Wild ponies roaming in Aberdeenshire have been retrained by Olympic eventer Ian Stark with the help of local college students.

The semi-feral ponies were part of a herd of nearly 100 belonging to an elderly farmer – and were in danger of becoming welfare cases.

Ian and his wife Jenny bought seven of the ponies last October for their riding school in Dryden in the Borders.

Initially, the ponies were so wild that they jumped five-bar gates when people tried to approach them.

To help with taming the ponies, the Starks enlisted NVQ students from Borders College in Galashiels.

Three of the ponies have now been successfully backed and are being used in riding school lessons. One has been sold to a friend and the others turned away to mature.

Ian told H&H: “The students were brilliant. Having never been handled, the main thing the ponies needed was a lot of human contact.

“The students are more used to dealing with placid, well-behaved riding school horses, so it was a real eye-opener.”

One of the quickest ponies to adapt was a bay called Dorland, who was being ridden by pupils within two months and has been out hunting.

Amber Moffett, who has been involved from the start, told H&H: “Dorland is my favourite because he is so sweet. It was great to see a pony go from being completely wild to being used in a riding school.”

Dryden Riding Centre was started by Jenny 40 years ago. It was run by her sister Catriona Arres for many years and, since her death six years ago, has been run by the Starks.

This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (31 May 2012)