Tales from Hartpury: Who says Fell ponies can’t dance?

  • A 13.3hh Fell pony with an abundance of mane and feather certainly turned heads at the NAF Five Star Winter Dressage championships.

    Well and truly breaking down the dressage stereotype is Cathryn Cathcart’s Fell gelding Haweswater Ignatius (Iggy), a 10-year-old who was piloted by Anne Housden in the Petplan Equine Preliminary Silver Area Festival championship.

    By Underwood Drummer, the true-to-type native has been doing dressage for about two years with Anne.

    “We originally tried to show him but because he is noise sensitive, he didn’t take to it,” said Anne, who last competed at the Area Festival championships 10 years ago on a 17hh Suffolk Punch/Appaloosa.

    “He has an amazing jump but in the show ring he just couldn’t cope with the noise and atmosphere — he’s fine when you get working but he doesn’t like to stand still, so dressage really suits him better.”

    Iggy, who was sourced by his owner straight from the fells in the north, nearly couldn’t make his championship debut as Anne underwent surgery last month.

    “In the end we thought ‘just go for it’. We’ve worked really hard to qualify so I just couldn’t not come. We literally made the decision on Thursday.”

    Anne also follows a less than conventional training routine with Iggy, who does lots of hacking and only schools once or twice a week. “It just suits him,” she added. “He has an active brain so he needs something other than just going round in circles.

    “His test highlights are definitely his trots across the diagonal, he just has the wow factor when he gets it right.”

    When asked about competing against the larger types, Anne says she is pleased to see an increase in judges who are rewarding correctness and breed type, rather than just extravagant paces. She said: “He’s not going to have the paces of a warmblood, but more and more judges are aware of this and are marking accordingly.

    The warmbloods stabled next to him have just fallen in love with him,” she added.

    For a full report from the British Dressage Winter Championships and Area Festival final – as well as news, views and expert comment – don’t miss Thursday’s (19 April) issue of Horse & Hound

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