Editorial by Gerry Hart.
Thirty odd years ago when I joined the Shetland pony breed Society, it was an altogether different animal to the Society we have today. In those days a prospective member had to be proposed and seconded before membership was granted. That was enough of a sweat even though I’m not sure if an application could be ‘blackballed’. Probably not, but speaking personally as someone and probably most new members at that time who were determined to stay the course, I knew much of the heritage of the Shetland pony and its Stud Book and the need of all members to step up at some point to ensure those traditions and breed standards were maintained, and not least the history of the Society. E.g I knew off by heart the first 2 generations of stallions from John and Barbara Church’s ‘Nashes’ Stud, mainly Wells, as well as those of other local studs.
For those who had maintained and supported the Society in a somewhat ‘clubby’ tradition before the explosion of membership and subsequent increase in pony breeding, to perceive us as a load of ‘Johnny come latelys’ who joined in their droves in the late 80’s and 90’s. With the long since mantra ‘miniatures will ruin the breed’ laid to rest along with an artificially promoted dislike between the Scots and the English. The Scots claiming the breed as theirs, and the English who had bought their foundation breeding stock from the Scots, and were and continue to provide by sheer weight of numbers, the largest part of the Society’s income, were seen as a threat ‘wishing to take the breed society, and its office, South, into England. Nothing could have been further from the truth as I cautioned the few that would be revolutionary. 'Like marriage, starting a stud book was not something to be entered lightly', provenance, long term commitment and the stature such achievements give the Society credibility.
Over the first twenty odd years of my membership, stallion inspection was always a bone of contention and seemed to be the main topic for Council meetings, that and judge selection. It put ‘power’ into the hands of a few people on Council, who, at least in those days had to be nominated and seconded by members and usually subject to a vote by the membership if more candidates were forward than required for places on Council. In any organisation where volunteers are required to manage said organisation, I fear with the paucity of applicants in recent years we have used up those who are so minded. We have been relatively lucky with those who have been cajoled, persuaded or whatever to serve on Council in recent years, but I think we can be justifiably concerned as to where Society Council members will come from in the medium and long term. Too many of today’s breeders do not know, let alone recite, the breeding of their ponies
Having said that, with the monster that was stallion inspection long gone, the breed standard set in stone and the rules for entry in the stud book clear, any queries should be definitively answered by the Secretary as they once were in former Secretary, Duncan Patterson’s time, and that should leave only the finances to manage, disciplinary matters and the thorny subject of new judges for Council to worry about.
What is sad, and happily seems to have stopped for now, is certain members venting their spleen on Social media. This breed Society deserves respect, if only for its longevity. No Council will get t right every time in its deliberations, but speaking as someone who has had plenty to say over the years on various issues, the fact that I have had no cause to write in complaint for at least seven years says something for the stability of the Society and the fact that despite the obvious temptations, it sticks to its remit. Long may it remain so.