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Eriskay ponies amongst rare breeds at Sherborne Castle Country Fair

By fdart  |  Posted: April 22, 2014

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Sherborne Castle Country Fair includes one of the largest rare breed shows in the country.

For one day every summer, one of the country's finest settings is transformed into a fun-filled day out to suit all ages.

The fair was started by a small group of volunteers, in 1996, with the aim of raising money for local charities, working with children’s. To date the committee, still run by volunteers, has given £911,777 thousand to local children’s charities and youth support groups.

The Rare Breeds Survival Trust, Dorset Support Group had been organising shows annually at venues in Dorset since 1990. In 1999 the group joined forces with Sherborne Castle Country Fair.

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Having the Rare Breeds Show has been an amazing success and over the years and The Dorset Group has benefited by £17,675 of donations from the fair to help their youngsters breed and rear their own rare breed stock. This year they have a newly elected chairman, Barry Graham.

Barry was born in the North East (County Durham) moving to Nottinghamshire in his teens, where he went to agricultural college then worked on various livestock farms and was appointed farm manager on a Devon farm when he was 23; continuing to manage farms for another 18 years until he studied for his teaching degree at Reading University, then went on to lecture in Agriculture until retiring. Barry has been a member of RBST from the early days and now keeps poultry as a hobby.

There will be a stand in the Rare Breeds Tent this year devoted to The Eriskay pony originating from the Isle of Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides, just off the west coast of Scotland. Known as back door ponies, they were bred selectively by the crofters who used them to help work the land by carrying heavy loads of peat and seaweed in baskets (creels) slung on either side of them. These courageous ponies even waded into the sea to meet the little fishing boats in order to carry the catch to the shore. Being so sure-footed they negotiated the rocks with the nimbleness of a mountain goat. In the past, children have also ridden their ponies to school.

Today they make excellent Pony Club, Riding for the Disabled, trekking and driving ponies. They help the small holder by bringing wood and manure to smaller plots of land and together with rare breed sheep, goats, cattle and chickens, these ponies are able to enhance this way of life bringing trust, loyalty and love. Best of all they do it naturally.

On the Somerset Levels there is a small herd being bred and the fair hopes to have an example of the breed on show.

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