The Highland pony or garron in English and gearran in Gaelic is a hardy breed of pony bred in the Scottish Highlands. They are very adapted to the Highland terrain. Most Highlanders rode a garron; however, some of the nobility and clan chiefs may have imported horses from continental Europe, but at great expense.
The Highland pony is a native Scottish pony, and is one of the largest of the mountain and moorland pony breeds of the British Isles. It was once a workhorse in the Scottish mainland and islands, but today is used for driving, trekking and general riding. They are strong and tough, rarely require shoeing, and are economical to keep. They are generally free from many equine diseases.
The Highland Pony is one of three native breeds of the Scottish Highlands and Islands. The others are the Shetland pony and the Eriskay pony. Over many centuries the breed has adapted to the variable and often severe climatic and environmental conditions of Scotland. The winter coat consists of a layer of strong badger-like hair over a soft dense undercoat, which enables the pony to live outdoors in all types of weather. The coat is shed in spring to reveal a smooth summer coat. This essential hardiness is combined with a kindly nature and even temperament.
The height of a Highland pony is between 13 hands to 14.2 hands. The head is well-carried and alert with a kindly eye, broad muzzle and deep jowl. A reasonable length of neck going from the withers with a good sloping shoulder and well-placed forearm is desired. Ponies should have a well-balanced and compact body with a deep chest. They should have well-sprung ribs, powerful quarters with a well-developed thigh, strong gaskin and clean flat hocks.
Feather hair behind the fetlocks is soft and silky. When Highland ponies are shown, the mane and tail are kept natural, flowing and untrimmed.
Highland ponies are seen in a range of dun or grayish-brown shades. **
Excerpt from A Highland Ruby:
Gathering his plaide closer, Gavin, on one of Andrew’s garrons, rode toward the hills and Ben Wyvis in search of his cousin. Alistair had been a good man, hard worker, and loyal clan member. Now the trouble with the Earl of Ross made him fear air chàrn. Gavin wondered about Alistair’s wife. He was handfasted to a young girl from the Black Isle, Bridget Murchison. The chief desperately wanted to get the young man out of the country before the King’s soldiers caught and executed him. Mayhap helping his cousin would make restitution for Gavin’s sins in the eyes of God, well restitution for a few, but not all. His sins were many, and his chances with Flora were nil, but he did wish to be close to Gavy. If the boy lived with the MacKay, when would he ever see him?
The terrain steepened and became more treacherous toward the ben. The first day was easy traveling through the farmland of Ferindonald. He enjoyed riding among the runrigs and sheep grazing fields. The shepherds had begun moving their sheep to the higher slopes for the summer where they lived in steddings while tending their herds. He spoke to several, even conversing with a man and his son where he stopped to eat the lunch Cook provided. Although he made a quick departure after Andrew and he quarreled, Cook had prepared food for him to take on the three day journey.
The garron stumbled twice the second morn, causing rocks to tumble down the side of the slope. Gavin hugged close to the inside track next to the steep embankment. Alistair and his gang hid in the same cave Andrew and he used when they went on hunts around Ben Wyvis. Their cousin accompanied them on several occasions. Few others knew or cared about the remote place. Andrew and he accidently stumbled upon the small opening, concealed in bracken and gorse. Needing a place to stay the night, they cleared away the brush, crawled through a short tunnel into a large cavernous chamber. A perfect hiding place for someone who ran from the authorities. The opening could be easily hidden.
Gavin looked for a place to bed down as the gloaming turned dark, and spotted a small, level clearing under a large pine. Low branches of the tree offered shelter from the wind. Without lighting a fire, he tethered the horse, took his targe and the remainder of food from his saddle bags, and crawled under a low-hanging limb. Propped up on the tree trunk, he ate the meager meal.
Reaching Ben Wyvis became more pertinent with every bite or killing some game would be necessary. He didn’t wish to take time for a hunt. The sooner he got Alistair across the North Sea to France, the sooner he could get back to Fàrdach and Flora. She said her wedding would be in the autumn at Samhain. Hopefully, he could return before then.
Wrapping up in his great plaide, he lay on the pine straw and dozed. An owl screeched close by, and then another far away. A branch cracked under the weight of a foot. Gavin sat up, pushed his plaide away, and grabbed the pistol laying next to him. He carried a small sword and sgian dubh, but the gun would stop the intruder quickly.
A foot wrapped in a handmade deer hide shoe appeared under the tree limb. Darkness hid the intruder’s face. “Leave your weapons on the ground and come hither with your hands in the air. Yer surrounded,” a gruff voice above the foot commanded. A filthy, bare foot attached to a hairy leg appeared on the other side of the branch. The voice, Gavin recognized as Alistair, said, “I see you ride a Munro garron. Come hither and identify yerself.”
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