Shetland Pony As Brexit Issue Between UK and European Union?

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Shetland Ponies that were models in a tourist promotion for the Scotland-governed islands that have been their home for thousands of years.

Jan. 17, 2019


The Shetland Pony, the pint-sized equines with lineage dating back to the Bronze Age, whose size and strength made them vital in coal mining in Europe and America for centuries, was the first riding horse for generations of children around the world and adored as celebrities in books, movies and keepsakes, may become entangled in Brexit politics.

A disagreement has been resurrected over what constitutes the “purity” of the ponies as determined by the “Mother” of all Shetland stud books, in Perth, Scotland which governs the Shetland islands, and pony-come-lately “daughter” stud books in 11 European nations.

To be in the “Mother” stud book, lineage has to be traced back eight generations of the typically furry ponies that range in size from a minimum height of about 7 hands/71 cm to an official maximum height of 10.2 hands/107 cm.

The offspring “daughter” stud books accept ponies with lineage of three generations.

America has had nothing to do with the dispute, but may have indirectly been a player because the country has bred Shetlands that are considered more svelte and attractive than originals and were mixed with some European Continental ponies to boost sales.

The “Mother” stud book keepers and the Continental studs got together in 2004 and signed an agreement about what constitutes a pure bred Shetland pony.

The German federation now see the agreement differently.

Dr. Klaus Miesner, German federation breeding division managing director, argues that “from 2006 all ponies in each stud book must have a minimum of three complete generations in the pedigree” to be regarded as purebred. Excluded from this rule are only ponies that have been directly registered by the original breeding book.

“However, the complete traceability to Scotland is not possible for all Shetland ponies from German breeding. For this reason, the German Equestrian Federation is making an intensive effort to clarify the matter with the Shetland Pony Stud-Book Society, with the aim of finding a solution based on the 2004 decision of the ISPC.

“The fact that the breed’s original breed book and several other Shetland pony are suddenly calling for a complete pedigree is completely surprising and unacceptable given the joint decision in 2004.”

At the time, he explained, the entire German Shetland pony breeding was checked and ponies with Tigerscheckung or American blood in the first three generations of the pedigree were entered in the newly established studbooks for German Part-Bred Shetland Ponies and German Classic Ponies.

Hold on, said Jill Jones, president of The Shetland Pony Stud Book Society in Perth.

The agreement, she told, politely but firmly, the agreement clearly defines the requirements.

“Germany and the other countries can have their own rules such as the three-generation rule,” she said. “There is no way we can enforce rules for the ‘daughter’ stud books.

“As the ‘mother” stud book, we do not accept the three-generation rule. We’re the country of origin. The 2004 agreement excludes the ‘mother’ stud book. It’s right there in writing.”

The German federation report said, “it is to be feared that the current power struggles over the UK’s exit from the European Union will be of little help in time.”