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27 June 2017

Rosettes and Exmoors

Or running a horse show on one of the hottest days for many years...

The plea came several weeks ago from the Exmoor Pony Centre on Exmoor – a charity wider known as the Moorland Mousie Trust in honour of a famous 1950s pony story of that title by ‘Golden Gorse’, and about, yes you’ve guessed, an Exmoor pony on Exmoor. The Centre was in financial difficulties, yet again the survival of the Exmoor pony was in jeopardy.

Wild Exmoor Ponies
(possibly the Anchor Herd)
The breed is thought to be over 2,000 years old. The bones of very similar ponies have been found on the Moor, although it is uncertain whether the distinctive ‘mealy’ muzzle and brown coat is original. Go up on to Exmoor today and you are likely to see the wild ponies – direct descendants from those millennia-year-old stock – grazing by the side of the road. But back in 1921, the breed was in danger of extinction, so the Exmoor Pony Society was set up. By the end of WWII, however, only fifty, including four stallions had survived living wild on Exmoor, the ponies, sadly falling victim to the necessity for food, and target practice for soldiers.

The Moorland Mousie Trust was created seventeen years ago to rescue the ponies and the breed. Falling out of popularity (overtaken by the attractiveness of the Welsh Cob) the moorland bred Exmoors, were being sold after every annual autumn round-up for as little as £1-£5, with most, especially the colts, going for the meat market. Into the breach stepped the MMC.
Foals at the annual round-up (October 2016)
(that's Tanana in the middle - who came to us)
Over the last ten years the centre has taken in, handled and rehomed more than three-hundred ponies. We now have four of our own: Mr Mischief we bought as a companion pony when we first moved to Devon, Siren and Tanana we bought direct from the Farleywater herd at round-up, and our latest, Wendigo, we rehomed from the centre. I love the breed, have done so since a young reader mesmerised by the book, Moorland Mousie (I still have my copy and its sequel Older Mousie.

 So, what could we do to help raise funds? My daughter Kathy, and her husband Adam, regularly run show jumping shows as Taw River Show Jumping here in Devon. They decided to run one extra this year, combine forces with Oakfield Showing and give all the profits raised to the Exmoor Centre.

Taw River Show Jumping
North Devon Events
(also coaching & private lessons with
Kathy Hollick Blee)
The venue, Coxleigh Barton Equestrian Centre, near Barnstaple, North Devon, generously offered to charge only half the hire cost for two arenas and facilities. Photographer Gilly Davidson and the catering van made their own profits (competitors reading this - please do purchaser Gilly's fabulous photos!). Judges and stewards offered their services for free: thank you to Mal Phillips and Emma Hunt who came all the way from London to judge Ridden and In Hand classes, Leslie Cambridge and Abbi who manned the jumping arena, and stewards Ashley Witcombe (who did a wonderful job with organising the parking) and Lorna Norris and her mum from Oakfield show team. A professional first aid paramedic was in attendance, while Taw River Kathy and Adam Blee and myself sorted the rest - and thanks to Adam's mum, Marcia who also helped out.

Show Supreme Champion (sponsored by ChemDry Devon)
Gilly Davidson Photography via Barnstaple Equestrian Supplies
The other big cost: rosettes. We wanted nice ones, special ones for a special day, and a few local companies and my wonderful author friends – and publisher – came up trumps to sponsor various classes - and the wonderful rosettes!
poster designed by Avalon Graphics
The weather supported us as well; we had fingers crossed for a ‘nice day’, and Someone Up There was definitely listening but turned the thermostat a tad high – talk about baking in an oven! Phew!

Lorna Norris of Oakfield Showing and Kathy Hollick Blee
contemplating the Supreme Championship
The jumping was a little on the slack side, unfortunately, but the in hand classes were well supported, and some brave riders outlasted the melting conditions to take part in the ridden classes in the afternoon. Running alongside each class was a separate section for Exmoors, with their own rosettes, sponsored by Taw River, and we were delighted with the Reserve Reserve Champion Exmoor – as was his thrilled owner.
Me and the Champion!
I’m biased, but to my mind this lovely Exmoor stole the show!

Lorna, Kathy Emma Hunt & Mal Phillips
In all we raised £351.40 clear profit (with about £100 in the donation pot) so THANK YOU to all the fabulous people who supported us, from competitors, to helpers, to judges and sponsors!

Handing the cheque over ...

But pictures speak louder than words ...
(my thanks to Gilly of  Barnstaple Equestrian for permission to use some of her photographs)

(rosettes patiently modelled by our Exmoor pony, Siren)

Chill With A Book Award

Pauline Barclay

Alison Morton
Roma Nova

SilverWood Books Ltd
In Hand Championship

J.G. Harlond

Victoria Eveleigh

Elizabeth Chadwick
in memory of  William Marshal 

Royal protector, loyal servant, forgotten hero.

The Kingts Greatest Enemy series 
Anna Belfrage
The Graham Saga

 Our Other Sponsors:

Mullacott Quads
Nicky Galliers
Dan Hynds
Shirley Griffey & the Teape family
Torch Equine Vets

Chem Dry Devon
carpet & upholstery cleaning

Other Links:

Article in the Sunday Telegraph (featuring our pony Wendigo, who was, then, at the centre)

and yes I did also sponsor a class for my books!

Helen Hollick


Taw River Show Jumping Dates


  1. Ahh, the things you miss out on, living on this side of "the pond." LOL

    Sounds like a wonderful time for all. I would have enjoyed attending. Having grown up in Texas, I might have been -- horse -- biased. LOL

  2. Makes me think of my sister, Linda, but her horses were giant Belgians, so blond-haired and beautiful both them and her. Those days are gone now as is our lovely Linda, but, oh, the memories. I do love watching a good horse show. Have you ever seen a six-horse hitch of heavy horses, Helen? Fabulous!

    1. Thanks for dropping by Elaine - yes I've seen heavy horses many times: most impressive was a display by a competition team of six Trakeners ... full gallop down one long side of the arena - breathtaking!

  3. From Pauline Barclay: “Thank you and your family for organising such a fantastic event and thank you for letting us be part of it in some way. Have a great day. X”


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