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Equine people prove to be most interesting

Many people would say that the people associated with the ponies and horses of our equestrian world are much more important that the equines themselves.

Harry Cooper

It’s a mute point with which others would unhesitantly disagree, however it’s times like the  past month when I would have to stick my neck out and agree.
There are some interesting people within the equine world and some on our very door step. I think of people like Ken Runcie, a leading light and household name within the agricultural industry in Scotland, who regularly would be seen at shows handling the Roslyn ponies bred by his wife, Margaret.
Then equally well known was another agriculturalist of a similar generation, Ben Coutts, factor to some of Scotland’s leading estates, a radio journalist and author of repute; his association with Aberdeen Angus cattle and Highland ponies has been well documented.
It was with the Highlander too that we recognised leading breeder and judge with a brilliant mind, Elizabeth Compton, whose claim to fame among others was winning the popular TV show, Brain of Britain.
These were exceptional people in their own right who took a prominent part in the equestrian world in much the same way as people from across the globe with whom I have spent some time recently.
Their interests within the equestrian world pales into some insignificance compared to the lives they lead outwith it and I have to admit it fascinates me.
Closest to home was Dr Henk Bleker, a Welsh pony breeder from the Netherlands, who visited here to help expand the knowledge of his lovely daughter Mettina, who is gradually taking over the reins of their Wollig Stud in Groningen near the German border.
A former Chairman of the Dutch Welsh Pony & Cob Society, he has developed over the years an acute interest in the Welsh breeds and a very good eye for a pony, a quality which his daughter has obviously inherited.
It is always interesting to take a like-minded enthusiast round the stud however chat over the kitchen table soon moved from ponies to politics as this former Christian Democrat politician shared his experience of life in European politics.
For two years he was Minister of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation for the Netherlands, a position which he enjoyed but had to leave in 2012 as the political complexion and government changed in his country. If that wasn’t interesting in itself, his current advisory roles include the establishment of a dairy complex in Mongolia of all countries.
Even thinking of that conversation makes me wonder but the next had me left in complete and utter awe. It was a casual request to visit via Facebook from a pony enthusiast in Arizona that brought Meghan Ryan and her husband Luis Cisneros to Waxwing at the end of their holiday in Scotland walking the West Highland Way.
A horse lover and accomplished horsewoman, Meghan also shared a passion for Welsh ponies and was keen to talk about conformation, form and function, that kind of stuff. Someone else’s take on this is always interesting and there’s much to be learned from the followers of the performance Warmblood horse which she is.
All that said, it was soon obvious that Luis played a supporting role (which so many husbands do) and it was while trying to involve him in the visit that I discovered I was engaged in discussion with a person the likes of whom I never in my wildest dreams thought I would meet.
Dr Luis Cisneros is a biological physicist who is an Assistant Research Professor in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University.
With more than a double handful of research papers to his name, this mid-thirty year old was the first member of his Venezuelan family to make high school then university. It goes without saying he is very bright.
If his life story wasn’t enough, his research work was truly mind-boggling. Along with a small group of fellow scientists in the whole world, He is actively involved in the study of cancer cells with a focus on their evolution rather than their destruction. I had a hard job keeping up with his theorising but the gist of it surrounded the quest to finding the point at which cancer cells appeared in the evolutionary process and understanding what circumstances made their appearance necessary.
A concept completely novel to me, I found the twenty minute conversation we shared among the most interesting I have experienced in my life – what an interesting guy and all through ponies.
The last of my three recent visitors was another Welsh pony enthusiast from yet another continent, this time Australia, where he is a household name and famous TV personality. Dr Harry Cooper, has graced the TV screens Down Under for over thirty years and his face is to be found on labels advertising every sort of animal product.
Despite being acknowledged as the most recognisable face in Australia, with no hint of his public persona, he is one of the world’s Mr Nice Guys and it is a pleasure to be in his company. Unsurprisingly in a Reader’s Digest poll, he was voted Australia’s most trusted male.
Avoiding the temptation to ask veterinary advice on any problems we have on the stud, nonetheless it wasn’t possible to resist the temptation to ask about detailed reasons behind specific aspects of conformation and movement demanded in the show ring and which only a vet can offer.
Most of my vet friends have been through this sort of interrogation and while they may get bored of my questions, I never tire of hearing their answers.
I have been a firm believer that knowledge shouldn’t be an exclusive thing so sharing information rates high among my priorities. Thankfully I was able to share with Dr Harry my own experience of ponies and even explain aspects of preferred conformation and action in our breed which had never occurred to him.
Our conversations may have been mundane by Bleker and Cisneros standards, but bringing the conversation back to ponies brought with it a familiarity and comfort which both of us could equally enjoy.