Personal Pones Ltd. was founded by Marianne Alexander on November 3, 1986 and was specifically created to benefit a small child that is differently able. Eight years of research and nearly ten years of a carefully considered breeding program, resulted in the use of the UK Shetland as the pony breed of choice for her program.
From the time of her original vision in 1946, it was almost forty years later that Marianne began to get busy and give her attention to creating this dream. In 1984 Marianne began considering which of the various pony breeds would be best suited for the program. Some of the Mountain and Mooreland breeds she considered were too big and she knew that the American Shetland was not suited for kids that are differently able. She liked draft horses best because they were quiet, careful, centered and balanced but of course far too big for a small child!
Eventually she came across a photo of a pony that she was interested in, a miniature horse named Johnson’s Vanilla. She knew the miniatures were not sturdy enough but the owner of Johnson’s Vanilla, Lowell Boone in Illinois, had a daughter of hers, Boones Little Cupcake. Cupcake was gorgeous and a fantastic mover with a sweet temperament but not as much heft as the draft type pony she hoped for. Nonetheless, Marianne went to visit and came home with Cupcake as her first pony for the program. Not too long after she found a gorgeous stallion for Cupcake by the name of “Arrowbrook Bryan Casey”. Casey was found in a cornfield with many mares and immediately she knew he was the one.
Once Marianne, Casey and Cupcake were all back in New York, she still was not certain what would come next. She remained captivated by their exceptionally kind and gentle dispositions. They responded very well to her grandchildren and other children who visited. They seemed to have a special sensitivity and the children adored them. Both Casey and Cupcake were registered as Miniature Horses. When Marianne started to trace their bloodlines, she discovered that although they were registered as American Miniature Horses, Casey and Cupcake were descendants of UK Shetlands imported to American from the The Lord of Londonderry Stud in 1884!
After this discovery and a conversation Marianne had with a long time friend who was a breeder and mountain/moorland pony judge in England, she knew she had to go visit. Marianne was given the names of many breeders and off she and her husband went to visit England, Ireland and Scotland to see the UK Shetland breed in its homeland hills, to meet with Shetland breeders and to study the original Stud Books in depth. They were received graciously by many and had the good fortune to visit with breeders who were willing to educate her about a breed that was barely known here in the America.
During her visit, Marianne did see the type of pony she wanted and she was able to learn more about Cupcake and Casey’s pedigrees. It was decided then and there after looking and looking that the Londonderry ore mines pony was the way to go! Marianne knew that temperament was key and when she was in the UK she said that without exception her contact with the UK Shetland afforded her the conviction that every pony she met had a kindly and affable disposition. Their docile nature enables them to put up with the whims of children without resentment or rebellion. In fact they genuinely enjoy children in every way regardless of a loud child voice. Marianne was truly entranced by their intelligence, patience and their singular attitude of enjoyment in the hands of their little people. The realization that she had indeed found the pony she was seeking for the children in the Personal Ponies program was a great joy.
Although this intent was very clear to her, her long-term goal of importing would not happen overnight. It would take time and money to be able to import and she would need to find ponies here in America in the meantime. Marianne set out on a search for quality Londonderry type Shetlands around the U.S. From 1984 until 1993 she was buying and gathering and watching for individuals. At the same time Marianne was busy with the beginnings of Personal Ponies Ltd, in 1986 she also established The Shetland Register (TSR) with the goal to develop in the U.S. the type of UK Shetland found in the United Kingdom. A few years later she and her husband returned to England (1991) to visit again and on that visit she determined which bloodlines she wanted for eventual importing. It was 1993 that Personal Ponies Ltd was accepted by the IRS and formally incorporated.
Cupid arrives in the America
In 1993, Scottish Champion Stallion, HIGHFIELDS CUPID was donated to the Personal Ponies organization by his owner in Scotland, Melissa Warren. Marianne thought she must be dreaming!
Yet there he was before her eyes! Safely here from Scotland, safely in U.S. Quarantine in Gardiner , N. Y. and then he safely arrived at Cornell University Quarantine where he must cover two mares and have it determined by Veterinarians at Cornell that he carried no venereal disease. Marianne supplied the two mares; Cupid did what was asked of him with no complications and he was released to Greystone Farm to complete his quarantine on U.S. soil. Two weeks later and thirteen thousand dollars worth of travel, tests and reams of paperwork and he was ready to sire foals for PPL!
When asked about having such a lad she said, “I had seen his Sire in Scotland and I knew then and there the son would be all we could desire in pedigree and bloodlines to add to our PPL Breeding program! Thank You Melissa Warren for making this stallion available to us! Thank you to all the previous unknown names and breeders who made it possible for HIGHFIELDS CUPID to be who he is and to be one of our best!”
The First Ten Years
Although Marianne had found ponies to start the program and was well on her way to finding additional mares and stallions for breeding, she also was determined to spend time making sure her concept would be successful for the children she wished to serve. For ten years Marianne spent many of her weekends traveling her thirty inch Shetland stallion, Brian Patrick Casey to schools, parades, fairs and orphanages , even spending afternoons as honored guests for house beautiful – Casey being the lawn ornament for those who wanted something different in their back yard.
The flaxen-haired diminutive stallion and Marianne became nearly household words as they visited towns and cities along the eastern seacoast. He traveled in his snug stall in her suburban – greeting passersby with his excited little whinny wherever we stopped. They looked like the proverbial PIED PIPER as they trotted about. Case – as he was affectionately known, wearing his tiny ten inch English saddle with almost always a small smiling child on board and a long line of children waiting patiently for their turn.
Every Sunday for ten years, Marianne had open barn at Greystone Farm in Freeville, NY where kids on crutches, wheelchairs, autistic kids, kids with downs syndrome and all manner of children came to visit the ponies. The kids loved on them and the ponies were so beautifully well mannered and courteous even with several kids shouting and running about. Marianne had little wooden bowls with carrot sticks so children could feed the ponies. She just knew her idea would work. Marianne also knew that her idea needed a team of people and without a “village” to make it work it would just be another “scathingly brilliant idea” that would never get off the drawing board.
In 1993, on August 26th at the Hartford Fair in Pennsylvania, PPL went public! It was a most special day – “Case “and Marianne were mobbed!
Using all of her contacts throughout the United States that she had gathered over the years as a very well-known and successful Connemara breeder, the name Personal Ponies became known! Eventually there were requests all the way to California and even in Hawaii. Eventually Marianne gathered a herd of thirty ponies at her farm in New York and she was ready to offer them around the country. The first pair went off to Pennsylvania in 1990. Ponies then went to Ohio, Iowa, Louisiana, New Jersey and other states.
From our rich history and beginnings of serving special needs children in their homes, our mission has evolved into providing our special ponies to therapeutic centers and individuals with programs that serve their communities. Now our ponies spread smiles and pony magic to special needs people of all ages- children, seniors, veterans, teens- the list is endless! They are also used by therapeutic centers in outreach programs visiting hospitals, senior and veteran centers, special camps, reading programs in schools, anywhere a special small pony can help people connect.