We have an entitlement to graze an Eriskay pony (and it’s young up to a year old) on the common grazings in, well, in Eriskay. Sounds quite reasonable when you put it like that, but the ponies themselves don’t alway think so. They prefer hanging around by the bus shelter, the shop. on the road, in the way. Wouldn’t be so bad if they actually did some proper work, like they did in the old days – carrying peat from the gearraidh, or the messages (provisions) from the shop, or seaweed from shore to shaw. We explored the possibility of having a pony: explored as in went there, turned round, came back. We did at least try! That entitlement? It’s available for someone else to use, for a small consideration.
Each Eirisgeidh – Eriskay Pony. North Lochboisdale, Isle of South Uist
In the Gaelic, Each means not pony but horse. Back in the day, this was how big a horse was! In the 20th C, when the Eriskay gained official recognition as a breed, it’s small size relative to modern-era ‘domesticated’ horses earned it an English-language name designation as a pony. Today, the Eriskay Pony is one of the rarest breeds of horse or pony in existence.
It’s been a ritual, for the past two to three months. Morning rations of sheep-nuts, and an armful of hay. The nuts go into plastic troughs, hooked over rails of a gate, and the bundle of hay is tied to the top rail.
Whilst D and I were away, it was Becky that hosted the party of six – Scott the ram, and five younger boys. But now I’m back from Navarra and dressed once more in my boiler suit, I’ve re-started – just this morning, in fact – work on the new fencing, further up the hill.
After I’d fed the boys, I set off up the hill with a big fence post on my shoulder. On reaching the depot for fencing materials, and having dropped my load, I stopped to take in the view – and a rest after my exertions. Somewhere in the near distance I could hear the whinnying of horses – Eriskay ponies, in fact. There’s plenty about in winter, when they are allowed down from the hill grazings.
Walking back down to the croft store for another load, what did I come across, but a troop of ponies passing along the ‘old road’ that crosses our croft, and helping themselves to the hay. Gate-crashers, indeed!
Gate-crashers: Eriskay ponies helping themselves to sheep feed.