Pony fells the opposition in breed’s heartland

Fell pony breader Alan Anderson with champion Towford Harmarnie
Fell pony breader Alan Anderson with champion Towford Harmarnie

A FELL pony from the Cheviot hills went over to the breed’s heartland in Penrith at the weekend and won a show’s top ticket, writes Sally Gillespie.

Breeder Alan Anderson of Towford Farm, near Hownam, scooped the overall Fell pony championship at the Cumbria Fell and Dales Pony Show with his homebred mare Towford Harmarnie on Saturday.

He said: “To win in the heartland of Fell pony country is quite a big thing.

“Judges like Harmarnie because she’s true to type, she’s got good hair and good feathers, and she’s a good mover.”

Mr Anderson only started breeding Fell ponies, which are native to Cumbria, with his partner Moira Hall on the 900-acre upland farm in 2006. And he only became involved with horses about 20 years ago when he took up horse riding to fox hunt as a 17-year-old.

The pair have six mares and four-year-old Harmarnie is one of the foals of their founder mare, Marlingdyke Meadowsweet (Sweetie).

Mr Anderson said: “I always liked Fells and knew the breed before we went into them. I got the chance to buy this mare (Harmarnie’s dam), so I just went for it and it’s grown from there.

“They are a very good all round family pony. The Duke of Edinburgh used to drive Fell ponies until recently and there was a very good picture of the Queen in a magazine riding a Fell pony. They’ve got tremendous character and they are so hardy – the winter is not too smart up here, but they are able to look after themselves.”

The family run 200 Aberdeen Angus cross suckler cows and 100 New Zealand Romneys alongside their Fells.

“We are aiming to breed good quality foals and be able to sell them for a good price and have them go on to make good family ponies,” said Mr Anderson.

“They have just a fantastic temperament, they are so quiet and easy to work with. Whatever you want them to do they pick it up pretty sharp (he has taught Harmarnie to drag logs – clearing wind-blown trees on the farm) and they are always willing to help.

“They have a saying with Fells – ‘You can never put them to the wrong job’.”

Harmarnie’s previous top win was taking the reserve championship at Hexham Native Horse and Pony Show last year. Her next foray will be to the Highland Show next week. For more information visit www.towfordfellponies.co.uk.

Mr Anderson is also the south-east of Scotland representative on the Scottish Fell Pony area support group and their Facebook page is www.facebook.com/pages/FPS-Scottish-Area-Group/215009038509149.