|The Dales Pony - Horse breeds, horse breeding and types of horse.|
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The Dales Pony is a native of the upper dales of the eastern slopes of the Pennine range, from the High Peak in Derbyshire to the Cheviot Hills near the Scottish Border, where a lead mining industry flourished from Roman times, until the mid-nineteenth century. The favoured breeding grounds have always been the upper dales of the rivers Tyne, Wear, Allen, Tees and Swale.
During the late seventeenth century, the Scotch Galloway was considered to be the best pony for the fast pack work and replacements were bred near the lead mines. Suitable native mares ran with the breeding herds and it is recorded that farmers also liked to run a few Scotch mares with the native herds on the fell. The largest, strongest and most active ponies were chosen for pack work and were well fed to ensure fitness and speed. So it was that the black galloways of the mixed herds eventually superseded the Scotch Galloway, and become the Dales Pony.
A pair could step out in the plough or reaper binder; and having a fast trot, could take the farmer to market in style and also give him a days hunting, being willing and clever jumpers. Thus, when the railways appeared, and the pack trains declined, the Dales Pony found a niche on the farms of the dales. As the mines were enlarged, and drifts used, many ponies were also taken for work in the coal and lead mines of the North-East.
In the late eighteenth century there was a great improvement in roads, which brought a demand for faster animals to horse the Mail and Stagecoaches. At this time, the fastest and stoutest roadsters were the Norfolk Cobs, the most notable family being the Shales. The foundation sire was Shales the Original, foaled in 1755, sired by Blaze, son of the thoroughbred Flying Childers, by the Darley Arabian. This stallion was also the foundation sire of most of the worlds finest trotting breeds, and at least one line back to him can be found in the pedigrees of most registered Dales Ponies alive today.
Early in this century there was a tremendous demand for active "vanners" for the town work and "gunners" for the army. At this time many fine Clydesdale stallions were travelling the districts, and using these on Dales mares to breed vanners gave the farmer a good return, but was a threat to the pure breed The Dales Pony Improvement Society was formed in 1916, and the Dales Pony Stud Book opened, which ensured the preservation of the ponies. The Board of Agriculture offered stallion premiums after an inspection of the breed by Captain A. Campbell, who reported in a subsequent letter "Your breed has one superb asset, possessed of every specimen I saw, i.e. the most perfect foot in the British Isles". The War Office also awarded premiums and in 1923 and 1924, the army took 200 Dales Ponies. the Army buyer, General Bate, would not look at anything which showed the slightest sign of carthorse blood, every pony was over 14 hands, but under 14.2 hands; not under 5 years, weighing half a ton, with a 68" girth, and able to carry 21 stones on a mountain. Dales Ponies served overseas in both world wars.
In 1964, the Dales Pony Society was re-organised, and "improvement" was dropped from the title. Ponies were sought and registered, and a grading-up register was introduced for inspected ponies. This far-sighted action has been successful. When the grading-up register was closed in 1971, the number of registered ponies had risen steadily, and the quality of ponies was excellent, as it remains today.
GENERAL: A strong, active pony, full of quality and spirit.
HEAD: Neat and pony-like. Broad between the eyes, which should be bright and alert. Pony ears slightly incurving. Long foretop of straight hair down the face.
NECK: Strong and of ample length. Stallions should display a bold outlook with a well-arched crest. Throat and jaws clean-cut. Long flowing mane.
SHOULDERS: Well-laid, long sloping shoulders with well-developed muscles. Withers not too fine.
BODY: Short-coupled and deep through the chest, with well-sprung ribs.
HINDQUARTERS: Hindquarters deep, lengthy and powerful. Second thighs well-developed and very muscular. Tail well set on, not high, with plenty of long, straight hair reaching the ground.
HOCKS: Broad, flat and clean. Well let down with plenty of dense flat bone below.
FOREARMS: Set square. Short and very muscular, with broad, well-developed heels.
FEET, LEGS JOINTS: The very best of feet and legs, with joints, showing quality with no coarseness. The cannons should display 8" - 9½" of flat flinty bone and well defined tendons. Pasterns should be nicely sloping and of good length. Ample silky feather on the heels. Large, round feet, open at the heels, with well developed frogs.