A mob of ponies feeding together in the open air will use their heels to each other most liberally. This is a painful but undeniable fact, known to every breeder. When running wild on their native hills they are extremely pugnacious, and will fight most determinedly, not only with each other but with larger horses, frequently to the discomfiture of the latter. So far true, but our romancer—the Shetland Munchausen—goes on to affirm that if
"Fib and Tib and Pink and Pin,
Tick and Quick and Jill and Jin"
are but congregated loosely together in a shed, or other building, they will no longer quarrel. Amity will reign where hopeless discord formerly prevailed. We can only say, Try the experiment! We have. The whole thing is a baseless fiction. They are patient and enduring, these ponies of Linga; in many cases they may be trained to a docility and sagacity almost human, but there is a point with most of them—such, at least, is our experience of them indoors as well as out—when their patience gives way to positive ferocity, and when once their blood is up they are not so easily pacified. An experience we once had with a recalcitrant riding pony in a rural smithy—it was his first shoeing—will never fade from our recollection, nor, we imagine, from that of the village Vulcan.
Never groom a Shetland pony as you would an ordinary horse. They should be well brushed, and their manes and tails combed; but the indiscriminate use of the curry-comb is positively hurtful to them. More especially is this the case if the animal is to be left much out of doors. Observe one of them in the open air on a wet day, and you will notice that the rain runs off his coat as off a duck's back. But if the "set" be removed, the coat will no longer be water-proof. It is scarcely necessary to add that, by immemorial custom, the mane and tail should be lightly trimmed and no more. Nothing can be more incongruous than the sight of one of them closely cropped. The tail should just be off the ground. So careful are Shetland dealers in this respect that we have often received animals dispatched by them with the tail thoughtfully tied in a double knot, in case of accidents on ship-board.
The Shetland pony is shy of a strange owner, and at first requires to be jealously watched in a new home, as being apt to bolt on the first opportunity. Unfailing tradition steps in here and gravely informs us that a straying pony, however far removed from the land of its birth, will invariably shape its course for the north—in the direction, that is, of its native home. Needless to
- Linga, or Heath Isle, the ancient name for Shetland, now on the lucus a non lucendo principle, heath or heather being practically extinct.