by Jen Mclaren
Sunday 7th August dawned slightly dull and misty but thankfully gave way to some lovely Exmoor sunshine (albeit with a slight wind blowing!) for the 2016 Anchor Herd Open Day hosted by the Wallace Family.
The Open Day was well attended with many people travelling a number of hours to be part of the event. The Wallace family welcomed all attendees to the Exmoor Pony Centre at 10am for an introduction to the Anchor Herd with David Wallace giving a fabulous overview of the herd history before handing the reins to his wife Emma Wallace to talk to us about showing and the Exmoor Pony breed standard. There were 3 Anchor Herd yearlings presented to us eager audience members in the small sand school of the Exmoor Pony Centre and Emma spent some time describing each yearling and explaining which line they came from as part of the Anchor Herd breeding programme. I certainly found it fascinating to have the opportunity to look closely at each pony and have Emma (as an EPS Judge) give her views on what she liked (and conversely didn’t like!) about each pony before they were all trotted around the school to give us a chance to see their movement. Having been part of the annual Anchor Herd gatherings for a few years now, I found the explanation of what the breeding programme is aiming to do hugely insightful. The Anchor Herd is made up of 8 key bloodlines and each of which, the Wallace family is keen to preserve as they make their breeding decisions each year. After we had seen the yearlings strut their stuff, an older Anchor mare (Redstart) was brought out with this year’s foal at foot. Redstart has represented the breed at Olympia and HOYS as a ridden pony and is now a full time broodmare for the herd. It was fabulous to see her looking so well.
After the Q&A session, we walked across to Mounsey Farm to see some of this year’s mares and foals who have been brought in ground already as well as the boys of the Anchor Herd – the herd’s eldest stallion Anchor Ginger Ale gets better looking each time I see him and he has a contender in the looks department from the 2 year old colt Anchor Jaffa Cake who definitely stole a few hearts! Refreshments were provided in the Green Room at the Exmoor Pony Centre during which time the “name a foal” competition cards were circulated (this year the Anchor foal’s will all have names beginning with “L”) and suitably coffee’d and cake’d we then drove up to Varle Hill en masse to see some of the mares and foals in the free living environment. No matter how many times you see the ponies living wild on the moor, I always get slightly emotional seeing them all living as nature intended. The mare and foal group on the hill clearly knew we were coming as they choose the furthest corner of the moor to graze on however they did allow us to get fairly close to them and I’m sure many people have got some wonderful photographs of the herd which they will treasure.
Many thanks to the Wallace family for organising such a super morning – there is nothing quite like spending time with like minded people in the company of these wonderful little brown ponies!