The first thing to pop up in my mind when asked about our trip to Wales is the people. That surprised me as I thought for sure it would be the ponies but the two go hand in hand. The Welsh folks we met are among the nicest people anywhere and I believe the concept of sitting down for tea and sharing conversation and a bite to eat and the pubs make it a very social country.
We enjoyed lovely spreads of sandwiches, pork pies, scones with fabulous cream cheese stuffing, rapsberry crumble, butter cakes and other goodies that I wished I could have brought home but I will have to try the recipes. I discovered Elderflower Sparkle and managed to bring a bottle home with me that is sitting on my desk as I hope to be able to mail order it. While we were visiting an actual hill pony herd at Cui, Sarah put a blanket on the ground and brought out lemon drink and goodies. An elderberry bush was in full bloom within fifteen feet of our little picnic exhibiting the flowers that made the juice that I developed a taste for. As we sat there a cute little weanling much younger than the others flirted with us by blinking his sweet eyes at us and I swear I was thinking of how to get him in my carry on.
Cozy kitchen tables at farms and outdoor gardens were wonderful places to visit and get to know each other in Wales and England. The Welsh folks we met are very open and authentic people - some would say down to earth - which is a great compliment in today's world. Somehow Wales seems to be a bit distanced from the modern things that seem to make our country less people oriented. It reminds me of what we were like in the 50s and maybe early 60s when we only had three channels on tv and kids could watch any programs without fear of inappropriateness and families sat out on their front porches and knew all of their neighbors. I am sure Wales has its issues too but to us it seemed pretty nice.
I especially liked that at each farm, including the English farms, people stayed true to their vision of what they thought the Welsh Mountain Pony should be. Each herd was reflected their owner's interpretation of the Welsh standard. I appreciated every farm we visited as they obviously were guided by serious breeders who had a plan. Some, many with a long history, probably do not show a lot and the showring does not influence their breeding as much as the hills themselves do, while others are breeding ponies for the very competitive shows in Wales, showing toe to toe with breeders whose families have been doing the same for over a century. All are needed. I appreciate those who are trying to keep the hill pony influence more after this trip. From my impression based on what I saw and heard, the Welsh Mountain Pony that can survive on the hills during all kinds of weather may be a vanishing animal in a few decades unless a new generation steps up to follow through with their preservation. Dedicated people are working to see that they are preserved.
Most Welsh folks we met seem to have a sense of fun about them and are very family oriented. We sat with multiple generations at several kitchen tables. The word lovely is used a lot but it is such a good word to describe the pony people - lovely!
Through ebay transactions I knew young man who is a breeder of Cobs and Section A ponies and he was very helpful to us, scheduling and guiding us through two days of visits to great studs and even made our dinner reservations. He suggested a cottage for us and checked on us as we tried to find our way to the wpcs office the first day we were in his
area. A great host. He said it was funny that when he called to meet up with us the first time and we said we were nine miles from the wpcs office and then he called back a few minute later to check and we were eleven miles from it. He asked where we were - and we did not have a clue. We finally found a road sign and told him and he told us to stay there and he would drive to us. I guess he figured we would soon be 20 miles from the office if we kept on our route. It is not an overstatement to say that navigating Wales was at time very challenging for us. Thanks Owen Rees Griffiths. We all appreciated the farms he scheduled and his guidance over the weekend gave us a reprieve from our navigating nightmares. Owen shows and owns Ilar Section C and A ponies.
I especially enjoyed meeting Dr. Wynne Davies, who wrote the books that I have read several times in my attempts to learn pedigrees. I told Dr. Wynne that the first Welsh Mountain Pony I bought was because I fell in love it and then the breed, but the other 17
I own are because of his books and I suspect there are others like me. The books give structure and history to the breed and are priceless to the Welsh Mountain Pony. The detailed WMP history and the sheer volume of his written work and photos of Welsh is incredible and we have nothing to compare with it in the USA in any breeds. He was as we all picture him. Bright. And a sense of humor. He walks fast to and through the pastures with his walking stick and gives you a history lesson on the way. A Roman road runs through his farm! We were grateful that he shared his farm and ponies with us. Sadly he lost his wife Ruth in April after 57 years of marriage. We will always remember the afternoon we visited Dr. Wynne.
The English pony people were charming and fun and just as dedicated to the ponies. England is a more urban country as we saw a lot more cities and the pace picked up a bit-especially on the highly competitive highways. We enjoyed their gardens and saw some fantastic ponies. Hospitality was as kind and generous and delicious in England. We only wished we would have had more time to spend as it was so hard for us to leave the farms and move on. We so appreciated their generosity and loved spending time with them talking ponies.
The one thing that ties us all together - the Welsh Mountain Pony - made for easy friendships.