ponies and the very kind stud stallion Wolsey Viking who was running out with his mares down by a stream. The group was then taken up the valley visiting various small paddocks containing groups of youngsters and other mares as well as a smart 3 year old stallion and young colts running together, before returning to the farm for a tremendous spread of home-reared sausages and chance to catch up with old and new friends alike.
Moving on to Mr and Mrs Cockbain's Carrock Stud, found just on the edge of Keswick, the visitors enjoyed a steep walk up a mountain to find the Carrock ponies and stallion on the side of a beautiful fell overlooking the town - a massive treat for the visitors and they really enjoyed seeing the ponies in such a beautiful environment.
Wednesday brought in some wet and wild weather but it did not put off the Society visitors gathering at Hill Gill Farm in Baldersdale, home of the Roandale Stud and Charlie and Gina Parker. Meeting the rare blue roan stallion Roandale Bobby the group were able to see the 8 foals born at the stud in 2016 and walk around this picturesque part of Teesdale. After lunch the group of visitors moved to David and Alison Eccles' Westwick Stud where the lovely indoor school provided great shelter with 25 mares and young stock tied around the edge with breeding notes for all. This was a good opportunity for the guests to get up close to the mares and really see the conformation and type with David, Alison, and family on hand to show the mares and foals off. It was also lovely to see the vast collection of photos and articles about the stud.
When a break in the weather allowed, Richard Harding and David fetched out two of the stud stallions - Westwick Hamish and Westwick Bobby. They got them moving around the paddock in hand before spending sometime detailing the conformation of the younger stallion.
Once the visitors had had time to warm up (and the marquee on the showground re-secured to the ground, thanks to the high winds!), a night of fun on the showground at the Country and Western night was had with the organising of a Fish and Chip supper and music from Dixon J Scott, with everybody joining in the dancing which filled the dancefloor.
A slightly quieter day for Thursday with some 40 guests travelling north to Northumberland to visit the Tarbarl Stud, meeting at the Red Lion Public house at Allendale. Cleverly arranging a small minibus to transport the guests to the broodmares, this allowed the cars to be left in town and it was lovely to meet the small band of mares and their 2016 foals before being returned to the Red Lion for lunch kindly provided by the stud and pub. After a very enjoyable lunch, Hayley Henry and Gail and Michael Stonehouse brought their young stallion, Tarbarl Guiser, to the pub doors and market place where he really showed his personality, drawing quite a crowd of other visitors to the town who came to meet this lovely young stallion.
Thursday evening saw 25 Dales Ponies and riders meet at local Hamsterley Forest for a lovely ride in this beautiful forest. With 5 riders keen to learn, national endurance specialist and DPS member Raylene-Ann Steptoe took the small group off on an “endurance taster evening”, bringing back the fit group at an average speed of 10.6km per hour and smartly covering the well-routed tracks in the forest. The more leisurely group, led by Carole and Jen Atkinson from West-Hoppyland Trekking centre, enjoyed an hour's ride in the forest before finishing with a good paddle in the stream and a fabulous BBQ provided and hosted by Kevin and Joanne Owens.
Friday saw a change in pace for the week with a joint venture with Killhope Lead Mining Museum at Allendale, Northumberland. This stunning open air museum is a real hidden gem of the North-east. The Society took 3 ponies and their handlers dressed in traditional costume, panniers and harness back to the mine where the Dales pony was once a hard working and highly valued working animal. Open to the public, but with special above ground tours for DPS members, this was an incredibly busy and successful day for the Society and museum. Members of the public really enjoyed meeting the Dales Ponies - for some their first time in such surroundings and it really hit home to the visitors just how important the Dales Pony was and still is to the north east of England and how important they were to mines, from working both down within the mine pulling out the tubs of lead ore to then carrying panniers full of lead pigs (1cwt of lead that had been processed on site) across the carriers way to local smelt mills, then on as far as the port of Newcastle. Working in teams of 6 or 8 loose-headed, these ponies were highly valued and well-kept for, each being worth the equivalent of a man's wages for the year.
The week's celebrations culminated with the DPS Summer Breed and Centenary show on Saturday 6 August. In addition to all the normal breed and ridden classes, including the HOYS qualifying class, there was a WHP ring, dressage classes, and a Traditional Shepherding Skills ring (imagine Handy Pony meets “One man and his dog”). Special classes on the day included an Over 45's ridden (traditional) as well as a Men's Only traditional ridden class and of course Fancy dress.
Many long standing supporters and friends of the Society were invited to the show and for tea in the marquee. A highlight was the cutting, by our President, of a special Centenary cake.
From 16 to 22 August, the breed stand was brought for the duration of Equifest, but the showpiece was a very special musical ride and display on the Saturday night in the evening performance by 8 Dales ponies. Designed and organised by Sarah and Kim Evans, part of the performance showed that the Dales Pony had been selected as a pack animal in the First World War, which led to a dramatic reduction of the breed back at home and gave rise to the foundation of the Dales Pony Society.
Wolsingham Show, the oldest Agricultural show, kindly ran a Dales Pony Trotting Race on Sunday 4 September. Open to registered Dales Ponies this was another unique and special event for the Society.
The DPS Young Committee hosted a weekend of visits to Sunglow and Rosebarr studs on 24 and 25 September. As well it organised the popular "Question Time", where members and friends were able to ask the panel of breeders, judges and Dales Pony people those burning questions about the breed.
What better way to mark the end of the Centenary year than the formal meal and a night of dancing to "The Lazoons" at the Morritt Arms, Greta Bridge on Saturday 10 December. This date was chosen as the very first meeting for the Society was held on Monday 12 December 1916. Not only was it a night of dancing and meal, there was a raffle, cutting of the Centenary Cake and of course just a small glass of fizz to toast the next 100 years of the Dales Pony Society.
All photographs in this page were taken by Kevin Owens and are the copyright of Digital Works Ltd.