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fell pony History in north america

The 1990’s saw the introduction of two North American prefixes, which created the true beginnings of the Fell Pony breed here on the continent. Newfarm/Mary & Lyle Nygaard, FL, began importing ponies from the UK in 1988, in time producing 6 registered foals, with their last in 1999. Most notably, it was their breeding stallion Waverhead Robbie, whom they imported in 1994, which created the foundation for the breed in ways they could never imagine. This stallion eventually went on to sire 41 progeny, including several licensed stallions, whom themselves went on to provide the beginnings for other farms, such as Newfarm Midsummers Night (foaled 1996, siring 12 progeny), Broughhill Hadrian’s Wall (foaled 1999, siring 22 progeny), and Laurelhighland Union Jack (foaled 2009, siring 17 progeny).

Midnightvalley/Carolyn Sharp Handeland, CO, began her farm nearly the same time, with the importation of two mares and the grey breeding stallion Orton Hall Danny in 1991. She went on to produce 7 registered foals, with the last in 1998. Danny, while siring only 10 foals in his breeding career, became well known at expos across the country with his eventual owner, Patricia Burge, which helped get the breed much exposure in the early years.

Meanwhile, Hilary Harris, breeding under the Raisburn prefix in Cumbria, England, emigrated to Ontario, CAN, bringing along two mares whom were each in foal to UK stallion, Heltondale Rover IV. Both mares foaled, producing two fillies (1993). The mare Heltondale Sparkler IV, was eventually transferred to Broughhill/Victoria Tollman, FL (and later NC) producing 4 foals under that prefix beginning in 2000.

From these humble beginnings, a second wave of growth in North America began as these domestic bred foals, and imported ponies, were purchased by newly prefixed breeders.  Midnightvalley foals were purchased by the newest farm to assemble their breeding stock, Mustahevonen/Wendy & Larry Ihlang, WA, in 1996 & 1997, and Turkeytrot/Jenifer Morrissey, CO (and later SD) in 2000, with the two breeding mares used by Midnightvalley becoming foundation mares for both Turkeytrot (prefixed in 2001) and Stonecreek/Shannon Albert & Karen Sorenson, TX, (prefixed in 2002).  Newfarm youngstock were selected by breeders such as Broughhill, occurring in 1997 & 1998, and LaurelHighland & Mustahevonen in 1998.  The majority of imported breeding ponies at Newfarm were purchased by Laurelhighland/Drs. Edward T. & Mary Jean Gould-Earley in 1999.

The years between 1999 and 2002 saw nearly ten prefixed breeders begin, only two of which are still producing today.  Notable farms during that period were Broughhill, producing 7 foals from 1999-2007; Mustahevonen, producing 8 foals from 2000-2004; Deerstones/Joan O’Brien, Ontario, producing 7 foals from 2000-2009; Turkeytrot, with their first foal in 2002, going on to produce under the prefix Willowtrail and still active today with 28 foals thus far; Majestic(USA), Dan Shanahan, OH, with 10 foals from 2002-2007; and Stonecreek which produced 57 foals from 2002-2014.  Laurelhighland Farm, which is still in existence today, began with their first foal in 2000 and have had an astounding 157 foals to date!

The growth during this influential period was made possible not only by the foals being produced here, but also due to the continued importation of breeding stock by those breeders who were dedicated to the genetic well-being of this new breed to the continent.  The combined efforts of breeders Laurelhighland, Stonecreek, Deerstones and Mustahevonen brought over a record number of imports, nearing 30 ponies between the farms!  This, along with the 54 North American foals that had been registered thus far, allowed the breed to finally exceed a population of over 100 Fell Ponies, with a rise from 86 to 125 from just 2002-2003.

The ability to network with other Fell Pony owners and breeders across the country, and around the world, helped to accelerate growth of the breed here on the continent as well. Before social media existed, international chat groups were formed with providers such as Yahoo, which brought enthusiasts and owners together. The Fell Pony Society of North America, (FPSNA), which incorporated & filed for non-profit status in 2002, has been a Fell Pony Society (FPS) approved Overseas Branch since the FPS began recognizing international affiliate groups in 2004.

With interest in the breed on the rise and existing breeders exhibiting their ponies at events across the country, from prestigious events like the Walnut Hill Carriage Competition to Equine Affaires; a third wave of nearly 15 prefixed breeders sprung up from 2003-2006. Of these, 5 are still producing today, namely Braeberry/Cheryl Dutton, OR, (34 foals); DreamHayven (and Cumberland)/Melissa R Kreuzer, WI then later TN, (54 foals); Moonlit/Elise Miller, WA, (17 foals); Royalcrest/John Rutledge, CO, (10 foals) and Kimberlake/Kimber Bishop, MO, (30 foals). Only two other breeders began during this period and produced more than 5 foals, Garrighyll/Dr. Alison Emslie-Smith, MN, with their last of 22 foals in 2009, and FellConnection/Bob DeBoer, MI, with the last of 8 foals in 2013. All of these breeders, with one exception, also began their farms with a personal selection of imported breeding stock, which again contributed to a huge increase in the Fell Pony population by the end of 2006, now at 278 ponies, over double the 2003 number!

The end of the decade saw the first foals from two more breeders, Scafellpike/Heather S. Kyle, KY, in 2008 (9 foals), and Felllegend/Rene Bender, CA, with their first foal of 24 to date in 2009. Since then, it is interesting to note that although there have been over 25 new prefixed breeders to the scene since 2010 in North America, only a quarter of those breeding farms have produced more than 5 registered foals. It took essentially a decade, from 2007-2017, to double the population once again, surpassing 600 ponies. Today’s number nears 800 ponies, current through 2020 studbook data. Altogether, the Fell Pony here is now comprised of nearly 80 percent domestically bred ponies, with imports around 20 percent.

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