Scottish Smallholders Festival

The Scottish Smallholders Festival is being held at Forfar Mart on Saturday 23rd October 2021 and will, as usual, have an equine showcase featuring many of our native breeds. The Eriskay Pony Society will have a stand with information boards, advice, a chance to catch up and, of course, a pony.

The Festival aims to have many breeds as possible of pigs, sheep, goats, alpacas and cattle on display, as well as the equines, along with their owners and breed societies, so smallholders and aspiring smallholders can make the right choice of livestock to suit their situation. Visitors will also be able to have a look down the poultry lines to see the different breeds of birds available.

The seminar programme follows a theme this year and talks will be focused on sustainability on the smallholding. There will be an exciting and varied range of seminars and talks that run throughout the day when you can hear about all aspects of sustainable farming from dung beetles to heat pumps, and measurement to green grants.

The Festival Trade Exhibition will showcase the best suppliers and services for smallholders and small scale producers, including equipment, machinery, renewable energy generation, food production, grassland management and livestock husbandry as well as fibre produce and skills development. You will also be able to learn about crook and stick making as well as bees and honey, and talk to farm based organisations.

The Festival aims to inform, educate and inspire, and to give you the opportunity to access information and advice from experienced practitioners that will support and encourage you in your future smallholding ventures. It is an event not to be missed. More information can be found on their website https://ssgf.uk/

Work started on DNA Profile for Eriskay ponies.

The number of Eriskays being born remains very low and the Eriskay Pony Society (EPS) is working with the Rare Breed Survival Trust (RBST) to establish a genomic profile to help develop a better understanding of the breed. This will allow owners to take a more strategic approach to breeding whilst also continuing to make use of the SPARKS system that identifies suitable matches. As the understanding of all breeds, diseases and the importance of genetics in choosing suitable mates improves, the Society, along with the RBST and leading academics, will use the Eriskay pony DNA profile to help work on increasing the numbers of animals being bred in an appropriate and sustainable manner whilst identifying potential obstacles and barriers. .

As part of the Society’s commitment to preserving and promoting the breed, this work will help compile a much more comprehensive DNA profile for Eriskay ponies than ever before. It won’t cost owners anything as the Society has secured funding to pay for the analysis and the results will help make it easier for the Society to support owners and ponies in future. While those who have bred from ponies in the past will be familiar with taking a hair sample, samples from non breeding ponies have never been collected before. That has changed and now a complete DNA profile from every living Eriskay pony is being sought, no matter whether it’s been done before, the pony’s age, sex or the breeding intentions.

This DNA testing project is completely funded by the Society, courtesy of a generous grant from the Horserace Betting Levy Board. If you are an Eriskay pony owner we would encourage you to take part and you can request your FREE sample kit, which includes return postage, by emailing info@eriskaypony.org

New President for Eriskay Pony Society.

The Eriskay Pony Society is delighted to announce that Professor Derek Knottenbelt, OBE, BVM&S, BVM&S, DVM&S, DIPECEIM, DACVIM, MRCVS, has agreed to accept the position of Honorary President. The Eriskay Pony Society looks forward to working with Professor Knottenbelt who brings with him a vast working knowledge on a range of equine matters, including many that the society is currently prioritising.

Professor Knottenbelt is a specialist in equine internal medicine and a Diplomat of the European College of Equine Internal Medicine.  He retired from a personal chair in Equine Medicine at the University of Liverpool in 2010 having run a sarcoid referral service for over 20 years and his main interests are in oncology, ophthalmology, wound management and dermatology.

He is the primary author of 10 equine veterinary text books and over 100 refereed scientific papers.

He has received numerous awards including the Animal Health Trust Scientific Award, the BEVA (Blue Cross) Welfare award, the Merk -WEVA Welfare Award and the RCVS Inspiration Award.  In 2019 he was awarded an honorary membership of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

In 2005 he received an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for his services to Equine Medicine.

Derek is actively involved in animal and human charity work both in UK and abroad and is a founder member of the Vets with Horsepower team raising money for charity through provision of high quality CPD to vets and horse owners.

A First for Rare Breed Champions at Norfolk Equestrian Show

In July 2021 the rare native horse and pony breeds on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust Watchlist have the chance to compete for ‘RBST Priority breed’ and ‘RBST At Risk Breed’ champion rosettes for the first time. The two RBST Rare Breed Champion classes will close the Norfolk Equestrian Show, hosted by the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association (RNAA) in association with RBST, behind closed doors at the Norfolk Showground on Wednesday 28 July 2021. 

The ‘Priority’ equine breeds on the 2021 RBST Watchlist are the Cleveland Bay Horse, Dales Pony, Dartmoor Pony, Eriskay Pony, Exmoor Pony, Hackney Horse and Pony, and Suffolk Horse. The ‘At Risk’ equine breeds on the 2021 RBST Watchlist are the Clydesdale Horse, Fell Pony, Highland Pony, New Forest Pony and Shire Horse. ‘Priority’ and ‘At Risk’ status is determined by RBST’s analysis of a range of factors including population numbers and genetic diversity.

Gail Sprake, Rare Breeds Survival Trust Chairman, said:  “With equine shows and competitions so severely limited over the past 18 months, we are delighted to be able to provide this fantastic opportunity to celebrate our rare breeds as well as the people, organisations and communities which support their survival. Each of our native pony and horse breeds has its own characteristics, unique features and history and each has played an extraordinary role in our nation’s history. The new RBST Priority and At Risk classes at the Norfolk Equestrian Show will really show why they are special.” 

So, if you are in the area and own an Eriskay, consider entering the show and show what an Eriskay can do.

More details can be found on the Norfolk Equestrian website HERE

HBLB Supports Rare Native Equine Breeds.

The Eriskay Pony Society is delighted to be included in the funding awards announced recently by the Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB), with grants awarded in accordance with HBLB’s statutory objective for “the improvement of breeds of horses”.

As well as the significant investment made in the interests of the thoroughbred, for many decades HBLB has sought to protect and enhance specified British rare breeds via grants to societies to support their pure breeding programmes. The range of breed societies assisted has varied from time to time, and HBLB now takes advice from the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) on which native British breeds are most in need of help. The HBLB Board received a presentation from the RBST at its May meeting on current initiatives and activities.

HBLB Grants Manager Annie Dodd said: “Our native British horse and pony breeds are integral to this country’s landscape and history. Alongside its essential support for the breeding of the racing Thoroughbred, HBLB is also committed to helping the most vulnerable native breeds survive and thrive in the modern day. Breeds such as the Dales pony or the Suffolk Punch demonstrate the same qualities and aptitude for sport, work and leisure riding as the thoroughbred, and deserve the same high regard. They are part of the great British equine scene and the Board wants to help preserve them in the future.“

RBST Chief Executive Christopher Price said: “RBST is a conservation charity dedicated to the promotion and conservation of our native livestock and equines.  RBST was founded in 1973 and, since then, no UK-native breed has been lost. Our work includes cattle, sheep, pigs, horses, ponies, goats and poultry. We produce the RBST Watchlist, an annual assessment of the conservation status of all our native breeds, taking account of both the numbers and the extent of inbreeding.  “Our conservation strategy is based on the Watchlist’s findings: firstly wherever possible we promote the use of our native breeds, secondly lobbying for government support where appropriate and thirdly running conducting specific conversation projects where necessary. “We are enormously grateful for the support HBLB gives us and the wider native breed sector, which will make a real difference to our work and help ensure a thriving future for our rare native breeds.”

The Eriskay Pony Society, and it’s Breed Conservation Committee, work closely with the RBST to form breeding plans that will help ensure the survival of this versatile, but endangered, native pony.