The Queen’s ponies help raise grass sickness research funds after two lost

A charity calendar starring some of the Queen’s Highland ponies will go on sale to raise funds for grass sickness.

Heald Town Highland Pony Stud, owned by Carolyn and Melody Ashcroft, is creating its annual charity calendar to raise funds for the Moredun Foundation Equine Grass Sickness Fund, for which it raised £1,500 last year.

Melody, who took the photographs for the calendar, told H&H: “We started the calendar five years ago and have previously supported other animal charities. I work with the Highland Pony Enthusiasts Club and grass sickness is something we are very passionate about so we decided to support it last year.”

Heald Town Rafiki and Heald Town Duchess

Two months of the calendar will feature photographs of the Queen’s Highland ponies from Balmoral Estate, managed by Sylvia Ormiston. The estate lost two stallions in May 2018 to grass sickness; four-year-old Balmoral Lord and five-year-old Balmoral Hercules.

“One of our former ponies, Heald Town Bonny owned by Mr and Mrs McMillan, went to Balmoral to be covered by Balmoral Lord but he came down with grass sickness before covering her. She was instead covered by Balmoral Hercules only for him to sadly come down with grass sickness days later,” said Melody.

“Sylvia is very passionate about the breed and to be able to photograph the ponies at Balmoral was really lovely. The temperaments of the Balmoral ponies were absolutely impeccable.”

Sylvia told H&H the Queen’s ponies featuring in the calendar was a “fitting tribute” to Lord and Hercules.

“The calendar is for a tremendous cause. We lost Lord and Hercules within a fortnight of each other; they were our working breeding stallions – in one swoop we lost our 10-year breeding plan. It doesn’t matter who you are, the disease can affect you,” she said.

“Lord and Hercules’ legacy will continue through their youngstock. They were in the process of breeding last year when we lost them so luckily we have a Lord filly and two Hercules colts born this year. We’re very lucky to have their children.”

Article continues below…


Go behind-the-scenes at The Queen’s Highland pony stud at Balmoral

In this week’s Royal special issue of Horse & Hound magazine (16 November 2017), Melanie Scott gets given an exclusive


Melody added the disease is very close to her heart after the loss of one of Heald Town Highland Pony Stud’s homebred ponies, Heald Town Drumlin owned by Samantha Kay, this year.

“It is such a horrible disease, we need to do as much as we can to help raise awareness. We want to shout about it from the rooftops and encourage people to raise funds for the charity,” said Melody.

The calendars will cost £12 and will also feature ponies from the stud. Fans can vote on which pictures will be included by voting on the stud’s Facebook page. Voting runs from 1 August until mid-September and the calendars will be available to buy from 1 October.

For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.