Tiny tri­umph

Kent Life - - Countryside Life -

The adorable pocket-sized Shet­land pony is cel­e­brat­ing a spe­cial an­niver­sary this au­tumn

Beer, bulbs and bis­cuits; it sounds like the short­est, and least ex­cit­ing, shop­ping list ever. In fact that trio of con­sumer goods is the cel­e­brated three ‘Bs’ that gen­er­a­tions ago made the Berk­shire town of Read­ing fa­mous.

It was all thanks to the suc­cess of lo­cal firms Si­monds Brew­ery, Sut­tons Seeds and Huntley & Palmers, who to­gether gave work to thou­sands of peo­ple and helped put Read­ing well and truly on the map.

A lot has changed over the years and to­day em­ploy­ment in the area is mostly made up of jobs in of­fices, re­tail and the IT in­dus­tries.

So most peo­ple are amazed to dis­cover that this busy town in the Thames Val­ley has a strong link with live­stock and in par­tic­u­lar one of Bri­tain’s most fa­mous na­tive equine breeds.

Read­ing’s cat­tle mar­ket has been stag­ing auc­tions on its site near the rail­way sta­tion since the 1850s and it’s known through­out the horse world for its yearly Shet­land pony show and sale. Berk­shire might be more than 600 miles from Shet­land and a flight or ferry ride away, but this au­tumn marks the 50th an­nual pony event at the mar­ket in Great Knollys Street.

It’s one of the coun­try’s older Farm­ers and landown­ers are brac­ing them­selves for a sea­sonal rise in hare cours­ing, prompt­ing the CLA to urge the po­lice to make tack­ling the crime a top pri­or­ity.

Hare cours­ing is a ru­ral crime where dogs are used to chase, catch and kill hares, with gam­bling on the out­come com­mon prac­tice. The crime be­comes more preva­lent at this time of year, fol­low­ing har­vest when large ar­eas of arable land are cleared of crops, mak­ing it eas­ier to travel across fields.

The CLA is now urg­ing the po­lice to do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble auc­tion sites, although these days monthly fur­ni­ture and col­lecta­bles fairs have re­placed the tra­di­tional weekly cat­tle, pig and sheep mar­kets.

Yet ev­ery­one agrees that the Shet­land show and sale re­stores to stop the sin­is­ter tac­tics, threats and in­tim­i­da­tion used by hare cours­ers and ar­rest those caught in the act.

It is a mis­con­cep­tion for peo­ple to think this is a mi­nor crime in the coun­try­side. Those in­volved in hare cours­ing are hard­ened crim­i­nals, of­ten us­ing threats, in­tim­i­da­tion and in some cases vi­o­lence against any­one who ques­tions or chal­lenges their ac­tions.

They don’t think twice about tres­pass­ing on land, dam­ag­ing crops and prop­erty and give no con­sid­er­a­tion to an­i­mal wel­fare.

Many who work or live in ru­ral some of the old buzz and bus­tle to the place. In re­cent years the auc­tion alone has seen more than 100 ponies en­ter the sale ring with breed­ers and buy­ers com­ing from all over the UK as well as Ger­many, Aus­tria, Bel­gium and Hol­land.

I’m not sur­prised at its pop­u­lar­ity when you think of the appeal of the minia­ture but mighty Shet­land.

Friendly, gen­tle and in­tel­li­gent, Shet­land ponies have a her­itage that goes back to the Bronze Age.

They’re renowned for be­ing tiny but tough, and de­spite their size they were first used as farm horses, car­ry­ing peat and plough­ing the fields in their na­tive Shet­land Is­lands.

Their fame spread and dur­ing the In­dus­trial Revo­lu­tion they were brought to the main­land for use as pit ponies in the coal mines.

But it’s as rid­ing ponies for chil­dren that these adorable an­i­mals have found a mod­ern use. In fact it was a Shet­land that started the Queen’s life­long pas­sion for all things equine.

When she was just four-year­sold, the lit­tle Princess Eliz­a­beth was given a Shet­land called Peggy by her grand­fa­ther, King Ge­orge V.

Which just goes to prove that these pocket-sized ponies may be small in size, but they have a very big fol­low­ing in­deed. ar­eas feel vul­ner­a­ble to crime and iso­lated; the crim­i­nals who roam the coun­try­side hare cours­ing only add to this feel­ing of un­ease. The CLA’s ac­tion plan to tackle the crime in­cludes:

The in­tro­duc­tion of spe­cific cours­ing sen­tenc­ing guide­lines

En­hanced re­sources for the Na­tional Wildlife Crime Unit

Po­lice to be able to re­claim ken­nelling costs of the dogs in­volved from of­fend­ers

Ad­di­tional train­ing for po­lice 101 call han­dlers so they bet­ter un­der­stand the crime.

The CLA rec­om­mends that sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity is re­ported to the po­lice on 101, but not to be ret­i­cent about call­ing 999 if they sus­pect a crime is ac­tu­ally tak­ing place.

Adam Hen­son

ABOVE:A Shet­land pony foal in the New For­est

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