A Rare Breed | Fall 2015 Out Here Magazine
Fell ponies bring a bit of England to Tennessee
By Hollie Deese
Photography by Mark Zaleski
The first time Melissa Kreuzer saw a Fell pony, she had to have one.
“I was at a friend’s house and she bred Friesians,” says Melissa, whose kinship with horses includes a degree in equine management. “I stopped and looked at this pony and asked, ‘What is that?’ She said it was a Fell pony that she had picked up in Colorado. That was 2002 and I was smitten. I was enamored and couldn’t get this little pony out of my brain.”
She started learning all she could about the horse, which is listed as “Watch,” on The Livestock Conservancy’s Conservation Priority List, with less than 2,500 annual U.S. registrations, and less than 10,000 worldwide. The conservancy uses this list to bring attention to livestock, such as the Fell pony, to connect them with people interested in saving a rare breed.
In the fall of 2005 she imported her first Fell.
“She was a great pony to start off with because as soon as I got her I knew it was a match,” she says.
The next year, Melissa imported her first stallion, and so began her part in strengthening the endangered breed.
A Sense of England
After her mother died, Melissa and her father John Peter Norum moved their breeding and training business, Dream Hayven, from Wisconsin to Tennessee in 2012, choosing an old 40-acre cattle farm in Lafayette, Tenn., as the perfect location.
“It took us a couple of years to find what we thought was the perfect match for us,” she says. “This farm hit the market and we loved it.”
Not only was the weather ideal and the cost of living more affordable, but its rolling hills and fields of vibrant yellow meadow buttercups weren’t too far off from the Fell’s native gentle hills of Cumbria, England.
“The four seasons for me is critical because you can’t raise a pony and expect to maintain that heritage — that look — without it, because so much of what they are about is environmental,” she says. “They need the toughness of a winter, but not a super tough winter.” Her northern Tennessee farm provides a similar environment as Cumbria, England, she says.
“You are only going to get so much England in America, but I have gone on many trips over there and have had a vision in my mind of what I recalled, and this was wonderful.”