The Eriskay pony, related to the ancient Celtic ponies, originated in northern Scotland, in the Isle of Eriskay. For centuries, they were captured and used for everyday work: farm work, pulling carts, taking children to school, and many other tasks. Since they had to work all day, only those with kind, hard-working temperaments were kept, and as a result, the Eriskay we know today emerged. This work continued up to the mid-1800s, when bigger horses, such as Clydesdales and Fjords, were added to the breed to create a larger pony. The number of purebred Eriskays dropped dramatically. Before long, the purebred Eriskays could only be found on one hard to reach island.
By the mid 1900s, when machines began taking the place of horses, the breed took yet another hit. In 1970, there were only twenty left. A small group who loved the breed began working hard to save it, and over the past forty years, the number of Eriskays increased more then tenfold.
Today, approximately 420 ponies can be found worldwide and the breed is considered to be on the critical list. The Eriskay Pony Society continues to help breeders make the best decisions. They give them advice on which stallion to breed to, and even transport stallions across the country to make breeding easier.
Breed Description and Uses
Eriskays stand 12 to 13 hands high on average. They a large head, short neck, deep chest, muscular shoulders, straight legs, complete with flat knees; short pasterns, small, flat frogs; and hard hoof horns. Much like Lipizzaners, they are born black and become grey as they age, though other colors may appear. Their thick winter coat protects them from bad weather, such as rain and snow. Their temperament is calm, easygoing, and willing to please.
Due to their rough natural habitat, Eriskays are strong enough to carry an adult and are very versatile, making them excellent for any discipline, including jumping, dressage, driving, and trail riding. Their gaits are smooth with little knee action.