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´╗┐Title: The Welsh Pony - Described in two letters to a friend
Author: Dargan, Olive Tilford, 1869-1968
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: The Welsh Pony]


  Brecon, Wales]





Copyright, 1913, by Charles A. Stone




  HERD OF WELSH MOUNTAIN PONIES GRAZING                    Frontispiece
  MY LORD PEMBROKE                                                  xii
  A MORNING RIDE                                                    xiv
  IMPORTED WELSH STALLION RAINBOW                                     4
  SEARCHLIGHT--PONY MARE                                              6
  THE FAMOUS WELSH STALLION GREYLIGHT                                 8
  A FULL BROTHER OF DAYLIGHT                                         10
  MY LORD PEMBROKE WHEN THREE YEARS OLD                              14
  LONGMYND ECLIPSE ON A RAINY DAY                                    16
  A WELSH COB                                                        18
  MARE AND FOAL                                                      20
  LONGMYND                                                           22
  LONGMYND COMMONS                                                   24
  IMPORTED WELSH STALLION MY LORD PEMBROKE                           26
  LONGMYND ECLIPSE AND GROVE RAINBOW                                 28
  LONGMYND CASTOR                                                    32
  LONGMYND ECLIPSE AND MY LORD PEMBROKE                              34
  BRECON                                                             36
  THE BEACONS                                                        38
  LONGMYND POLLOX                                                    40
  FOREST LODGE PASTURES                                              42
  MY LORD PEMBROKE                                                   44
  KNIGHTON SENSATION                                                 48
  MY LORD PEMBROKE IN HARNESS                                        50


While living in Devon about a year ago, I first became acquainted with
the Welsh pony and found great pleasure in riding and driving with my
children through the charming lanes and by-ways of Southwestern England.

I was so fortunate as to have at that time an attractive little gray
mare which was loaned to me by a friend who was spending the winter in
France. This little mare, partly Welsh, was so cheerful and friendly,
and seemed so much to enjoy our excursions into the country, that I
felt sorry to leave her behind when I left Devon.

The following spring, at the London Horse Show, I saw some splendid
specimens of thoroughbred Welsh mountain ponies ridden by children, and
my wife and I were so attracted by them that we determined to get four
or five and bring them to America. Later during the same season, at
the Royal Agricultural Show, which is the best fair of its kind in
the world, I saw many splendid ponies of the Welsh breed, and had an
opportunity to find out more particularly about them.

A trip to Wales was then planned with a view of visiting the ponies on
their native hills and arranging with some owners and breeders to help
me select a small herd for shipment to Boston. On this trip I found the
Welsh country so charming and the ponies so attractive and so different
from any ponies I had known before, that I spent altogether several
weeks in Wales and the border counties selecting a herd which finally
amounted to about twenty-five of the best of the true mountain type
that I could obtain.

[Illustration: MY LORD PEMBROKE
  Welsh Mountain Pony Stallion. Winner of First Prize at Brockton Fair,
  1912, for best pony thirteen hands or under shown under saddle]

I have been pondering ever since, not only how I might improve and add
to my own somewhat superficial knowledge of the remarkable qualities of
the Welsh pony, but also how I might bring him to the favorable notice
of my countrymen. In this endeavor I was fortunately able to enlist the
interest of my cousin, Miss Whitney, whose friend, Mrs. Olive Tilford
Dargan, was at that time journeying through England and Wales. Miss
Whitney saw the opportunity that lay before me provided Mrs. Dargan
could be won to a study of the pony problem, and promised to set
herself at once to the attainment of this object--although she did say
that such a call upon her friend was about as nearly related to that
lady's real vocation as a yokel's whistle to Pan's pipes. I think,
however, that the author of the following letters has shown a true idea
of the dignity inherent in the mission to which she was summoned, and
has indeed written up to it; responding to the request of her friend
with a whole-souled heartiness which makes me her grateful beneficiary.

C. A. S.

December, 1912.

[Illustration: A MORNING RIDE]



                                      _London, England, July 15, 1911._

Dear A----:

Some months ago you asked me to tell you all that I knew or could
discover about the Welsh pony. I will tell you if you will stand the
listening. For since you bade me I have taken the subject to heart and
can talk on it from dawn to dusk. We have travelled--pony and I--from
Arabia to the Lybian sands and from Scandanavia to the midland seas;
and on my recent journey through Wales--that land, as you know, of old
adventure and anguish of endless battle--I kept but half an eye in
pursuit of the vanishing skirts of Romance; the other eye and a half
swept along the vista in search of the mountain lady who trips so
handsomely on her four feet that Sir Phenacodus Primaevus, could he
behold her from his fossil retreat, would acknowledge his success as an
ancestor, whatever may have been his discouragements in prehistoric

At first, aware of my weakness for the equine, I was afraid that I had
succumbed to my charmer with regrettable haste, but association only
fixed my loyalty and sustained the credentials that he wears on every
inch of him. Let me parenthesize here and have done with it, that if I
use my genders in hopeless interchange, or am forced to the apologetic
"it," you must extricate the sex as best you can, and re-register your
old vow to reform the English language. "She" will apply but ludicrously
to the gallant entires that were asked to exhibit their best steps
before me; and "he" does not come naturally to my pen if I have in mind
some of the graceful mares whose acquaintance I made as they drew me
through pass and over bryn, almost coquetting with the task laid upon
them, yet modest withal, for the Welsh pony, be the pronoun what it
may, never forgets manners.

  Winner of many prizes in England and Wales. Under twelve hands]

Later, at the Olympia, during the International Horse Show, I spent
a fatuously happy time in the stables. Many pony types were exhibited,
and nobly they represented their kind, but I found none so love-inspiring
as the little conqueror from Cymric, "Shooting Star," owned by Sir
Walter Gilbey. He is a dapple-gray, eleven hands high, of perfect
shape and brim-full of spirit, not of the self-conscious kind, eager
for gratuitous display, but unabashed, careful of the amenities, and
avowing with all the grace in him that he will be your friend if you
choose to be _his_. If he has one defect it is a parsimony of tail,
though I heard none of his thousands of admirers make that criticism;
and he carries it up and out in true Arabian style. In the arena, when
all of the horses came in for the general parade--the big Clydesdales
first, followed by representatives of nearly every breed in the world,
the procession ending with a wee Shetland, whose mistress is the little
Princess Juliana of Holland--it was Shooting Star that received the
most impulsive greeting--an applause of love evoked by his irresistible
dearness, billowing where he passed until he completed the great

I had the assurance of others who daily haunted the Show that this
triumph was a feature of every general parade; and it was then that
I began to ask a certain Why? Why is the Welsh pony gifted with a
symmetry that subjugates at sight, while his congeners too often show
an _ensemble_ whose mild ungainliness must be admitted by their best
of friends? Why, with the hardihood of the half-wild forager, and
unflagging endurance, does he display the grace and bearing that we
associate with carefully tended animals of pedigree? The Exmoor and
Dartmoor types only in a moderate degree show signs of high descent,
and the ponies of the Fells (though I mind me well of the lovable
traits of some of my neighbors among them up in the shires of
Cumberland and Westmoreland) are indubitably plebian, while the Welsh
pony is a patrician on his wildest hill. Even those who hold a brief
for other breeds confess his superiority in points that stamp him "of
the blood." Parkinson proclaims him the perfect pony of the kingdom,
and Lord Lucas, who for some years has been engaged in improving the
New Forest pony, says, after an excursion in search of desirable
strains to introduce into the Forest, that he found the best ponies
in Wales; and he has confirmed his judgment by the purchase of
"Daylight," a young Carmarthenshire pony of prepotent promise, for
alliance with the Forest stock.


The breeder of Daylight seems particularly able in adding "lights" to a
constellation whose first impulse to shine came from Dyoll Starlight,
a sire who cannot be accused of any desire to hide his light under a
bushel. It gleams not merely from one hill, but a hundred, and the
breeder so happy as to own a bit of this strain rarely fails to
advertise his good fortune in the name he gives to his prize. The
result is a confusion of Starlights, Greylights--even Skylights!--in
repeated series distinguished as Starlight II, III, etc., until the
dazzled investigator prays for an eclipse. I take it, however, as a
hopeful sign that one of the latest comers to the circle is yclept
Radium. But to know these ponies makes one lenient to the pride that
clings to the family name. I send you a photograph of Searchlight, a
daughter of Dyoll Starlight, and granddaughter of Merlyn Myddfai, who
was sold into Australia. She is a sister to Daylight, bought by Lord
Lucas, and also to Sunlight, a three-year old pony mare, undoubtedly
with a scintillating future, who will be exhibited for the first time
at Swansea during the National Pony Show, whither I intend to go just
to have sight of some of the exquisite young things that are springing
up all over Wales since the recent awakening of Taffy the Thrifty to
the fact that the pony is one of the most profitable assets of his
country. The photograph of Searchlight is somewhat unfair to her
beauty. The slight turn of the head coarsens the nose and widens the
lower jaw with an unpatrician suggestion of which there is no hint when
she is before you in vivid substance. Her brother, Greylight, poses
more successfully, but I send you Searchlight also, partly because
she is a lady, and of a more retired life, but mainly because she
illustrates, so far as may be in a photograph, that indefinable thing
called "pony character," which you will find me dilating on later. Just
now I want to get back to my Why.


What in the history of the Welsh pony will explain this union of hardy
wilderness qualities with a form as perfect as that produced in Arabia
after two thousand years of jealous breeding? I asked the question of
dealers and breeders and oldest inhabitants. I went to the hills to ask
it of the pony himself; and to the British Museum to ask it of relics
and tomes; following my "Why" to Arabia, to Libya, and back to the
"elephant bed" of the Brighton Pleistocene, where I stopped; for there,
it seemed to me, the Welsh pony began, so far as research permits
him to have a beginning. To follow him beyond neolithic man into the
paleozoic ages, when he was merely an old father Hipparion puzzling
as to whether he should remain in his bog and unenterprisingly evolve
into a tapir, or go into deeper and wetter regions and be a spiritless
rhino, or step bravely onto dry land, turn his five flabby toes into a
fleet and solid hoof, and become the noble _equus caballus_,--to pursue
him thus far would keep me wandering in a region of timorous conjecture
where he was neither Welsh nor a pony. So I begin with the Brighton
deposit, where was found the skeleton of a small horse supposed,
without successful contradiction, to be an ancestor of a species which
Professor James Cossar Ewart has named the Pony Celticus, and which
once overspread Western Europe. The tribe was gradually driven to the
wall, meaning in this case the sea, and their descendants, certainly
considerably modified, are even now to be found in the outer Hebrides
and the Faroes. They lingered long in North Wales, that little nest of
undisturbed peaks, and it was with the descendants of this species that
the Romans mated their military animals and produced the packhorse so
necessary in rugged West Britain. This packhorse was not the heavy
creature that his name suggests, but a sure-footed, light-bodied
animal, capable, however burdened, of going nimbly up and down the
hills. In East Britain and the midlands there was no incentive to breed
him, as the numerous heavier types sprung from the Forest horse were
more serviceable there. But in Wales at this time we have the first
authentic infiltration of alien blood, and this blood was undoubtedly
of the Orient. The Romans, we know, were patrons of the East in matters
equestrian, and in their files of leadership there could have been

                              "no lack
  Of a proud rider on so proud a back"

as that of the Arabian courser. But of more importance than such
occasionally distinguished pedigrees was the fact that their army
horses in general were Gallic; and the Gallic horse was of Eastern
origin. So the Romans left to Wales not only a heritage of legendary
stone, such as the old camp, Y Caer Bannau, which is shown you in
Breconshire, but a far more valued legacy which is yet animate in the
veins of the Welsh pony. The invaders were busy in Wales for four
hundred years, during which time the packhorse became a domestic type,
and gradually the acclimated Arabian blood crept up the hills and among
the wildest herds--a slow infusion that left the pony still a pony,
retaining all the hardihood that made life possible on the
scanty-herbaged peaks.

  Taken At Llandilo]

The ponies of the southern moors, no doubt, were also marked by this
early cross; and they, too, still held at the time something of their
heritage from the Pony Celticus; but their position had left them
liable to mixture with the Forest Horse, or what represented him in the
low-countries, and it was by just that mixture that the packhorse of
Wessex, which was the "gentleman's horse" in Devon down to two hundred
years ago, became different from that of Wales. It is very unlikely
that the Forest Horse was ever in the Cambrian hills, and the active
little Pony Celticus on his remote slopes escaped any alliance with
that phlegmatic blood. For this reason, in the Welsh descendants of the
species, the Eastern horse found a comparatively unmixed strain which
was probably as old as his own. The frequent absence of ergots and
callossities (those vestigial signs, near knee and fetlock, of vanished
digits) would indicate in the Pony Celticus a development as ancient at
least as that of the Libyan ancestors of the Arabian horse. Professor
Ridgeway, of Cambridge University, thinks that he may even be a related
northern branch of the horse of Libya, and that both the North African
species and the Pony Celticus may claim the bones of the small horse
found in the Brighton Pleistocene as ancestral. If this be true, then
when Roman met Welsh in equine society, the two oldest breeds of the
world were united, and, as you know, the older the breed the more
ineradicable are its characteristics. If originally congeneric, that too
would be in favor of the type produced by such a union, and may be a
key to the persistence and potency of the Welsh mountain stock. In the
Pony Celticus, wherever his modified posterity is least changed, the
dorsal and lateral marks indicating equatorial origin are reproduced
with little difficulty.

  The mare was imported in 1911 and shows her remarkable breeding
  in every way]

And we have another reason for suspecting the pony ancestor of our
Welsh variety to be of North African kinship rather than allied to the
Asiatic horse, with large ergots and heavy callossities, which came by
the northern route into Scandinavia. This horse, by tradition and
record, was of an intractable disposition. It was in upper Asia that
the bit originated, while the Libyan horse was of so gentle a nature
that his descendant is yet ridden on the Arabian plains with no more
guidance than can be given by a simple noseband. Of this horse Mohammed
could say, "God made him of a condensation of the southwest wind"; the
consummate simile for fleetness and mildness. But I don't accuse the
Asiatic horse of being the first sinner. Though the callossities are
against his being as old as the Libyan, he may have originally possessed
as gentle a temper, which became lost through association with brutal
races (see Herodotus) who insisted on being masters instead of friends.
The horse resents mastery, as you know, and resentment is peculiarly
poisonous to his character. Make him a comrade or nothing. His ascent
may have been more dignified than our own, and in one way at least he
prehistorically showed more gentle intentions; 'twas we who kept the
claws! But while I leave the question of responsibility open in the
case of the Asiatic horse, I am glad to think that our pony did not
come by way of his blood, whether corrupted by man or tainted with
original sin. Certain it is that the Pony Celticus possessed a docility
and fair-mindedness that indicated a blameless descent, and there is
no evidence that his Welsh offspring were ever handled by man in a way
to warp his character. It is true that in his wild state, after the
sheep-dog was introduced into Wales (which was comparatively late),
the pony was much harried, and driven to the more barren regions; but
whenever brought down to the farms he was at once admitted to family
privileges that gave him confidence in humanity. As early as the days
of the good king, Howell Dha, laws for his care and protection were
recorded, and these seem to have been but a codification of rules that
had long been in general practice. We read that if a man borrowed a
horse and fretted the hair on his back he was to pay a fine to the
owner; but such a law as we find among the ancient statutes of Ireland,
"Quhasoever sall be tryet or fund to stow or cut ane uther man's hors
tail sall be pwunschit as a thief," seems to have had no call for
existence in Welshland.

  Taken at Shrewsbury, England]

I have said that there was no danger of invasion by the larger British
horse on the eastern side. His big feet would not have been at home on
the rocky Welsh passes. On the fen side of England the horses developed
a softness of hoof and sponginess of bone whose gradual alteration in
later days to a close, dense texture, was one of the difficulties that
had to be overcome in the production of the English thoroughbred;
but, fortunately, the mountain pony was never troubled by such an
inheritance. On the channel side of Wales there was a smaller breed of
attractive neighbors, and the question of invasion was different. Just
a short space across the water lay a nation of kindred Celts, and that
they exchanged horses as well as wives with their Welsh cousins--not
always by consent--literature gives us sufficient proof. And the horses
of Ireland, happily bred on a soil of limestone formation, developed
such compactness, strength, and fineness of bone, that when their hard,
clean, flat legs brought them into Welsh camps and pastures they were
always welcome to the unseen genius attendant on the mountain pony. The
once noted Irish hobbie was often brought into Wales and left his mark

  Ridden by a young lady of eight]

The records left by the admirers of this animal are pleasant reading.
Says old Blundevill: "These are tender-mouthed, nimble, light,
pleasant, apt to be taught, and for the most part they be amblers and
therefore verie meete for the saddle and to travel by the way." And
this desirable creature was produced by a union of the Spanish-Arabian
horse with the Irish pony, the descendant of the yet prevailing
Celticus; for the Irish isle, as the Welsh hills, was one of his last
strongholds. But long before the introduction of Spanish stallions into
Ireland, this pony had become modified by the Gallic breed--the same
Eastern strain that the Romans brought into Wales. In the three horse
skulls with finely preserved Arabian features, recently discovered in
a peat-buried crannog, Professor Ridgeway finds proof that the Eastern
horse was in Ireland possibly as early as the sixth century; and the
description of the horses in the oldest Irish saga support the claim
that the warhorse and charger of the Irishman in his epic days were
of Eastern importation. Breton was an open way of the Gallic horse to
Ireland, for there was much compliment, combat, and barter, between
the Irish and Breton Celts. And the horse of Breton was particularly
suitable for union with Irish stock, the Arabian in him being already
modified by a hardy breed of the hills. Now let me get back to Wales,
taking with me this augmentation of the Arabian strain, pony-diluted,
through the Irish port--another infusion most happily chosen by the
beneficence that seems to have guided the Welsh pony in his evolution.
Not too much of this visiting blood either; for there were always wild
herds that kept much to themselves; "companys of beesties" content to
come only occasionally to the valleys, when they would lure away some
gallant or coquette of the lowlands, glad to sniff the air of a fuller
freedom. It was the slowness of these infusions, filtering through
centuries, and always the same inexpungeable strain, that has made the
cross so lastingly successful.

[Illustration: A WELSH COB]

Now to rush down to the modern period. As population grew, the making
of roads, reclamation of slopes, and increase in local valley traffic,
made the larger horse more attractive to the eyes of the Welshman;
and some praiseworthy types, notably the Cob, were produced by the
introduction of well-bred English sires. But there were unwelcome
by-products in the process, and the importations from the Shires were
often ill-judged and indiscreet. The light, graceful-bodied carthorse,
of miraculous endurance, the descendant of the early packhorse, and
very different from the clumsy, sluggish carthorse of the Shires,
has suffered deterioration in beauty, bone and spirit. As a sage of
Radnorshire puts it, there is a touch too little of the Arab and a
touch too much of Flanders. And as I cannot claim that all the good
blood brought into Wales made its way to the pony on the hills, while
all the bad blood staid below, I must admit that he _has_ been affected
by these later introductions; but in far less degree, for time has not
been left to have its final way, nor is the coarser strain of Eastern
potency. We must also remember that two centuries ago, when these
adventures in breeding began, the English had commenced those prudent
experiments with the Arab cross which has fixed the thoroughbred in his
sovereign place. There had been occasional importations of the Arab
ever since the Roman days, but the English horses were of such numerous
and diffused types, and so unlike the Eastern horse in build and
nature, that such spasmodic introductions had no permanent effect. The
great improvement came with the determined enthusiasm and patience of
the eighteenth century breeders; and it seems providential again that
as the ways of breeding between England and Wales became promiscuously
open, the Eastern blood was becoming prevalent in England.

From this source the Welsh breeders began renewing the beneficent
strain in the slow, best manner. Merlin, a descendant of the Brierly
Turk, after his brilliant years on the turf, was brought to Wales and
turned out with the ponies on the Ruabon hills to become the founder of
a famous and prolific line. Mr. Richard Crashaw secured for his county
the Arab sire of Cymro Llwd; and in Merioneithshire, the half-Arab,
Apricot, of multiple progeny, became an imperishable tradition. Seventy
or eighty years ago, Mr. Morgan Williams put Arab sires with his droves
on the hills behind Aberpergwm; and it was in this region that in
recent years Moonlight was discovered, roving and unshod, by Mr. Meuric
Lloyd, and this dam of certain Arabian descent gave Wales her Dyoll
Starlight, to whose paternity I have referred.

[Illustration: MARE AND FOAL
  At Llandilo]

Notwithstanding this reinforcement of his aristocracy, there were too
many doors left carelessly open. The larger pony of the lower lands was
becoming mixed with the Cardinganshire cob; and some owners were guilty
of letting half-bred Shire colts have the run of the hills. In time
the only safe place for the mountain pony would have been the topmost
crests, but for an event of happy effect upon his destiny. This was
the organization of the Welsh-Pony- and Cob-Society in the Royal Show
Yard at Cardiff one springtime eleven years ago. Lord Tredegar was the
first president, and after him the Earl of Powys. King George became a
patron, and the society acquired an impetus that proved it had not been
born too soon. Not only are all the Shires of Wales represented in
its council, but also the border counties of Monmouth, Shropshire
and Hereford. The formation of a Stud Book was the initial practical
business of the Society, and its first volumes derive special value
from the fact that Wales has always tended to the patriarchial system,
and her traditions, whether of horses or families, can be relied upon.
There have always been wise and prudent breeders in the land; men who
could, in some degree, counteract indifference and hold to ideal aim.

[Illustration: LONGMYND]

The Society went to its work with "ears laid back"; but I will mention
only two of its achievements. One of these, which will affect the
pony's future, so long as ponies be, was an Act of Parliament that
enables breeders to clear the Commons of all stallions which a
competent committee decides are undesirable. The Common Lands of Wales
are so extensive, and comprise so many tracts, that improvement by
selection other than nature's is a farce so long as the pasturage is
free to any and all. Nature long ago accomplished her best for the
Welsh pony, and while he was practically an isolated type it was easy
to maintain her standard. But with multifarious breeds and half-breeds
in proximity, the carelessness of man was beginning to undo her work,
and Wales might have followed Ireland in the deterioration of her pony
stock and the loss of a fixed type, if the Society had not actively
intervened. The struggle over the Act was discouragingly prolonged,
for Taffy is sometimes stubborn, and he could not see that the right
to use the Commons would still be a right if it were limited by
consideration for one's neighbors. His beast might be as poor a thing as
he pleased--sickle-hocked, goose-rumped, tucked up in the brisket, as some
of the larger valley-bred ponies were, and, alas, are--but if it could
successfully beguile the feminine portion of his neighbor's carefully
sorted drove, the helpless neighbor, injured in heart and pocket, had
no redress. Finally, after many difficulties, unwearying effort, and
a constant display of good nature, the committee secured the passage
of the Act and put an end to what one of the overworked members,
exasperated to humor, termed the "unlimited liability sire system."

I have mentioned two sections where this system had been brought to a
close some years before the passage of the Act. One of these is the
Longmynd Range, lying back of Church Stretton, in Shropshire. Though
beyond the March, it is practically Welsh in all that concerns its pony
interests. The Range covers about seventy square miles, and at the top
is a plateau, two thousand feet high, which was a stronghold of the
pony before England began to write her history. Deep gullies cut the
slopes and widen into ravines, then into valleys. There are crags
to climb, and boggy dongas to be avoided. The heather in places is
girth-deep, and altogether it is a typical breeding spot of the wild
mountain pony. Here we understand how he came by his agility and
hardiness, and realize how persistent must be the qualities bred into
him by centuries of such environment. In this region it has been the
custom for the last twenty-five years to have an annual drive and
round-up, when all the ponies are brought down, selected, sorted, the
undesirables cast out, and the others, excepting those picked for
market, or exchanged for ponies of another run, sent back to freedom.
The ponies are not eager to leave their heights, and they give the
riders that bring them down an anxious as well as exhilarating time.
The "drives" take place in September, and I hope to be at the next one,
but whether for the sake of poetry or ponies I don't yet know. I am
beginning to believe that they are not unrelatable.

[Illustration: LONGMYND COMMONS]

The other section where practically the same system was adopted years
ago, is Gower Common, on the Peninsula near Swansea. In this region, as
in Longmynd, the standard has been raised in a manner very attractive
to the contemplative purchaser; but I would not sound the merits of
their ponies above all others, for here and there throughout Wales are
breeders who, with difficulty and expense, have individually practiced
a system of sorting; and now that the Commons Act has been passed,
every one, be he breeder or pony, will have an opportunity to do his
best for his country.

The Society's other achievement which I wish to note connects itself
with the United States and the mystifying evolution of a new order
regulating the certification of those recognized breeds to be accorded
exemption from import duty "on and after January 1, 1911." The only
thing clear to me in regard to the international reactions involved,
is that without the establishment of a Stud Book, and the vigorous
registrative activity of the Society's Council, the new order, which
recognizes the Welsh pony as a pure breed exempt from duty, would not
be in existence, and the same mysterious "rules" and "exceptions" that
bewildered breeders previous to 1911 would still be a discouragement to
exportation. Whereas all is now plain sailing.

And here is the end of my prologizing. Having finished with his history,
I shall be ready in my next to tell you something of the pony himself.
In this letter I have only tried to uncover some of the influences
that have made him what he is to-day--in beauty an Arab, in constitution
an original pony. There was, first, his early purity of type as a
descendant of the true pony that homed in these lands. It has been said
that when Henry the Eighth passed his law for the extermination of all
horses below an approved stature, some of the lowland ponies, scenting
danger and led by equine Tells and Winkelrieds, retreated to the
mountain fastnesses, defied the throne of England, and became the Welsh
mountain pony. This is a mistake. The ponies scattered through the
Shires were weedy stunts of horse breeds from which all trace of the
Pony Celticus had long disappeared; and if any of the persecuted beasts
gained the regions of safety that lay cupped in the lofty hollows of
the Welsh slopes, they found native occupants before them. But I cannot
believe that the mountain stock ever received this dreggy mixture
from the Shires. In spite of his ancient and resisting lineage, such
adulteration would have left its mark on the pony's conformation, as,
for instance, the large ears of the Dartmoor, or the coarse heads of
the Fell ponies. Doctor Johnson suggested (not confidently, I admit)
that the word "pony" came from "puny," and was applied to the creatures
so stigmatized because they were puny degenerates of a nobler breed.
Though he was wrong philologically, we have no reason to doubt that
he knew the lowland pony of his times; and when I come across the
implication that these "degenerates" escaped hostile hands, scaled
unaccustomed heights, and became the ancestors of the Welsh pony, with
all his invincibilities, it simply puts my back up.

  Winner of First Prize at Chestnut Hill Horse Show 1912. Twelve hands]

But I was recapitulating. The second salient factor in the production of
our pony was the manner in which the Eastern blood was introduced--those
repeated infusions from the earliest times in a form most favorable for
mingling with his own. And a third influence was his remote, mountain
home. Perhaps this ought to be put first, as it made possible the other
two. It kept him a Pony Celticus long after the species in other parts
of Britain had become mixed with the Forest tribe; and it prevented the
rapid introduction of alien blood which, even when it is of the best,
will if too liberally applied turn the hardy and valuable pony into an
indifferent small horse.

These are the influences which, working together for seventeen hundred
years (from the first to the eighteenth centuries), produced the
precious and unexcelled foundation pony-stock of the Welsh mountains.

I suspect that this compression into stark outlines of my delectable
wanderings after facts and conclusions has made me too prosy for your
patience,--but if I make any apology it will be to the pony; remembering,
as I do, one Sunday morning in Brecon, when I sallied out unmoved by the
church-bells, which chime so indefatigably in Welshland, and climbed the
highest, craggiest hill in sight.

  As shown in double harness at a Boston Horse Show]

On the top of it I found a small herd of ponies, living without bluff
or boast the simple life. There were several mares with young foals,
and some colts of poetic promise, which led me to press for entrance
into the family circle; but with retreating dignity they let me know
that I was a mere inquisitive bounder, and I was reduced to the old
trick that used to work so successfully with the cows in the high
meadow above the red cottage in Shelburne. I laid myself down, my hands
over my eyes and my fingers craftily windowed, and in a few moments was
surrounded by a group investigating me with scientific detachment. Then
I found myself looking into eyes, very different from unimaginative
Bossy's. Through their unguarded limpidity I was admitted to a realm
where it seemed for the moment, at least, that

      "beast, as man, had dreams,
  And sought his stars."

Cardinal Newman said that we knew less of animals than of angels. A
severer modicum of knowledge could not be imputed to mortals. But we
must admit the truth of the maxim. Such then and so bottomless being
the depth of our ignorance, how can we bestow his just dues upon our
"brother without hands," the creature that Huxley called the finest
piece of animal mechanism in existence?

O. T. D.



                                     _London, England, August 1, 1912._

Dear A----:

I have just returned from a day in Epping Forest, whither I was
drawn by a rumor of primeval beeches to be seen there. And I found
them--groves of the great trees, each as large as the largest oak of
my memory. But my interest was soon divided, for our pony was there
too--very lovely and very Welsh--tripping along the forest roads and
drawing the mind away from a reverie of the old Saxon days, for it was
in these very woods that the pious Confessor impartially exercised his
two passions for praying and hunting, and here that his devotions were
so disturbed by the multitudinous nightingales that he besought God
to banish them; and history records that the birds had to go. But I
suspect that the arrows of Edward's obedient henchmen assisted a too
complaisant deity in the work of banishment. This, too, is the forest
through which the mourning Githa brought the body of "Haroldus infelix"
to be interred in the abbey founded by him in the woods he had loved.
But such faded memories yielded to the modern picture as soon as I saw
that my little gallant from the Welsh hills formed a lively part of it.
He was there in numbers, attached to carts full of children, to ladies'
traps, and sometimes to a more ambitious vehicle. I saw one noble
fellow, barely eleven hands high, drawing two fat men, each weighing,
to my indignant eyes, at least seventeen stone. In my first rashness I
should have protested, but the men were lolling back in such a haze of
bliss, pipes in their mouths, and beaming with contentment, that I felt
it would be irreverent to disturb a happiness so rare in this rough
world. I also saw that the little Welsher was in good fettle and would
probably be the first to resent a protest involving an impeachment of
his powers.

[Illustration: LONGMYND CASTOR
  Imported Welsh Pony]

The carts that pleased me most were those that overflowed with chirruppy,
glowing children. They usually took the by-ways denied to the motors,
and as they bubbled out of sight into a leafy world, I felt renewedly
grateful to the gentle servitor that makes such intimacy between
childhood and woodland possible. Little feet cannot get far unassisted,
but give them such a helper as the pony and their explorations need
hardly be limited. The ideal creature for this purpose is the mountain
pony of about eleven hands. Sagacious and docile, he is the safest
of companions, and is just as happy under saddle as in harness. The
Welsh-Pony- and Cob-Society recognizes two classes of the pony, one
this smaller animal of the mountains, not exceeding twelve hands in
height, and the larger pony, usually lowland bred, which may be as high
as thirteen hands. But the mountain pony is held to be the foundation
stock of all the ponies of Wales; furnishing the indestructible
material from which is bred the little hunter, saddler and harness
pony, or the dear, obliging factotum who will equably plough your
garden in the morning and high-step in the park in the afternoon.
Whatever his family leanings, toward the Arab, thoroughbred, or more
cobby-built type, you will find his "pony character" unaffected. I have
already alluded to this attribute, so evident in the pony and so elusive
in definition. It is a quality made up of so many others that a full
description would be mere endless analysis. Even the all-charitable
word, "temperament," will not shelter inadequacy here. To know it one
must know the pony. A hint of it is found in his warm, quick sympathy.
The horse, however faithful, can at times be cold and judicial in
friendship. The pony accepts you without reserving his judgment. He
must love wholly, by virtue of the romance that is in him--a tinge of
imagination that enables him to idealize rather than criticise, and
not an inferior mentality as some students of horse psychology would
mistakenly have it. But, though the latchstring of welcome is always
out, he will never toss it in your face, for he, too, has a dignity
that awaits approach. He serves you, but he is not your underling. If
you are so cruel as to be simply the master, ignoring the higher calls
of companionship, he does not retreat into indifference, as the horse
will, but remains hopeful, expectant, until he wins an understanding or
breaks his heart. I do not exaggerate. Wait till you know him; and then
you will not more than feebly doubt the story of the pony who came
to his aged master, Saint Columba, on the day he was to die, and
foremourned their parting.


"Character" is also found in the way the pony uses his eye--the manner
of his outlook on the world. In the horse's eye one may sometimes read
a slight suggestion of boredom. He is disillusioned. But the pony does
not confess to a finished experience; there may be surprises ahead.
He is blithely ready for the unusual; and this brings us to another
element of "character" which is peculiarly the pony's; that is, a
shrewd understanding which gets him out of a difficulty while the horse
is still pondering. The latter has had his nose in the mangers of
civilization so long that he has lost the mental independence which his
pre-domestic life fostered. Unstimulating, derivative knowledge he has
in plenty from his association with man; but the Welsh pony of the
hilltops, to this day pressed by the necessity of looking out for
himself, has a capable initiative which the horse does not possess.
Through ages on his sequestered peaks he fought for life against an
enemy armed with sleet and snows and dearth, and the record of his
struggle is writ in his fibre. He knows where he may climb and where
he may not, the slopes that will let him live and the steeps where
starvation waits. The colt, though he has never been in a bog, will
avoid its treachery, and needs no warning where the gully is ugly, the
pool deep, or the ice too thin to bear him. And there has been much
hiding and flying, for the sheep-dogs of Wales have been merciless to
the pony. Some call here, you see, for a usable mind!

[Illustration: BRECON]

I must mention one more ingredient of this composite "character"--his
indomitable spirit. Match him against a horse of equal strength and the
latter will be out of heart while the pony is confidently forging on.
At Forest Lodge, the home of a gentleman who owns the largest herd
in Wales, I saw a mare of less than twelve hands just after she had
taken four men down the long hills to Brecon and _up_ again--fourteen
miles--and she was not drooping apart waiting to be washed and rubbed
down, but frisking over the yard as if she were quite ready to be off
again. This spirit that unconsciously believes in itself is an unfailing
mark of the mountain ponies. If ever they are guilty of jibbing, or like

          "poor jades
  Lob down their heads,"

investigation is sure to reveal an injudicious cross too recent to be
obliterated by the persistent pony strain.

Of this blitheness of spirit I will give another instance. So far as
I am involved I do not look back upon the incident with pride, but the
pony in the case shall have his due. At Beddgelert I slept late, and
was not fully dressed when informed that the coach was at the door.
Being anxious to get to Port Madoc in time for the Dolgelly train,
I rushed down and out, leapt to a seat, and was off before I realized
that the "coach" was a sort of trap drawn by a single pony. There was
a cross seat for the driver, and behind it two lengthwise seats arranged
so that the occupants must sit facing, with frequent personal collision.
We started six in all, and a snug fit we were. I would have descended
and tried to secure a private conveyance, in the hope of saving the pony
my own weight at least, but we were fairly out of the village before I
was fully awake--and there was my train to be caught! However, I soon
found that the pony would not have profited by any tenderness on my
part, for all along the road there were would-be passengers waiting to
be "taken on." The first we met was helped up and made a third in the
driver's seat, and the second pinned himself somehow into the seat
opposite me. I was congratulating myself on the Welsh courtesy that had
left me, a stranger, unmolested, when we rounded a curve and I saw that
the gentle consideration had been unavailing. A man stood by the way
signaling--a man of unqualified depth and breadth. I thought that he
alone might fill the cart. As that astounding driver halted and the man
approached my instinct for self-preservation came basely uppermost.
I had observed the middle passenger on the other seat to be quiet,
elderly and lean. I coveted a seat beside him, and hastily, on the
pretext of being a stranger, desiring a better view of the landscape,
asked an exchange of seats with the opposite end, which was courteously
granted--all to no purpose. My lean neighbor, all at once, took on
alarming latitude. I had reckoned without disestablishment. It seemed
the man was a bitter opponent of Lloyd George. If some one dropped
a word of advocacy he was straightway a tempest of opposition. His
shoulders threatened, his elbows flung dissent, his fingers snapped,
his arms, compassing the visible area, were not dodgeable, as he defied
the world, the bill and the devil in the shape of the Chancellor of the
Exchequer--ah well, there was nothing left for me but resignation and
nine in a donkey cart.

Thus it was I journeyed through the wonderful Pass of Aberglaslyn with
its dripping cliffs, walls of crysoprase, and bowlders of shattered
dawn--beauty of which I wrote you, with care at the time not to trench
upon circumstances here disclosed. And thus I passed by beautiful
Tanyrallt, once the home of Shelley, but I did not lift my eyes to the
slope where the house stood. I kept them on the roots of the mighty
trees that border the foot of the hill, for I felt that if I looked up
I should see my poet's passionate apparition confronting me. Such an
angel as he was to the poor beasts! How I came back afterwards to make
my apology to his spirit need be no part of this letter. When we reached
Port Madoc, dissevered, and dropped ourselves out, I crept around to
the pony with commiserating intent, and found him to be the only
unwilted member of the party. He had lost neither breath nor dignity,
and his happy air and the tilt of his lovely head seemed almost an
affront to one in my humbled state. He was under thirteen hands, and he
had drawn nine of us eight miles over an uneven road at an unflagging
trot; and here he was almost laughing in my face, and barely moist
under his harness.

[Illustration: LONGMYND POLLOX
  Imported Welsh Pony. Twelve hands]

It is his sureness of himself that keeps him cool, being neither
anxious nor fearful of failure. Of course this confident spirit has its
source in his physical hardiness. In mere bodily endurance he is the
equal of the pony of Northern Russia, while much his superior in
conformation. But I should never use the phrase I so often heard, "You
_can't_ tire him out." It is wrong to suppose that he can be pushed
without limit, or kept constantly at the edge of his capacity, and be
none the worse for it. Too often the pony that might have lived usefully
for thirty or forty years is brought to his death at twenty. He will
give man his best for little enough. On half the food that a horse must
have, he will do that horse's work; and when not in service, all he
asks is a nibbling place, barren as may be--no housing, blanketing,
coddling. I know of a pony mare who has spent every winter of her life
unsheltered on the hills of Radnorshire, and has not missed foaling a
single year since she was four years old. The last account I have
reports her as forty-one and with her thirty-seventh foal. And I have
come across other instances of longevity that make me believe that the
pony that dies at twenty dies young and has not been wisely used.

Formerly the ponies on the hills had no help from man, however long the
snows lay or the winds lashed; but now, if severe weather persists,
they are brought down to the valleys, or rough fodder is taken to them.
At Forest Lodge I saw four hundred ponies freshly home from a winter
sojourn on the hills near Aberystwyth. They still wore the shaggy hair
put on against a pinching February and stinging March under open skies.
A little later they would shed these protective coats and be trim and
sleek for the summer. I had been repeatedly told that the Welsh pony
was remarkably free from unsoundness, but among so many that had not
been sorted for the year, and were at the worn end of their hardest
season, I expected to find some of the lesser blemishes, if not defects
of the more serious kind. But if I did, it was with a rarity that
effectually argued against them. And I found this true all through
Wales. Occasionally I would see low withers, a water-shoot tail, or
drooping quarters. But predominantly the quarters were good, not with
the roundness that denies speed, burying the muscles in puffy obscurity,
but displaying the strong outline which is a plump suggestion of the
gnarled and bossy hip-bone beneath. As for the high withers that are
always to be desired, the Welsh pony is better off in this respect than
the other breeds of Britain, unless it be the pure Highland type. You
who remember Belmont days full of equine significances, need not be
told how much the horse is affected in anatomical free play by the
withers. If they are high the interlacing fibres attaching the
shoulder-bone to the trunk may rise freely, and the shoulder arm be
long and sloping--a position which gives easy movement and power to
the forearm and the structures below it--the pony moves gracefully,
without strain, with good action and sure speed. But low withers limit
propulsion from the shoulder, and while there may be good knee action
the pony must pay out strength to get it. There is, besides, a strain
on the cervical muscles which makes natural grace impossible. Dealers
can often persuade buyers that the upright shoulder is stronger for
harness work, and here in London parks I have seen horses of this
type dash strainingly along, expending their strength in fashionable
action, and with the unavoidable pull on the neck "corrected" by the
bearing-rein; the average owner not guessing the difficulty of his
creatures, or the torture that in years too few will bring them to a
coster's cart or the dump-heap. Having seen and mourned such things,
I was happy to find high withers the rule in Wales, and to learn that
wise breeders were laying stress on this point and breeding for it.


Although, as I have said, there has been some imprudent crossing
with heavier breeds, these unsuccessful types are being weeded out,
and methods of improving the Welsh pony are now, for the most part,
confined to individual selection within his own breed, or to the
careful introduction of thoroughbred and Arab blood. Of course the door
is not entirely closed to other comers, and I talked with one breeder
of thirty years' experience who believed in mating his ponies with any
sire of fine type that had the points he was trying for. But this
gentleman possesses a sixth sense in regard to horses, and can safely
indulge in latitude that might prove disastrous in the case of an
equally conscientious but less intelligent breeder. Such a method
heightens interest and is an open invitation to adventurous
possibilities; but it is just as well, I think, that there are others
who go to the opposite extreme and are ready to preach on all occasions
against bringing alien blood into the mountains. From the shades of
Ephraim a poser was once flung to the world--"Can two walk together
unless they be agreed?" In this instance, one might surprise hoary
Amos with an affirmative, for these two classes of breeders do walk and
work together for the good of the Welsh pony; one a barrier to harmful
laxity, the other a protest against overcautious restriction. But while
guarding him from invasion on his mountains, the most rigid of the
"shut-the-door" advocates will permit him to go forth and conquer where
he may. It is partly to strengthen him for these expeditions that they
insist on keeping the mountain stock unmixed; and it is true that in
recent years he has grown much in favor as a factor in the improvement
and modification of other pony breeds.

[Illustration: MY LORD PEMBROKE]

The Polo pony is profiting much by his blood. It seems that the mountain
habits practiced by the Welsh pony, in family seclusion and without
applause, such as climbing ledges like a fly, turning and twisting
himself out of physio-graphical difficulties, not to speak of his
leaping powers (his tribe has furnished a champion jumper of the world)
and his quick mental reaction upon the unexpected, have produced
just the virtues which figure most brilliantly on the polo field. As
the game has grown in complexity, the ponies of the plains, Argentine,
Arabian, American, have given place to those of hill-bred ancestry. To
get the requisite height and weight-bearing power, yet keep the pony
qualities, the hardihood, the astuteness, the thought-like instancy of
motion--a wit that can _almost_ prophesy--is a problem that is being
patiently worked out. I cannot follow the mystical ways which lead to
the production of the unparagoned Polo pony; but it is not until the
third or fourth generation that the breeder arrives at the nonpareil,
the heart's desire of the polo player. In the first generation a
thoroughbred cross with the mountain stock is more satisfactory than
the Arab, but the advantage is soon lost, as a type with a pedigree
covering something over two hundred years cannot compete in persistence
with one that has been established for five times that period.

  Three well-bred and well-behaved Ponies]

But to get back to the pony on his hill-tops. Careful breeding from the
finest of the native stock is now doing more for him than any crossing.
While close in-breeding tends to bring out latent defects in any
strain, the mountain families are so numerous, and the points to be
kept down are so few, that this gives little trouble to breeders.
I have spoken of the low withers, which are being eliminated, and
sometimes there is a badly set-on head--a more serious matter that,
if beauty only were involved--but an angular junction is not often
seen, and the head in every case is finely formed, with the large,
wide brow of the Arab, tapering face-bones, small, sensitive ears,
delicate, silken mouth that needs only a touch in guidance, and roomy
underchannel between the branches of the lower jaw. There is never a
fiddle-head, heavy jaw, leathered nose, or anything suggestive of the
coarse-bred animal in these little creatures that may proudly trample
on parchment pedigrees. But now they are to have their parchments too.

I have heard it said that the arching crest is not easy to secure in
conjunction with high withers, but the combination is often found in
the Welsh pony. As I mentioned in my previous letter, in all points of
grace he has more to be thankful for than his neighbors to the north
and south of him. Lord Arthur Cecil suggests as an explanation of the
ungainliness of Fell ponies, that by long huddling against winter
storms on treeless slopes, they have become hunched and heavy, both
fore and aft, while their middle shows only a discouraged development.
But, though the winds of the Welsh peaks may be less keen, they are
keen enough to furnish ample incentive to the huddling spirit; yet the
Welsh pony has the head I have described, fine, well-placed shoulders,
a deep, round barrel, and quarters that, in general, break no rule of
proportion. Therefore, I think the difference is one of origin. The
Fell pony is probably a descendant of dwarf horses that escaped to the
Pennines during seasons of persecution, and being unestablished as to
type was more easily modified by environment. I should like to think
this because it supports me in the belief that I have taken the right
track in pursuing the Welsh pony's ancestry.

  Imported Welsh Cob]

I have not spoken of his adaptiveness to other climates, but he is
little affected by transplantation. A breed formed of the two oldest
races known, and having in its own type a genealogical history of a
thousand years, is apt to persist under any sky, and this is probably
why he thrives so well apart from his native heath. I am told that even
in Canada he does not object to wintering out; but I should like to
interview a pony that has tried it before proffering the information
as fact. However, if any ill reports have come back from the numbers
shipped to Australia and America, they have been successfully concealed
from me. I want you to know that the mountain pony's hocks are a
feature not to be passed lightly by. They never fail to bring him
commendation from the horseman who _knows_. The curby hocks sometimes
found in the larger type of South Wales are unknown to him. His own
are always of the right shape, having plenty of compact bone showing
every curve and denture under thin, shining skin, and with clean-cut,
powerful back sinews at an unhampered distance from the suspensory
tendons. "His hocks do send him along," as one admirer said.

The limbs themselves, whether fore or hind, are handsomely dropped and
clear of all blemish--no bubbly knees, soufflets about the ankles, puffy
fetlocks, or contracted heels. The pasterns are of the approved gentle
obliquity--neither short and upright, betraying stubborn flexors, nor
long enough to weaken the elasticity of the support that must here
guard the whole body from concussion. The pastern is a debatable point,
but I refer all advocates of the "long" and "short" schools to the
golden mean which the Welsh pony has evolved for himself in those
much-mentioned disciplinary years on his problematic hills.

The hoof is always round, never the suspicious bell shape, and blue,
deep and dense. One need not look there for symptoms of sand-crack,
seedy-toe, pumice-foot, or any of the pedal ills that too often beset
the lowland horse. The centuries of unshod freedom among his crags have
given the hoof a resisting density coupled with the diminutive form
that agility demands; and this happy union the smithies of man have not
yet been able to sever or vitiate. Even the thoroughbred must sometimes
find a downward gaze as fatal to vanity as did the peacock of our
venerated spelling-book; but not the Welsh pony. He may look to earth
as to Heaven with unchastened pride.


And now that the hoof has brought me to the ground I will not mount
again. If I have ridden my pony too hard, bethink you who it was that
set me upon him. You remember Isaac Walton's caution when instructing
an angler how to bait a hook with a live frog:--"And handle the frog as
if you loved him." However infelicitously I may have impaled the pony
on my pen, I hope you will own that I have done it as if I loved him.
Though I am not ready to say that the "earth sings when he touches it,"
be assured that he will gallantly carry more praise than I have laid
upon him.

I have no quarrel with the motor, though it has made me eat dust more
than once. As a means of transporting the body when the object is
_to arrive_, I grant it superlative place. But as a medium between man
and Nature it is a failure. It will never bring them together. The motor
is restricted to the highway, and from the highway one can never get
more from Nature than a nod of half recognition. She remains a stranger

But on a ramble with a pony, adaptive, unobtrusive, all the leisurely
ways are open--the deepwood path, or the trail up the exhilarating
steep. As self-effacing as you wish, he saves you from weariness and
frees the mind for its own adventure. There will be pause for question,
and if Nature ever answers at all, you will hear her. There will be the
placid hour that is healing-time with her woods, her skies and waters;
and that communion with her divinity which means rest and--haply--peace.

O. T. D.


       *       *       *       *       *

[=Transcriber's Note:= The photo titled "The Beacons" in the list of
illustrations is consistently absent in all available copies from multiple
sources. Presumably this is the result of a publisher's error where the
illustration was omitted from the final version, but not removed from
the listings.]

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