By Emma Cheape

IT'S 'grown up' to be one of the best known Shetland pony studs in the UK, but it has emerged from some tentative beginnings.

At the age of 10, Elinor Bosanquet started driving Shetland ponies with family friend, and one of the UK’s top Shetland pony breeders and owner of Clothie Shetland pony stud, the late Marie Brooker.

"I had helped Marie with the Clothie Shetland pony stud since I was young, but for the last 18 years I had been running the stud alongside Marie and her grand-daughter, until I took it over after she passed away," explained Elinor.

Working full time in a demanding job doesn’t leave much spare time for her, so she has kept the Aberdeenshire-based stud very small. "At the moment, we have 16 Shetlands and are only breeding with two mares," Elinor explained, however the breeding and ponies that are being produced are highly sought after.

Perhaps the best-known of which is the mascot for the Regiment of Scotland, Corporal Cruachan IV – originally known as Clothie Nyggle. He's sired by Kinkell Elevator, a stallion which left his mark on the Clothie stud. "He has brought up the size of the ponies, which I was wanting due to us competing against horses," explained Elinor.

"The 17-year-old Elevator has now been partially replaced in our breeding programme by loan stallion, Annwood Herodotus, as he was related to too many of the females. However, he has been retained due to his fantastic temperament and for being a driving schoolmaster. He is also the sire of Clothie Black Label, one of the ponies in our driving team.

"Ideally, stallions are changed at the stud every four years to prevent ponies being bred that are too closely related. In a stallion, I look for an exceptional temperament as well as good movement, trueness to type and size together with quality," explained Elinor.

Clothie breeding doesn't just remain at home and mares and stallions have gone as far and wide as Norway, Germany, Jordan, America, New Zealand and Australia – with Clothie Zoebell, for instance, winning at the prestigious Royal Melbourne Show. The stallion, Clothie Barron, was exported to Denmark, however his progeny – Clothie Night Idiot and Clothie Humbell – have been retained and are part of the driving team. They have represented the stud in the Shetland Pony Grand National at Olympia numerus times between them alongside some of his female progeny have also being retained for breeding.

"I am breeding ponies for riding and driving, and aiming to breed ponies true to type, measuring in at between 40 to 42-inches with good movement and temperament," Elinor went explained. "A good temperament is most important as the ponies will be working with children, so safety is a key factor. The ponies also have to want to do their jobs, or it’s no fun for the rider or driver."

In driving terms, Elinor has competed over the years in singles, pairs, teams, tandems, a unicorn, random and a six in hand, with many successes in the driven circuit such as driven champion at the Shetland pony breed show in 2017 and winning the Shetland pony driven award scheme at the Shetland pony stud book awards.

She has also had numerous successes with the ponies in their ridden careers having had them at Olympia, in the London International Horse Show since 1998 as regular competitors in the Shetland Pony Grand National, with the tally standing at Clothie Night Idiot competing four times, Clothie Flyn three times, and Clothie Humbell twice. In 2008, the 30-year-old Clothie Uriebell retire at Olympia after racing there seven times.

As the only home-bred and home-trained Shetland driving team in the UK, Elinor’s team consists of Clothie Night Idiot, his brother Clothie Humbell, Clothie Flyn and Clothie Black Label, with the aim of adding two more ponies, Clothie Kingfisher and Clothie Troubell, to put a six-in-hand team of ponies together.

This year sees the Shetland Pony Breed Show return for the second time to the Shetland Isles and Elinor plans to drive her random there – which is a group of three ponies one in front of the other, alongside a pair of ponies. She will also be driving the length of the Shetland Mainland and two of the islands, Unst and Yell, to retrace the steps of the ponies ancestors. The trip will be done over five days.

Along with working full time and running and managing the stud, Elinor also provides time for some of the local children to come and work with and learn about the ponies and give them the same opportunities that she received from Marie Brooker. She explained: ‘They come here to learn all aspects of horsemanship from mucking out, grooming to learning to ride and drive. I have 10 kids here at the moment and many of the older kids that have moved on still come back to visit the ponies.

"I think Shetlands make such fantastic ride and drive ponies because of their versatility, athleticism and determination. I wouldn’t be without the them now ... you just can’t beat them.

"They have a great attitude to life, they love working for you and would do so until they drop. They are also highly intelligent and will do everything in their power to please us," Elinor concluded.