The strong & hardy New Forest Pony! We are celebrating them as our December Breed of the Month on #YourDressage!
Dressage riders who choose New Forest Ponies as their mounts are eligible for special awards through the Adequan®/USDF All-Breeds Awards program, as the New Forest Pony Society of North America is a participating organization.
Here, an equestrian in Region 10 shares about the special New Forest Pony that came into her life when she was a youth rider, and why this breed makes the perfect partner!
By Alexa Bjerknes
Manoravon Finnegan is an 18-year-old purebred New Forest Pony, bred by Lynda and David Davies at Manoravon Farms, in Guelph, ON. He is my everything pony! Finn is a fiery chestnut that’s always up for a challenge. Together, we’ve done hunter, jumper, cross-country, trails, bareback, natural horsemanship, and last, but not least, dressage! He’s a quick learner and loves his job. When I first met Finn, I remember thinking I had never seen a horse or pony that looked SOOO happy. He always has his ears pricked forward, and not a care in the world, no matter the situation. Finn is a great teacher for beginners, can stand like a statue and plod along, but has just enough spunk to keep things interesting for a more advanced rider. Finn has taught me how to be a confident equestrian and has always been a special boy right from the beginning.
I was a 14-year-old, horse crazy girl, with a dream to spend the rest of my life with horses. I wanted to ride, train, help, heal, live, and breathe horses. I spent my summers mucking out stalls and being a camp counselor at the farm where I currently boarded my Thoroughbred mare. At the time, we had no intention of purchasing another horse, but this online ad for a cute, green-broke, large pony sparked my interest. I showed my grandma and explained that my little sister would soon need a pony, and that I could help ride and train it. The pony was located conveniently close to an All-Breeds Exposition we were going to attend, so we arranged to visit. My grandma did some research prior to our visit and found out that New Forest Ponies were quite a rare breed, especially in Canada. They are hardy and make great versatile riding ponies. The day of the visit came, I brought my riding gear and was ready to meet Finnegan. It was an overcast and rainy day, and when the breeders brought Finn in the barn, he pranced in the cross-ties. They explained how even though he was nine years old, he still hadn’t quite matured and was looking for “his” person. They wanted to be honest and show how Finn naturally behaved, and said they had to turn down previous sales offers because he was “a lot” of pony and most people were looking for a child safe ride or bomb-proof pony and he was…. well, just Finn. But he had lots of potential with the right person and amount of work. My grandma and I watched as he got tacked up and warmed up under saddle. Finnegan was fresh! It soon came time for me to hop on and see how we worked as a team. He stood perfectly still for me to mount and listened to my riding aids as if he had known me before. My gaze met my grandma’s and I nodded, we both knew, we had to bring him home! And to our luck the breeder’s, Lynda and Dave, felt it was an excellent match and agreed to the sale. We made arrangements and at last, the day had come… Finn would arrive and be in my care. I had asked Lynda if I could get a video of Finnegan getting on the trailer to his new home. She replied by saying she had hoped to get a video, but he walked on the trailer so quickly and effortlessly that she didn’t even have time to pull out her camera. To this day, he still gets on the trailer no problem. He loves new adventures so much that he actually trots right into the trailer!
Only months after purchasing Finn, I could grab him straight from the field, bridle in hand, and jump on bareback. Finn was ready for anything, or so I thought. My coach at the time loved his scope over fences and said he would make a great hunter pony, so our journey to the show ring began. I soon learned that he hadn’t been exposed to much. At first, it seemed as though everything was too scary; too many horses in the ring, not enough horses in the ring, or nearby, spooky fillers, things that move, things that don’t move, bright colors and patterns, cars… you name it. Our first show together was kind of a disaster, but we both came out okay. Finn spooked at a garbage can and reared and did not like the look of one small pony, meaning we couldn’t move when it was in sight. Once it was time for us to enter the ring, my coach said to give him lots of leg and he won’t have a chance to look or spook at anything. I did just that and we raced right off course and into the crowd of spectators sitting on the hill. Luckily nobody was injured, but at least I can look back on this now and reflect on how far we have come. It took a lot of work and consistency to gain his trust in new environments, under saddle.
Now, once you put the saddle on, he knows exactly what to do, and sometimes gets too carried away. This makes for a flashy pony in the show ring. Finn has even convinced some judges, who previously weren’t so keen on ponies. From 2014 to 2016 we trained and competed in the Hunter ring, placing consistently in the top three. In 2014, we earned the Trillium Hunter Jumper Association 2’3” Training Hunter Medal, as well as the New Forest Pony Society of North America (NFPSNA) Year-End Award, Champion, and Reserve Champion. BUT, in the dressage ring is where we became one and Finn could really show off his moves. In summer 2017, we entered our first dressage competition, only just over a year after changing disciplines. We started our debut at Training Level, taking the title of champion for that division. In 2018, we earned the NFPSNA Reserve Champion Dressage Award, competing at Silver First Level. In 2019, it being the most memorable year for us, we earned the Quinte St. Lawrence Brand of Cadora (QSLB) Year-End Award for Silver Second Level Champion, placing first in all our tests. Additionally, during the same year, we earned multiple awards and recognitions from the National Dressage Pony Cup:
- Year-end Champion at Second Level
- Year-end Award, High Point Champion, Young Rider, 66.8%
- Partner Show Champion
- Series Reserve Champion
Finn and I trained extremely hard, each year moving up the levels, finishing our current show career at Third Level.
Currently, Finn and I are taking a step back from competition to enjoy the trails. He is becoming a wonderful school master to my 8-year-old niece. Finn is definitely still quirky and that’s not going to change anytime soon. If he isn’t acting like himself, I know something is up. He greets me at the gate when I call his name, but one day this didn’t happen…. ripped blanket. Next time, he had a deep cut and had to get stitches. The next time after that, he came in swaying side-to-side and had to be treated for Lyme Disease. But he always pushes through… for me. An animal communicator once told me Finn said he would do anything for me if it made me happy. Finn has always been there, as I grew up into my adolescence, and continues to be there as I grow into my young adulthood. The barn, and time with him, is my getaway. Finnegan has been my heart and soul for a decade, but it definitely feels like a lifetime. We sure make a great team.