A Meeting with our Patron

As patron, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales visited the Society to see the ponies and meet members during our Centenary Celebrations remains a highlight of our history and will be long remembered.

On a beautiful September day 18 Dales ponies and their riders met at the Berry's Farm shop on the Swinithwaite Hall Estate in Wensleydale. Just set back from the main road
from Leyburn to Hawes in the shadows of the moors, it was the venue for a really exciting day for the riders who were representing a tiny but broad fraction of the Dales Pony Society.

Once tacked up, and all wearing smart new Centenary Rugby shirts, we were given a quick briefing of the plan for the day and then set off down the farm track heading towards the
 River Ure. A good brisk warm-up walk down towards the grassy estate was quickly followed by the chance to really let the ponies move on to help settle them down. With 18 Dales Ponies all rather “pinging” off in different directions (although all aiming in one direction!) it was a good pace up a bank where we met Kevin Owens and foot followers, who declared we must go back down the bank and do it again as it was such a great sight - the ponies and riders were only too happy to oblige and go for another canter back up the bank!!

After this we set off on the 8 mile ride, hacking through beautiful grass-land, then a short run up the carefully marshalled A684 onto the other side of the estate. With a short climb the ponies began to settle and the riders were able to enjoy the privilege of riding on estate land we would usually be unable to access.

Returning to the horseboxes the ponies were all washed down, and after a quick lunch break, were made ready for the purpose of the day. Another short briefing and a quick practise of what was required from the riders - “A dressage nod” is apparently the correct protocol - we set off, heading north-west towards the River Ure banks where we were to await the arrival of the Dales Ponies' Patron HRH The Prince of Wales.

A momentary worry occurred when we couldn't actually quite find the right point of the bank despite actually having ridden it a few days before! Perhaps the excitement of the moment got to us! We stood atop the bank looking down on the scene before being invited down to stand in formation and wait for HRH The Prince of Wales to arrive from a visit to the Wensleydale Creamery.

The ponies were beautifully behaved and it was a very proud moment as 18 of us stood together in line as His Royal Highness drove past before he went to visit the River Ure Salmon Trust Fly Fishers on the river bank itself. Meanwhile four riders moved around to the newly installed solar powered water trough, placed to prevent cows from poaching the side of the riverbank which in turn helps the bio-diversity of the river.

The ponies had a well-deserved drink, whilst His Royal Highness was introduced to the four riders and their ponies and discussed the history and heritage of the breed and what each rider did with their own pony. It was a real privilege to be able to describe the great attributes of the Dales Pony and he seemed very interested in the ponies. It was even more of a thrill when he asked to be introduced to the remainder of the riders and he took the time to speak to every single pony and every single rider. What an honour!

When HRH The Prince of Wales had finished meeting the riders and marshals, we were able to give him a great display of Dales action, trotting in formation in order to line-up to bid him farewell as he returned to his vehicle. His Royal Highness then travelled up to Berry's farm shop, where he was to be introduced to a non-riding party of the DPS members consisting of the society officials, Chairman, show secretary and council members.

Meanwhile we all made the short journey back across the grassy estate on a group of very excited ponies who seemed to be bursting with energy after behaving so brilliantly down by the riverside. I think we will all remember this special day forever. Hopefully this is just the first of many chances for members to show HRH The Prince of Wales how brilliant Dales Ponies are.

The day as described by Anna Pennell.

All photographs in this article were taken by Kevin Owens and are the copyright of Digital Works Ltd.