Accepted Paper:

'True Island Type Ponies': The Role of the Past in Contemporary Shetland Pony Breeding.  

Author:

Catherine Munro (University of Aberdeen )

Paper short abstract:

In this paper I argue that the past is a living, adaptable part of the present in relationships between humans, animals and landscapes in Shetland.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper I argue that the past is a living, adaptable part of the present in relationships between humans, animals and landscapes in Shetland.

Throughout Shetland's history, crofters are believed to have survived great hardship through their clever adaptations to a challenging environment. Shetland ponies played an active role in the survival of these households. The shared lives, and shared characteristics, of humans and animals are directly linked to contemporary ideas of home and belonging.

Changes to economic and agricultural practices have fundamentally altered land use, rendering obsolete many of the roles the breed traditionally performed. Shetland ponies are now more commonly recognized as a pet rather than a working animal. Pony breeders in Shetland are concerned that increasingly human dominated practice, and separation from the landscapes in which they evolved, puts at risk historic breed qualities of intelligence and independence.

Working with ponies in a way that maintains historic characteristics and connections with Shetland's landscapes is considered the right way to live, for both humans and equines, and is frequently contrasted with life in mainland UK.

Pony breeders are not seeking to recreate a static idea of the past, but rather keep alive elements of the past considered central to a sense of belonging and identity in Shetland.

With much in the future uncertain, preserving and cultivating healthy sustainable relationships with landscapes and animals, and adapting them where necessary, is believed to be essential to the continuation of life on the islands.

Panel P043
Temporalities of the past: moments, memories, and futures in the making