By Ruth McMinn

Secretary of the Eriskay Pony Society

ONE OF Scotland’s rarest native ponies was the centre-piece of a rather special day recently in Perthshire, recently, to celebrate Donald and Mary McGillivray’s 40 years of involvement with Eriskay ponies.

Members of the Eriskay Pony Society, along with members of the Caledonian Support Group of the Rare Breed Survival Trust and other friends, turned out to acknowledge the very special place that the breed has in Scottish equestrian culture.

Donald and Mary first saw an Eriskay on the RBST stand at the Royal Highland Show in 1978 and got their first animals, a mare called Peigi and her foal, Cuirstaidh, the following year.

Since then, they have gone on to breed a large number of ponies under their Braincroft prefix and have made an incalculable contribution to saving this rarest of Scottish equines.

The Eriskay is classified as ‘critical’ on the RBST annual watch-list with fewer than 500 animals in existence and the Eriskay Pony Society is working hard, with support from the RBST, to promote appropriate breeding and to highlight modern day uses for this versatile pony.

This being an Eriskay Pony Society day, it started with coffee and home bakes in the hay shed before Donald gave a potted history of how he and Mary first became involved and how their breeding strategy was geared towards producing ponies that not only retained the looks of their forebears, but also had the adaptability to be trained for use in many disciplines in today’s equine world.

Then attention turned to the current Braincroft ponies which were individually showcased, with Mary explaining the breeding and attributes of each of them along with what role they are used for.

Mary had arranged for Rose McPherson, a successful local trainer, instructor and eventer, to talk about handling and training ponies. This proved extremely interesting to the visitors and included information recently gained on an equine psychology course in Germany and Rose’s thoughtful insight about how to achieve effective communication with, and co-operation from, clever, sensitive and opinionated native ponies will prove helpful in many situations.

One of the mares, Baravalla Morrigan (or Morrie), was then used to give a demonstration of tacking up and carrying traditional creels, a role she performs well at RBST displays and other events each year.

Having spent an enjoyable morning with the ponies, it was then time to head down to the local church hall for lunch, surrounded by an impressive display of pictures, books and memorabilia that stretched round the walls and which documented the MacGillivrays’ involvement with Eriskay ponies over the years.

There was also a slideshow presentation with Donald covering the history before handing over to Mary to cover the uses of the ponies today, including her adventures with her home-bred mare, Braincroft Thrift, in competitions, displays and the annual EPS trek.

More than £250 was raised from donations on the day to be split between the EPS and the RBST and Donald and Mary were presented with the Dugald Trophy which is given each year to the Eriskay Pony Society member who has contributed most to the society and the continued survival of the breed.

More information about Eriskay ponies can be found at