For the Fell pony, work is work no matter the style. Shannon and Bailey Yee of Running Y Ranch in Wheatland, CA are discovering just how well our Fell ponies take to the complexity and dynamics of Working Equitation. The Fell Pony Connection recently interviewed Shannon about her work with Fell ponies in this discipline.
FC: Tell us a bit about yourself, your involvement interest in Fell ponies as well as involvement in Working Equitation.
SY: I have ridden since I was 7yrs old showing in many disciplines from cutting horses to jumping. I rode quarter horses, Arabs, mules, donkeys etc. I moved to California in 1991 to become a jockey (which never happened) went to work breaking and training horses and mules for my sister. I saw my first Fell pony in a book and knew I had to have one. I bought my first one and then it just went from there! Currently only owning 3 1/2 fells. I got into working equitation because I was doing western/cowboy dressage and trail trials. It got hard to decide which (event) I was going to on weekends and they (both) became very political. I found Working Equitation and it put everything together with amazingly friendly, welcoming people.
FC: Tell us about the ponies your program has put forth in WE: who are they and how have they done in the discipline?
SY: I have had 4 ponies now in working equitation. All 4 have excelled well at it. I started with Braeberry Ruby. While she didn't much enjoy the dressage portion, she was good at the trail trial and cattle part of it and always had the fastest time of the day. Braeberry Evening Dove only did the intro level while I owned her but again was amazing at the dressage and trail trials. Bailey rides Felllegend Flower and is currently in 3rd level (novice B) and just won Reserve Championship at our regional show. She also had the fastest time of the day against quarter horses, mustang, lusitanos, etc. She has won youth championship 2 years in a row. Dreamhayven Kismet is my current mount, whom I have only owned since November of 2020 He has won every show we have been to scoring mostly in the 70% range.
FC: From the ponies you have worked with in this discipline, are there any common threads with the breed you are seeing? Any parts of the discipline they seem to do well at as well as what are the common challenges for the breed?
SY: These ponies have the looks and the glamour everyone wants to see. They attract the older women who want something gentle and solid and easy to get on. The breed seems to like every challenge that is thrown their way from the obstacles to the cattle. We have had to work at the front end elevation a little more with this breed since they tend to want to move a little flatter. They have great stride which makes them easy to teach to reach under themselves and lift the front end a little more. We are riding mostly against Lusitanos that have natural lift and carriage.
FC: Having the 3 events, WE seems to have a fairly high level of complexity. Can you share some good advice, tips, and philosophy for people thinking about getting their pony involved?
SY: WE actually has 4 events as some will hold a cattle division also for novice A riders and up. What I try to remember when I am training is train for the level you are at. Always think about the future but when I ride at intro level I don't train for the canter much. I train my ponies to know my leg cues, how to rate, and (offer) soft transitions. Eventually, if you have these things, you can ask for any movement or speed and always bring it back.
FC: Can you share a small personal story, something interesting that happened at an event or a part of the whole 'event experience' you like best?
SY: Working Equitation is like a second family to me. I always look forward to every show and seeing people I know there. I have always shown in something but this is SO different. I encourage anyone who wants a great partnership with their horse to give WE a try.
FC: Any other tips, advice or info. you would like to share?
SY: Always ride for yourself, don't ride to win and don't get disappointed when you don't. Its about growing with your animal and being partners. Winning is just a bonus!
Shannon also indicated that the WE community is very open to a variety of breeds, and notes the WE judges take into consideration the nature of different breeds when judging. Shannon expressed that the WE community is like a 2nd family for her, that she always looks forward to taking the ponies to the events. She encourages anyone seeking partnership with their pony to give WE a try. You can find out more about Working Equitation at usawe.org.
Photo 1: Stephanie Roundy
Photo 2: Michael T Photography
Photo 3: Brooke Flagtwet
Photo 4: Unknown