Lighthouse Letters
By Sharma Krauskopf

This is an article by Sharma Krauskopf from Michigan who fell in love with Scotland - and decided to buy a lighthouse keepers' cottage at Eshaness, a remote location in Shetland, in the far north of Scotland and live there each winter. These pages were previously part of the "Scottish Radiance e-magazine Web site which was created by Sharma.

The Shetland Pony

Shetland Pony in Shetland by Sharma Krauskopf

"Would I see one, oh I hope so?" I kept thinking as our airplane landed in Sumburgh, Shetland

One of the things I most wanted to see on my recent trip to Shetland was a wild pony. The Shetland pony is an example of a breed adapting to its environment. It's smallness and thick coat being products of the Shetland climate. The ponies have been on the islands since the Norsemen arrived but are becoming increasing rare in the wild. The ponies vary in size from thirty-six inches to forty-five inches. They come in all colours form black, dark brown, light grey, chestnut, and combination of all. The ponies look their best in the late summer when they have shed the entire winter coat. Alas, since it was January if I saw any they would be at their shaggiest.

As soon as we had picked up our rental car and we were on the road, I began my vigil for ponies. This was not an easy task as it was pouring down rain mixed with a little sleet. I kept my nose pressed to the window so I would not miss one pony. Frustrated I had to wipe the moisture from the window every few minutes. For the first 30 minutes I saw nothing but the beautiful Shetland landscape. Suddenly I began to worry that all the reports I had read about how rare it was to see the ponies in the wild were true. As we passed Lerwick on our way north, I began to loose hope.

And then!

Just off of my side of the car were three ponies sheltered behind a hillock.

"There they are, off to the right!" I screamed.

My husband who was driving and my friend, Sue who was navigating jumped like they had been shot. By the time I explained it was too late for them to see what I was so excited about. The ponies were out of sight

As we drove into the carpark of the St. Magnus Hotel which sat at the top of St. Magnus Bay in northern Shetland, what was in the front garden but three Shetland ponies. I went crazy. I wanted so desperately to take their picture but the rain and sleet had not let up so I begrudgingly went inside leaving the ponies outside. As soon as we were in our room I looked out the window but the ponies were gone.

While we ate lunch I asked our hostess if the ponies were common in the area. She smiled and reassured me there were too many wild ponies in the area as they have a tendency to eat flowers and destroy gardens. Her reassurance gave me hope that later we would see the ponies again. But, we did not see anymore that day.

The next morning the first thing I did was peer out the window to check the weather. It was a bright clear day with pale blue skies over the sparkling gray water of St. Magnus Bay. And then I saw them. Three ponies were gnawing grass in the front yard of the hotel. Throwing on my clothes I grabbed my camera and ran for the front door. Just before I opened the door I calmed down enough to move slowly so I would not scare them if they were still there. As the door opened I could see they were no longer in the hotel's yard but had moved across the road to better grass beside the bay. Very slowly I moved closer so I could get a good photo. The lead pony eyed me with distrust so I stopped to reassure him. He began grazing again and I moved closer. I started taking pictures hoping they would hold still enough that I would get one good picture. Naturally I ran out of film so I just stood and watched these handsome creatures. I am thankful now that I ran out of film because those few moments alone with the ponies I will always treasure. I eavesdropped while they chewed their grass, swished their tails, and whinnied to each other as they left. It was probably only a few minutes before they trotted down the road but what moments they were. To be so close to a wild creature which is becoming so rare is a gift from heaven and I am very thankful for the opportunity.

And look I even got a picture to remember it by!

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