Shetland Ponies Take a Boat to Visit Their Distant Relatives

"In the old days, it'd be more normal to go by sea than by trailer or car," horse trainer Emma Massingale told

An Irish horse trainer wanted her two Shetland ponies to learn more about where they were from, so she loaded Albert and Ernie onto a boat, and took them on a month-long journey back to their roots.

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“It kind of intrigues me — we’ve got nine breeds of ponies in the U.K.,” Emma Massingale, 34, told “The smallest are the Shetlands. It got me thinking, why are they the size of a small family dog, and how did they end up so small?”

Instead of pondering from the comfort of their own home, Massingale and her two Shetland ponies decided to take a trip to the Shetland Islands, more than 600 miles from their home in Dublin.

To get between islands, the trio took a sailboat, as seen in photographs shared by Caters News.

“In the old days, it’d be more normal to go by sea than by trailer or car,” she explained. “The Shetland Islands are made up of 100-something islands. [Horses] had to move around for grazing, hence why they put [ponies] on sailing boats.”

Albert and Ernie even had custom made Fair Isle sweaters, named after one of the islands, to help them stay warm and look stylish on their trip.

“They’re knitted out of Shetland sheep wool on the island by an elderly lady, and it took her six weeks to knit them,” Massingale explained. “We went to visit her shop and she fitted them in these sweaters. She knitted one for me as well, which was part of the tradition in the island to keep themselves well protected from the weather.”

During their month long trip in Shetland, known for their harsh climate, Massingale said learned her ponies were so small to help them survive in the cold winter. The breed also tends to be sturdier than other horses, since they needed to be strong against nature.

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For Albert and Ernie, they learned what it was like roaming freely among their relatives, when the trio found a wild herd of Shetland ponies.

“They’d never met other ponies their size before, so that was kind of funny,” she explained. “To set them free in the Shetland Islands, to show them what they’re made of and how they can survive and cope, it gives you the confidence that you can adapt to these harsh environments as well.”

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