By Mary & Colleen Barrett
I started Twin Lights Farm in 2003. Located in Westminster, MA, it is a family-run operation, with a breeding program focused on producing high quality sport ponies for dressage. I started the breeding program because, at first, I wanted the perfect pony for my kids, but then I ended up focusing more on breeding the best dressage sport ponies that I could produce. We only breed one to three foals per year, so we are able to give each youngster plenty of handling and training from the start.
Back in 2003, I started with an old imported Welsh mare, Elphick’s Encore, who we bred in our garage in Haverhill, MA, for our first foal. Then, we moved to Westminster that fall, where there was no barn or power, only a run in shed and a generator to power the ultrasound for the vet. Later on, I purchased a young Welsh cross mare, TLF Roseanne, and an off-the-track thoroughbred mare, In A Dream. All of our stock are descendants of these three mares. The ponies are handled and shown by myself and my daughter, Colleen, and we start them in shows early, so they become unfazed by the show experience.
We started showing at local breed shows in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, but since have moved on to showing all over New England, including the USDF Breeders Championship New England Series Finals. We even traveled to Toronto, for the Royal Canadian Agricultural Show. My first time entering the ring with a pony foal, Benno’s Nor’Easter, at a dressage breed show, the judge just laughed at us. It took years for me to build up the courage to try again, but it only made me more determined to produce ponies that could not only compete with the big warmbloods, but win against them.
While our breeding program tarted with Welsh ponies, I ended up loving the movement of the German Riding Ponies and started crossing my mares with them. We also added warmbloods to our breeding program, to get the big lofty movement that the ponies needed. At that point, I started breeding more for dressage than the hunter ring. Our goal was to produce athletes of smaller stature that can compete at the highest levels of their discipline.
While most of our ponies are still youngsters and not competing under saddle yet, we have a few who are owned by adult amateurs who are happy with their rideability, manageable size, and comfortable gaits. We mostly show the ponies in-hand at the breed shows, and have had quite a lot of success. TLF Bejeweled qualified for the “Sport Pony Star Search Challenge”, which was held at the 2012 Royal Canadian Agricultural Show. She competed and was the high score pony of dressage type, winning the NASPR Star Search dressage breeding champion yearling filly. In 2013, TLF Hannah Jumper, shown by her owner and trainer, was the American Connemara Pony Society’s beginner novice champion for eventing her first year out. She also received the United States Eventing Association’s Gold Medal program beginner novice level, for finishing three times with a score of 35 or less that same year. Several of our other foals have won classes and qualified and competed in USDF Breeders Championship Series Final competitions (TLF SummerSolstice, TLF Bejeweled, TLF Rosalinda, TLF Margarita and TLF Masquerade). They are usually a hit at the show, not only because the “cuteness factor” of a pony foal is nearly impossible to beat, but because they hold their own in conformation and movement. Most onlookers are surprised by their big, free, and lofty movement.
My daughter and I are currently working with trainers to get several ponies coming of age into showing. We are anxious to see them start their under-saddle career, and I am looking forward to seeing our ponies at the highest levels of their disciplines. When I started, it seemed like no one knew what a sport pony was, but now they are more appreciated and have more opportunities. The market has changed and they are recognized now for how great and capable they truly are.