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Fell Pony Horse Breed Profile

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The Fell pony horse breed is an all-around family horse suitable for children and adults. It is common in England and is mostly used for riding

This horse breed possesses many traits which make it popular among the English and across the world.  

The Fell pony’s hardy stature and ability to survive rough terrain suits it for rides and working. Furthermore, its remarkable speed and “sixth sense” ensure riders’ safety. 

Formerly, the Fell pony performed farm and construction duties such as plowing and pulling sleds. 

Due to industrialization and technology, riding is the breed’s main discipline today.

More about the Fell pony, its history and traits, and health issues are outlined in this article. 

Black fell pony mare with its foal on its side on meadow

History of the Fell Pony Breed

Origin of the Fell Pony

England is the birthplace of the Fell pony. The breed was common in the north of England, the Lake District, and along the Pennines.

The name ‘fell’ originated from the Norse dialect. The natives call hills ‘fell,’ and since the horses lived in the hilly countryside, they acquired the name.

Fell ponies descended from the Celtic Pony. During the time of the Romans, crossbreeding between the Celtic Pony and foreign breeds (mainly Friesians) produced the Fell breed. 

The Romans used Fell ponies as draft animals. While building the Roman wall, these horses pulled carriages of building materials. 

In addition, they served as pack horses. They could transport goods to the local and foreign markets. 

These goods included lead from mines to the coastal smelting plant and wool from Lake District hills.

In the early 20th century, industrialization, technology, and new infrastructure saw the horse’s demand decrease. This led to a decline in the Fell pony population, prompting the inception of the Fell Pony Society (FPS). 

The FPS’s primary role was to preserve the breed and promote its welfare. This resulted in an increase in Fell pony numbers. 

Today, many people prefer the use of Fell ponies in equine schools and riding centers.

Beautiful black mare fell pony in motion walking with its trainer

Fell Pony Society

The Fell Pony Society (FPS) was founded in the early 20th century. The breed’s population declined during this period as farmers shifted to modern machinery and equipment. 

The Fell Pony Society aims to restore the breed and promote its rearing. In their mission statement, the society aims to “foster and keep pure the old breed of Pony.”

Other duties that the FPS performs include:

  • Circulating knowledge and essential information about the breed
  • Registering Fell ponies
  • Maintaining a member registry
  • Facilitating Fell pony exports

You can get more information about the breed and an events calendar list in the society’s two annual magazines.

Fell Pony Foundation Sires

The Fell ponies are descendants of the native Celtic pony and Friesians. Romans imported the Friesians during their time in England to help with construction work.

When they left, the Friesian stallions crossed with the Celtic pony mares to produce the Fell breed. Other breeds, such as the Shire, Galloway (now extinct), and Fen, also emerged.

The Fell inherited many traits from the Friesian, hence the great similarity between the two.

Gray fell pony stallion runs down the hill

Characteristics of the Fell Pony Horse 

Height and Weight

Fell ponies are shorter than other draft horses. A mature Fell pony is 13-14 hands tall and weighs about 1,000 pounds. 

The medium height and weight help the breed to adapt to rough terrain and trot long distances.


The Fell is a powerful and hardy breed. It has a pony head (hence the name Fell pony) with kind eyes and small ears.

The area between the eyes and the jaw is broad, with open nostrils. In addition, Fell ponies have deep jaws to accommodate even teeth. 

Although this horse breed is alert and brisk, they have kind eyes and neat muzzles. 

The Fell pony has a straight profile with silky foot feathers. Wavy locks of varying lengths and textures characterize the mane and tail.


The Fell pony breed’s common colors are black, brown, gray, and bay. Some lines have chestnut piebalds and skewbalds with white markings below the nostrils. 

Breeds with white and roan markings on the legs and hooves are also registered, but the markings should be minimal. 

Pure breeding, however, results in different color shades, such as summer black and chestnut. 


The Fell pony is popular for its hardiness and adaptability. Despite being alert, brisk, and courageous, the breed has a gentle and friendly temperament. 

The gentle temperament and the ability of Fell ponies to trot at high speed make them ideal for riding for children and adults.

According to, this breed has a sixth sense which helps it detect possible danger ahead. This, in addition to its adaptability and stamina, makes it a favorite for horse riders.


Like other ponies, Fell ponies live for 25-30 years. However, some horses may not make 25, while others live up to 10 years longer. The following can alter your Fell pony’s lifespan:

  • Overall health and living conditions. If you maintain proper hygiene and ensure your pony stays healthy, its lifespan can exceed 30 years.
  • Inbreeding. In an attempt to keep the breeds pure, inbreeding results in a lack of genetic diversity, making your horse prone to diseases.
  • Uses and activities. Exposing your horse to too much activity, such as riding in extremely rough terrain, can lower its lifespan. On the other hand, inactivity leads to obesity, which also lowers its lifespan.

Your horse requires close monitoring as it ages because the Fell ponies’ immunity decreases as they age.

Happy old man breeder of fell ponies with his fell ponies out in the wilds of Cumbria

Fell Pony Horse Registration

The Fell Pony Society registers Fell ponies that meet their requirements. The Society aims to keep the breed pure and promote its welfare. 

Here are the features that qualify your Fell pony for registration:

  • Body height not exceeding 14 hands
  • Small, well-chiseled head with a broad forehead
  • Straight profile
  • Common Fell breed colors

The FPS only registers micro-chipped foals. You should list the chip number on the registration application below the name and sex.

All registration for both foals and breeders ends before December. Check out the other requirements and fees here.

Genetic Diseases

Fell ponies adapt well to different climatic conditions and are hardy. This helps them withstand common diseases. 

However, they suffer from genetic diseases and other health issues. They include:

  • Fell Pony Syndrome: Foals inherit this condition from sires and mares. Although the foals appear healthy at birth, they fail to grow as expected and experience anemic lymphopenia. 

Foals with this condition show severe anemia, lymphopenia, and other infections from poor immunity. 

Even though the parents of an infected foal look healthy, they pass the condition as recessive inheritance, causing mutation. 

Veterinarians can detect this condition and avoid breeding carriers.

  • Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS). Ponies suffering from this condition fail to regulate blood insulin levels. The affected ponies show fat deposition in different body parts and failure to lose weight. 

You can manage this condition by monitoring your Fell pony’s diet and regular exercise.

Grey fell pony mare on pasture against white sky

Fell Pony Horse Disciplines

Fell ponies are light-bodied, hardy, and adaptable to many conditions. In addition to their friendly temperament, their strength and versatility make them great for many disciplines.

In the past, they worked as draft horses by pulling sleds, plowing, and transporting carriages.

Today Fell ponies work in the following disciplines:

  • Eventing. Due to their light body weight, intelligence, and brisk nature, Fell ponies are good at eventing. Moreover, they endure rough terrains and can trot long distances. 
  • Dressage. The breed’s steady temperament, intelligence, and surefootedness make it good for dressage.
  • Showjumping. The breed’s straight profile and intelligence make it the rider’s favorite for show jumping. Besides, it has sound limbs that can walk long distances and jump over different obstacles. 


Fell ponies are great for riding and other disciplines. However, experts predict the possibility of extinction in the future. Some issues affecting this breed are

  • Genetic diseases such as FPS. This condition is hard to detect and has no cure.
  • Inbreeding leads to low immunity, which makes the breed prone to diseases.    
Portrait of a fell pony mare and its kid

Fell Pony vs. Dales Pony

Fells and Dales are ponies with similarities such as sure-footedness and adaptability. However, they exhibit some differences. 

CharacteristicFell PonyDale Pony
Height and weight12.2-14 hands in height and about 1,000 pounds in weight.14-14.2 hands in height and about 1,000 pounds in weight.
TemperamentDocile and intelligent.Calm with a bold temperament.
Lifespan25-30 years30+ years
ColorsBlack, brown, bay, and gray.Roan, black, gray, bay.

Final Thoughts

Fell ponies are easy to rear and manage. Besides, their food requirements are low, and they can withstand harsh conditions. 

If you plan to keep a pony or small horse, this breed is ideal because you can use it for many disciplines. 

However, you should maintain proper hygiene and monitor your horse’s diet to prevent excessive weight gain.