By Eden Pessin
If you show ponies on the Ontario A circuit, you’ve heard of Stoney Fields Farm. Their ponies are always at the top of the jog and their riders are adorable and polished. I interviewed Francesca Mulligan, who has been running their program, along with her parents and Stoney Fields founders, Peter & Lois Mulligan.
Thank you to Francesca for taking the time to share some thoughts about the pony life and introducing us to the Stoney Fields riders!
Tell us a little bit about Stoney Fields!
Stoney Fields is a family run business established in 1975 by my parents Peter and Lois Mulligan. We have always specialized in development and sales. In more recent years, our skills have gravitated towards kids and ponies. We do a lot of work with green ponies and are fortunate to be connected with Cherrybrook Hunter Ponies LLC. In bringing along these ponies we have also established some great pony riders.
Stoney Fields riders and ponies are always at the top of the Ontario standings.
What are some of your most memorable moments as a trainer?
We are so lucky. We have had some truly amazing moments as trainers. Seeing ponies and riders find success at big venues is very rewarding. We have been to so many amazing shows both in Canada and in the US. My favourite is always The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. The history of the horse show and the overall atmosphere makes winning there pretty special!
What are some of your goals as a trainer?
I think the goal is to always keep learning. Our program typically produces knowledgable riders and I hope to continue with that. Keeping up with a constantly evolving industry is very important.
Stoney Fields ponies cross the border quite frequently to horse show. What would you say a pony needs to be successful in both the United States and Canada?
True quality can win anywhere. We strive to have ponies and horses that embody that in our stable. Beyond how they jump, move, etc, they need to have a good work ethic but be proud enough that they want to win. The ponies and horses that come to the ring with 100% are the ones that can be successful in either country and at any venue.
You have one of my favorite ponies, Vermont Ruby Fox, currently in your barn! I always go by your shedrow at shows to say hi. How has Ruby’s season abroad in Canada been?
We love Ruby!! There are so many things that make her special, and it definitely doesn’t hurt that she is DROP DEAD GORGEOUS! She has taught Esme Chapman so much and they have had a season full of great experiences so far. She truly is a barn favourite! #rubylicious
If you could only train one pony size forever, would you choose smalls, mediums or larges?
Probably mediums or larges. Smalls can be tough to train. It can be difficult to find riders that are size appropriate to train and start to show them. I like my ponies to go like horses so mediums and especially larges would be my pick!
Tell us about some of the Stoney Fields riders!
Ava Campbell, age 9
Pony: Morwel Hightide
Division: This is Ava’s first year out of Short Stirrup showing in the Small Pony Hunters.
My favourite thing about Ava is her capacity to learn new things. She wants to know everything about horses. She wants to know what they eat, why they wear certain bits, details about course – anything she can ask about, she does!
Esme Chapman, age 11
Pony: Vermont Ruby Fox
Division: Medium Pony Hunters
My favourite thing about Esme is her kindness. She LOVES her pony. She appreciates her, spoils her and the affection for what she rides has always been about something more important than the ribbons.
Elizabeth Parish, age 12
Pony: King of the Castle (among others with catch rides)
Division: Medium Pony Hunters
My favourite thing about Bee is her spirit! She is definitely my tornado of the group. Bee is all about the riding, with no fuss and no frills. In today’s day and age I think there is something to be said for that!
Leanna Lazzari, age 15
Pony/horses: Cherrybrook Just Blue By, Walhalla & Cavallino
Divisions: Green Pony Hunters, Junior Hunters and Equitation
My favourite thing about Leanna is her attention to detail. She is a girl after my own heart. I think that this quality is what makes her successful in the ring. She is always organized, always has a plan and she is always ring-ready.
Do you have any funny horse show superstitions or rituals?
So many superstitions and rituals! Everyone at the barn pokes fun at me because I may be a little obsessive. I have a routine, that’s for sure! The kids all have their own habits. Some deem their back numbers lucky based on the mathematical equation the numbers create. Show bows seem to be a very lucky or unlucky thing. Some off the girls repeat their courses 5 times and others think when they go in the order will impact their day. I think all riders have something they do that makes them unique.
What is your favourite inspirational quote?
“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”