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NPS stockjudging day

Bracklinn Stud in Perthshire recently hosted a stockjudging and stud open day day in aid of the NPS Scotland young judges training.

The day, superbly organised by the Smith family, and judged by Tom Best, provided the chance for the audience to 'have a go' stock judging and view the Bracklinn Fells ponies, which included the Royal Highland Show St John's Wells winning ponies Bracklinn Jackpot and Bracklinn Norah.

It proved both informative and thought provoking with Tom Best interacting with the audience and providing some interesting ideas, as well as recalling some humorous judging tales.

There were four sections – including senior mares, youngstock and a separate Dales pony section to allow the audience to differentiate the separate breed characteristics.

"Being on the NPS mixed breeds panel there will be times that you need to judge other types of ponies," explained Tom. "For the purpose of today we have to assume every pony moves straight. We also need to remember that spectators selectively see and sometimes the judge will see something different to those watching outside.

"We need to remember that this is educational and fun and we all take judging and ponies far too seriously."

Tom ran through the various parts of the pony to the audience to establish everyone was familiar with the terms.

"Before coming today I checked the description of the Fell pony breed types. Most importantly when judging mixed breeds is that the pony must say 'native'," explains Tom. "In all breeds there will be some 'off-types' that's something that doesn't fit the breed type. In Victorian times 150 years ago they were pushing towards the formation of stud books and the registration reflected the pedigree of the animal, from sheep, cattle and horses.

"In the UK we have native breeds that have all came from different parts of the British isles and they are all specific for a purpose. People in that area are not interested in blood lines, but certain principles remain constant – these are soundness and does it perform it's job sufficiently and well?"

Tom spoke at length about the cross breeding of natives, for example Highland ponies put to New Forest ponies to add substance; Arab horses to Welsh ponies to give them height; and TBs to Exmoors.

"What we can find in any breed is that ancestors come through – all of a sudden there can be a a throw-back, for example a white blaze on a Fell, blue eye on a Welsh, but you may need to go back six generations to find it.

"However, when breeding native ponies they need to be equipped to survive. In mixed breeding class normally it's quite clear what breed it is. In Fell and Dales ponies there was a certain amount of cross-breeding going on," added Tom, who pointed out that due to the closeness of the breed the ribbon in the tail can be quite useful to identify the Dales pony.

"Some breeds are not obvious but for experts they are obvious. I need to ask 'does it look like a Fell pony?' There are three physical things that I always look for and make a pony different to a horse. These are the height and head size. They should also have short canon bones, if they are long it says TB or Arab – a horse.

"The head can vary but it can still be a pony head. My priorities are the walk – the most important pace, in the show ring the pony is in walk longer than any other pace. It's an interesting concept that many judges are focussing on the gallop – these ponies were never bred to gallop! The walk needs to have a purpose, not in a hurry but going forward. Even in-hand the pnies must walk and trot with a purpose.

"I like to see the pony smile – with its ears pricked and wanting to please. The pony should be active in movement behind, I want to see it overtracking and does it move itself behind? Most importantly they all need to stand on good limbs."

Tom demonstrated a test to show ponies were compact and relevant to the size where a rope hanging down from the wither that reaches the ground will also reach from the wither to the top of the tail and also from the wither to the poll.

Winning the stockjudging, both in the junior and open class was Jane Brisbane, while the fun sheep section was Margaret Rennie.

The day finished with a parade of the stud's senior stallions Carrock I'm Yer Man and his son, Bracklinn Jackpot.