The fell pony originated in the ‘fells’ of Northumberland, Cumberland and Cumbria. A fell is a barren landscape feature, such as a mountain or a grass-covered hill. The Norse people were thought to have arrived in Britain in about 925 AD and originate from Norway.
The Romans are said to have brought Friesians into the country, which they proceeded to cross-breed with the native Fells. This changed the appearance of the Fell Pony immensely. The Fell Pony still bears a resemblance to the Friesian.
The Vikings used the Fell Ponies to plough the fields as well as for hunting and pack work. Over the centuries, through this work, the breed came to be revered for their stamina and ability to carry heavy loads over long distances. They were ultimately considered vital in moving goods throughout the trade routes in Britain.
As Great Britain developed, the ponies were needed to transport copper and iron from the North to the smelting works in Newcastle and would return with coal. They were even used in the mines as pit ponies, hauling coal from underground back up to the surface.
The pony in its pure form started to die out due to cross-breeding and war, but in the late 1950s, pleasure riding started to gain popularity again and the breed saw a rise in popularity.
The fell pony is versatile and is used in a number of disciplines today. This breed is known for being level-headed and exceptionally talented, and sure-footed in tricky terrain.
Extracted from HQ Magazine. Horse and Pony Breeds. Issue September 2021.