Twenty odd years ago I was talked into taking part in a course teaching ‘snigging’. I’d never even heard of the word before, however, it was to change my life.
Having started my forestry work in 1971 at that time horses had virtually disappeared from the woods about 10 years previously. In my wood yard at Ingleton I was well equipped with modern day machinery, tractors, unimogs etc so going on a ‘snigging’ course was taking a step backwards or was it?
On the course I was introduced to George Read, George has been using his ponies in the wood since Adam was a lad! A real down to earth chap, we got on well and are good friends to this day. Firstly I met Danny a Dales type cob with a hint of Clydesdale about 14.2hh he had been working with George since being 4 years old and then Candy of no fixed breeding but obviously a lot of native blood standing around 14 hh . Watching George working his ponies was inspirational and that led me down the route I was to take.
Why Dales ponies? Gina had ridden Dales ponies as a child and I am a staunch supporter of our native breeds and a Yorkshireman so Dales it had to be. Dales ponies are intelligent, agile and sure footed, incredibly strong for their size, have immense stamina, keep sound and are good doers. We needed ponies that could do various tasks, snigging (timber extraction using horses/ponies) farm work, riding and driving. Gina enjoyed hunting so the ponies needed to be true all rounders and they proved their worth time and time again.
In my line of work I am often called in to ‘thin’ plantations which are inaccessible for machinery, usually tight awkward places or in area’s of special significance where they don’t want huge ‘ruts’ leaving behind, my Dales ponies and cobs can get where many machines can not they can turn tighter and negotiate steep banks.
These ponies are environmentally friendly they leave little if any mess they don’t destroy the flora and fauna, no damage is caused to the trees left standing or their delicate root systems, they create no noise or air pollution. Timber extraction using horses/ponies is still viable I have proved this time and time again.
It is an age-old skill that we must strive to keep alive. Dales ponies can turn their hoof to so many disciplines they are agile and clever. These past years a special bond has developed with my ponies, when you are working alongside them day after day you get to know your animals very well, Dales are quick to learn and willing to please they thrive on varied work and enjoy a challenge. A Dales, which is naughty and stubborn is usually a bored pony with little to do, these quick-witted ponies need a job.
In this country we have wonderful native breeds most have played some part in the countries development they are part of our heritage and should be treasured. However for me it has to be a Dales pony, whether I am snigging timber, chain-harrowing the fields, taking a bride to the church or riding along the country lanes, it’s all in a ‘Dales’work……