Matthew Kitching & Samantha Smith
Ashbeck Fell Pony Stud
We are hill farmers tending to hefted flocks of Swaledale sheep which have grazing rights on to the fell common. We are also a new herd of hill ponies registered under the Ashbeck prefix. Prior to having a hill farm we had 2 fell mares Elmbanks Christine (ride & drive) and brocklebank Magellan (just a youngster) who became the foundation of our herd. Our residential farm is based at Fell End, Ravenstonedale, where our sheep and ponies have grazing rights on to wildboar fell. Our other farm in sedbergh previously farmed by Thomas Capstick (Murthwaite ponies) has grazing rights on to the howgills.
It has taken us until 2020 to breed a filly foal. We try to retain a small number of fillies each year to become future breeding stock. Our mares have been sourced from various backgrounds and it takes approximately 2 winters for the ponies to acclimatise to the conditions. The mares run with the stallion on the inbye and are served naturally. Then the mares and foals go back to the fell common. The stallions winter together in a rough pasture. We feed our mares from the end of November through the winter, when all the sheep come off the common to go to the tup. This keeps them on our heft and stops them annoying the neighbouring farmers when they feed their sheep after they return from the tup. Although the ponies would survive without being supplemented hay, it helps to keep the peace amongst the other commoners and heft the ponies. We are passionate about keeping fell ponies on the fell, where they belong. The Ashbeck prefix comes from a small stream that runs off the howgills and through our farm.