Photo from Werner Kissling’s film, “Eriskay, 1934.”

How old are island ponies, from whence
Did they come? Wandering outer isles
When Roman soldiers arrived, before
“Albion” was coin-struck, painted Picts
Guided them from shore-to-shore, across
High-sloped folded rock. Crofting pony
We have, Beven named, thick brown coat,
Saddled with twin baskets, hauling cut
Peat, cottage-close, drying stacks for
Winter fires, daily duties performed.

“Willow, take Beven to peat bogs,” Mama
Said, family-familiar, both of us breakfast
Oat-eating this foggy island morn. Gentle
Bridle he took, bell adorned wicker baskets
On each side, willing boy, he followed my
Lead without whimper, onto rocky heights,
Narrow paths, oft mist shrouded, to bog-
Working men. “Balance his load,” papa
Advised, as if I did not remember, Beven
And I fast friends, girl and belovéd pony.

Quick mane shake, Beven made ready,
Burdened trek back home, baskets peat-
Bulging, he uttered small protests, sure-
Footed hooves on rain-slicked stones, he
Followed me, at times waited as I, too,
Took measured steps stream-crossing.
“We can do it,” I encouraged. “We are
Almost home.” Beven knew, his ponied-
Pace quickened, soon burdens unloaded,
Peat stacked, off to sunny grazing fields.

For glimpse into early 20th century life on Outer Hebrides, including ponies
and peat
cutting, see Werner Kissling’s historic B&W film, “Eriskay, 1934.” 
For more on Eriskay ponies, see this link.
Thanks for reading.

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