While researching for top names in the Mountain and Moorland world, one name repeatedly came up, that of Kerry Wainwright. She has a superb reputation for not only breeding top quality ponies but also ponies with amazing temperaments. The Skellorn stud was founded in the 50s by her grandfather, Les Wainwright, who bred Welsh Mountain ponies including Skellorn Daylight, one of the top Section A sires who still influences the breed today. Granddaughter, Kerry, outgrew the Skellorn’s section A’s and so the stud commenced their divergence into Section B ponies. Skellorn Music Boy, born in 1977, enabled the stud to produce Olympia and county level ponies ridden by Kerry and in 1997, Kerry purchased her first Connemara to further expand the stud. The stud now has several mares and three stallions and the ‘Skellorn’ name is regularly seen in the line-ups at major shows across the country. 2019 saw Skellorn claim the Royal Welsh championship for the first time with Skellorn Bronze Soldier who sired the 2019 reserve Royal Welsh Champion Skellorn Barbies Image. Kerry was the first member of the Wainwright family to judge the Royal Welsh section B’s in 2018.
Why did you choose showing?
I was born into it. My grandfather started the local hunt and pony club in Adlington and when he got too old to ride, he bought his first section A ponies to show in hand. I was born into the section A’s but introduced the Connemara’s about 20 years ago. The native ponies always appealed because you don’t really outgrow them, they are really versatile, very easy to care for and there is actually quite a good market for them. There is also not the same height restrictions as you have with the show ponies and show hunter ponies: a small section B can do leading rein classes, a 13 hander can do workers or show hunter pony classes or still compete as an M&M, a full 13.2 can make a great ridden M&M for even a small adult, an over-height section B can still be a hunter pony.
I don’t breed just for the show ring though; I like to think I breed ponies for everybody. Ultimately, I am breeding for the most perfect animal possible, but not every pony you breed is perfect in its conformation or type but I like to think every pony has the temperament to go on and do another job if they are not right for the show ring. I don’t like the idea of breeding ponies with froggy heads or with short necks that can’t flex and go on the bridle, I try and breed something with correct conformation: a pony with good conformation can always do a job and shouldn’t be just pretty to look at in a field. I am not breeding ornaments.
What is the best piece of advice you got early on and from who?
A few people make a living from showing, but for most, showing is meant to be fun, it’s important that you enjoy it and make new friends. It’s good practice to not take the bad days home with you too.
My mother always used to say “Be happy with what you put in your wagon”.
What has been your biggest mistake?
Probably going under judges that I knew didn’t like my ponies and then being disappointed. Mum and I used to go to the same shows every year, no matter who was judging and it probably wasn’t always sensible. Now, I give a judge two shots, they don’t normally get a third. Diesel is too expensive now to travel somewhere when the judge is wrong for you.
Favourite horse you have had/ridden? Why? What made him/her special?
Skellorn Consort was a good stock-getter and an absolute gentleman. He had the nicest, kindest temperament. He sired some fantastic stock but was so under used in my opinion.
Skellorn Diadem was special because we rescued her dam from slaughter; Diadem was the foal she was carrying at the time she was rescued. She is the mother of all our ‘Doll’ ponies: Barbie Doll, Sugar Doll, Picture Doll. It was the most incredible, fortuitous time to be at Beeston Market when we found her and she has been such an influence in the stud, the breed generally and could easily have not even been around.
Skellorn Harrison really put me on the map for Connemara’s though, he has been a tremendous shop window for us and our first Cuddy pony. I never thought I would breed a Cuddy pony and I now have had two!
And of course, Skellorn Bronze Soldier whose movement and temperament are second to none.
Horse you wish you had/rode? Why?
I would like to bring back some of the old breeding ponies like Coed Coch Berwynfa, Gredington Simwnt, Criban Victor and Atlantic Swirl. They were big influencers on the breeds and we could do with that type of animal back, injecting a bit more substance and reminding people where the breeds started.
Some people don’t like my ponies because they are too substantial but that is what I like and for me that is what a true welsh pony should be. We have show ponies for those that like less limb. I know you must go with fashion and things evolve but I still think a section B should at least carry a wide fitting saddle. Some of the past greats could bring some of the classic type back.
What has been your hardest day showing?
Definitely the day I rode Harrison at Olympia for the last time, he absolutely hated being there from the moment we arrived. He is a very sensitive animal and he hated it. I knew I was doing the wrong thing and it was an awful experience. He had been before and been ok but this time, he was stabled next door to a Section D Stallion who he was terrified of. I think he had an awful night’s sleep and I got on to ride something that was a shivering wreck. He wasn’t a confident pony and it was just all too much for him that day.
When looking for a show horse – what do you look for?
I look for something that has charisma, self-carriage correct conformation and temperament if you have all that the rest is up to you to educate. You can have the most beautiful pony but if they don’t enjoy it, they just do not show themselves off: Skellorn Charmaine springs to mind! She was a very correct pony but didn’t enjoy showing and sometimes went unnoticed. It’s not always the most correct ponies that win, it must be a combination of all aspects.
You have to have good breeding foundations and then the training has to follow on from that. They must have the temperament to be trainable. I think people can overhandle animals and they get irritated, fed up and lose that wow factor. A show animal has to be ‘on the brink’ and can’t produce a wow factor performance if they are bored. There are not many that can keep going and going and still have that presence. It’s like a person going out on a good night out five days a week, you stop get excited about going!
If an animal doesn’t look pleased to see me then it doesn’t stay here very long. I like a horse that will smile at me and a kind eye is important. You can tell a lot from an eye.
Conformation faults can be very personal – which do you hate most? Which don’t bother you so much?
I hate long cannon bones, bad hindquarters and hind legs.
Obviously, I prefer not to have splints and windgalls, but I look at a splint and make a judgement on how it got the splint: does it have a bad foreleg or did it just have a bump. With windgalls, you don’t really want them but horses that travel a long way will probably have some sort of windgall.
What do you wish non-showing people knew about showing?
I have met an awful lot of people from all walks of life and have learnt a lot. It’s a nice hobby to have and showing is a good foundation for all equestrian disciplines.
As long as you don’t do too much, showing in hand can be a really good foundation for a young horse going on to any discipline. If you are at a pony’s head, it gives it confidence to do other things. Although, I always encourage people to lead them from both sides if they are intending to ride them, if you always lead off one side they get used to being supported that side (like if you ride at home in a ménage all the time, they get used to having that fence as support.)
What is your favourite show?
I love Derbyshire Festival and the Royal Welsh.
There is no show in the world like the Royal Welsh the in hand ponies are the main ring attraction and are truly spectacular
Derbyshire Festival because it is a lovely, well run show in a lovely setting at Somerford Park and it’s not that far from home either!
What piece of equipment would you not want to do without?
I have got a stripping comb that is old, you can’t get them anymore. If I have ponies that don’t like being clipped under their jaw then I can use that.
I have a halter which I use on foals. It was my Grandfather’s, made from old parachute material I use it to lasso foals. I would be devastated if I lost that. My grandfather told me he made it from the parachutes in the war; that’s the story I was told anyway!
What has been your funniest showing story?
My mother entered the wrong pony at the Royal Welsh one year. I got the pony ready and was on the showground ready to go down to the ring when my mother looked in the catalogue to find I wasn’t in it. My mother’s fault! It wasn’t that funny at the time!
I also put Skellorn Silver Coin on the wrong wagon at Cheshire Show one year.
Who do you most admire in the showing world?
Everyone that makes the shows happen; people forget about show committees, organisations, judges and stewards without which we wouldn’t have our hobby.
There are lots of people I admire I think it’s sad now that we don’t have any of the old studs, like Coed Coch and Gredington, with real characters and real ‘nagsmen’ that have horses from a boy right through to old age. Like Gordon Jones and Colin Rose, what those gentlemen had in their minds and in their brains is just lost.
What is the worst trend you are currently seeing?
People just want to see a pony flick a toe, they don’t care what sort of leg is flicking that toe or what is coming from behind. The speed in which the ponies are shown at trot, rarely are they able to travel within their balance; everything is run off its feet at speed!
And everyone wants a Palomino. Some people ring up and ask for a Palomino: it could have three legs, as long as it’s Palomino! It’s important to focus on what the pony is to do; people sometimes have an idea of what they want but don’t focus enough on what they want the pony to do.
I also think it’s important to have clean and well-fitting tack, you will be surprised how many don’t. I think people think it’s unimportant.
Also, the ability to stand a pony up correctly, it is a real pet hate. Conformation is half your marks and people don’t seem to bother. Most people’s shows are on a par, it’s the conformation marks that have the marks to be had and lost. Everybody wants to do ridden clinics but no one is asking for in hand clinics.
Who do you see being a big winner in the future?
I think Harrison Taylor will carry on his winning ways. He has Skellorn Déjà Vu for me now. He is very talented young man and I think we will see a lot more of him in the ridden classes.
You don’t see that many young people doing in hand these days which is a shame. It’s great that there are more young handler classes even the Royal Welsh has them which is encouraging.
What are your concerns for the future of the showing world?
We are one of the oldest studs. Are there going to be many after us? With the economic climate and people not willing to pay what it costs for you to breed a pony, it is a tough business. People want project ponies and that really irritates me. When someone rings up saying “I want a project pony’, I just think they want something for nothing that they can sell and make lots of money on. Does it not matter that the breeder has invested in that pony for three years? paid to registered it, inoculated, wormed, feet trims and handled? Someone wants to have it for 3 months, break it, ride it away and sell it for a fortune. I don’t think there is enough consideration for that. People want a horse that is 3 so they can get on quickly, they don’t want to pay to keep them that long before they can do something with them.
In hand showing is quite niche and people can think it’s ‘fixey’ and hard to win. I think it is up to the judges to ensure that it isn’t. If you are judging classes and fixing them, you are just shooting yourself in the foot because if we don’t have in hand showing, we don’t have a market for our young ponies. There is nothing worse than being the only one in a class; all that scrubbing and effort for nothing, there needs to be competition! People go to a show and want to be treated fairly, it’s too expensive now to not be treated as such
There has been a lot of talk about judges competing and showing: judges should have integrity and able to do both fairly. At HOYS 2018, in the junior classes, there were 4 in the championship I was responsible for 3 of them (two of the ponies I bred and one I had judged and qualified and stood above mine!) I found that so rewarding, it proved I am looking for the best whether I am judging or competing.
I worry that the in hand classes will go because everyone just wants to qualify for HOYS. Maybe we need a HOYS for in hand classes other than the supreme? It would generate so much for the showing world.
How would you like to be remembered? What would you like to be remembered for?
Being honest and breeding good quality ponies that can do a job with good temperaments.