Shetland ponies take steam train for day out in film-maker’s latest video

  • Two Shetland ponies have enjoyed a fun-filled day out in the great Devon countryside in their latest adventure.

    In trainer Emma Massingale’s latest film All Aboard The Pony Express Train, Shetlands Albert and Ernie can be seen buying tickets and boarding a 1930s steam train at Staverton station. Having disembarked at Buckfastleigh, the pair make friends with some otters at the Dartmoor Otter Sanctuary and go on to Totnes Rare Breeds Farm. They finish their day taking in the scenic Devon views, then board the train for home.

    Emma told H&H the film was “really good fun” to make and she chose her “A team” to star in her latest production.

    “The lockdown gave us a perfect opportunity and because it was Devon companies, it was nice to feel like us small businesses helping each other. They’ve been shut for a long time and kindly said we could do a collaboration,” she said.

    “The staff at South Devon Railway were doing training that day and when the train stopped it was only for 15 minutes so we had to be in position. Albert and Ernie have done so many different things now; they’ve been on boats and all sorts so I knew they’d be like ‘of course we’ll get on the train no problem!’.”

    Nine-year-old Albert and eight-year-old Ernie have starred in many of Emma’s productions including festive films and The Cutest Little Lifesavers.

    “They just have this great attitude. It’s like working with actors – but probably less diva-ish! You show them what you want to do once and they crack on. It’s nice because I can really rely on them to be ok with it all,” she said.

    “The otters were very interested in the ponies, which was hilarious so that worked really well. I just love telling stories with my ponies. I write a rough storyline but you never quite know what will happen because the ponies don’t get any practice. We go there and film on the day. The first time the ponies jumped on the train was when we filmed it.”

    The film has been viewed more than 2.1 million times since its release on 7 May.

    “What’s lovely is so many people comment that they enjoy seeing the films. It goes beyond ‘it’s a cute fluffy Shetland’ and people seem to really enjoy the editing. My fiance Jeremy did a fantastic job of filming it all. It’s not easy, we’ve become masters of the one-take wonder!” said Emma.

    “It’s nice to be able to offer people that escapism and a happy story. I try to make the storylines appealing to adults and children. The bit I enjoy is the fact I don’t use words so people can interpret the story in their own way, which also means internationally people can enjoy the story too. Everyone has their own variations of what the ponies are thinking; rather than me saying ‘Albert thinks this’ people look at their expressions and natural characters and interpret that themselves, which for me gives a greater viewing pleasure.”

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    Emma, who has 11 miniature Shetlands and eight Connemara ponies among her herd, is looking forward to more filming this year with Appaloosa Percy potentially on the cards for a future starring role.

    “Percy matches my Dalmatian dog so the plan is to do something with them soon. Percy has had a few cameo roles and he’s starting to show his potential. Training takes a long time, most of them are still babies apart from Albert and Ernie so I like to wait until they’re ready,” she said. “Albert and Ernie look like they’re doing everything on their own; I like to get them to that point so they’re really owning it. If i ask them to get on the train, I want them to do it their own way. That’s the bit that takes longer.

    “I’ve got some more NAF videos coming out soon, and I should hopefully be heading off to do some adventures again in September.”

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