The Eriksay pony is a lovable breed of Scottish pony that was, until recently, on the brink of extinction. They are a very kind and loving pony, and many enthusiasts of the breed have found a wonderful and willing partner in them. They love humans, and are hardy, strong animals that are very versatile and perform in a variety of capacities.
Eriksay ponies came from the Western Isles of Scotland. They are the descendants of the ancient ponies from that area. They were a product of both human and natural selection. They had to be very hardy due to harsh climatic conditions and terrain. Their thick hair coats and short ears protected them against the cold and frostbite. They had to have an excellent temperament, as their main handlers were women and children. If they were weak and couldn’t survive the climate, they died. If they were of poor temperament, they were culled. They were used to carry peat moss and heavy loads of seaweed, and as riding and cart ponies.
As time went on, it became more fashionable to have larger ponies, and so the native Scottish ponies were bred with larger stock such as the Norwejian Fjord and the Clydesdale. Eventually the integrity of the Eriksay was completely lost in all regions of Scotland, except on the remote and almost inaccessible island of Eriksay. By the 1970’s, there were only 20 pure blood members of the breed left on the island.
At this time, a group of people got together to try to save the pony. This group included a doctor, a vet, a priest, and a scientist, as well as some local crofters. Through steady efforts by this group and many others, the pony now has numbers close to 420 worldwide.
Today, Eriksays are well loved by their owners. They are strong enough to carry a light adult, and they compete in a variety of events including driving, western riding, pony club events, three day eventing, team sports, cross country, hunter jumper and dressage. They are especially talented at driving, and a woman named Lesley Fox drives a team that competes and wins regularly at the FEI level. They also make excellent family ponies due to their kind temperaments and human loving nature.
The Eriksay pony should have a pleasant and calm temperament with no signs of aggression whatsoever. They generally stand 12 to 13.2 hands tall. They should have a body that is uniform in appearance with a long ribcage and a short loin that indicates a strong back. They should slope slightly from croup to buttocks to tail. They should have a deep wide chest with a gentle slope. It should not be too broad. The Eriksay head should be large with bold, wide set eyes. The ears should be nice and proportional, and the jaw should be deep, with a tapering muzzle. The teeth should be even and good. The neck should be well muscled and strong, and set high in the shoulder, and head carriage should be proud. The shoulders should be strong and well muscled with a moderate slope. The hind quateter should be strong and well muscled with a low set tail.
The legs should be refined and have only a tuft of hair on the fetlock. The pasterns need to have a nice slope and should be relatively short. The feet should be round and sound, and are characterized by their small, hard and neat appearance. The Eriksay should have silky fine manes and tails, that are well developed. They should not have coarse hair. They ponies are generally born black, and turn grey through their lifetime. While this is the most common coloring, any color is acceptable.
They travel smooth and free, with good cadence and rhythm. They should track straight and true, with free movement in the hocks and shoulders.
Continued efforts to build numbers are being employed today. There are several organizations such as the Eriksay Pony Society that are dedicated to the promotion and protection of the Eriksay pony. Like many breed associations, they have shows and points programs to promote the showing and ownership of the ponies. They also have lists of breeders and ponies for sale for those interested in owning a wonderful Eriksay Pony.