Preserving the Eriskay Pony
For a small animal, the Eriskay Pony is quite controversial in several aspects. Popular topics of dispute range from its origin to current breeding goals. The argument over the breed however has largely been unknown to the ponies themselves, remaining pleasant and amiable family ponies.
Eriskay Pony Roots
There are some individuals that question the native origins of the breed. One thing is certain though. The pony breed is named after the Scottish island of Eriskay. It has been used in the island for centuries. Some experts also maintain that the Eriskay Pony is the last pony breed of the Hebrides, of which Eriskay is a part of, and have been proven to carry ancient bloodlines.
Since the ponies lived in an island, they were not easily influenced by other pony and horse breeds. The Eriskay Pony breed was therefore able to retain the purity of its bloodline for a very long time. This was not always to be the case though. The dawn of industrialization and work machines did eventually reach Eriskay too. This meant that there was a decreasing need for work ponies. This eventually led to the drastic decrease in the Eriskay Pony population
The ponies of the island became so diminished in number that there was a time when only mares could be found. The mares therefore had to be bred with other breeds to ensure their survival. Eventually though, a male Eriskay pony was found, restoring the breeding of a pure line.
In the past, these ponies were used for carrying loads. Since the men in Eriskay had to be away, the ponies were cared for and used by the women and younger residents of the island. This alone is proof that the ponies truly were among the easiest ponies to handle, needing no brute intervention so they could be managed.
The Eriskay Pony Controversy
There is one outstanding controversy surrounding this pony breed. It seems that there are now two opposing poles represented by two different breeding societies. One maintains its goal of pure Eriskay breeding, thereby ensuring that no external influence mixes with the pony bloodline. The other camp however believes that it is far more advisable to produce ponies with more desirable traits to promote their survival. This second view has opened the possibility of cross breeding.
The Eriskay Pony Today
The difficult environmental conditions ensured that the Eriskay Pony developed into a strong and enduring breed. Aside from instilling an innate stamina for cold conditions, the environment of the island of Eriskay is probably also responsible for the development of the Eriskay’s full body and large head. As a work pony, it has developed short but strong legs and sturdy hooves. Many young Eriskay ponies are black but eventually turn grey as they grow older.
The social atmosphere of the Eriskay has also shaped its traits. Being a work pony for the household, the Eriskay breed has grown into a very mild-mannered and cooperative animal. This is why they are today considered perfect ponies for children or for families. They may however also be used for games and dressage.