Sue Millard was born in Cheshire, and took an honours degree in English Literature at University College, Chester. She moved to Cumbria in 1975 and now lives with her husband in 'a very small hamlet at the end of the world.' She has a grown-up daughter and son.
She has designed embroidery canvases, painted murals for the Fell Pony and Countryside Museum at Dalemain, appeared on the TV quiz Mastermind in 1984, made competition driving harness for horses and ponies, and farmed for 14 years. Sue has written two other books, One Fell Swoop and Against the Odds. She was a regular contributor to Carriage Driving Magazine, was the cartoonist for the pony magazine Going Native until its closure in 1995 and still contributes to its successor Native Pony. She hopes to publish a book of poems - sometime!
Sue is a panel judge for the Fell Pony Society and serves on their Council and Overseas Sub-Committee. She is Chairman of the North West Driving Club, and owns a laid-back black Fell pony known to his friends as Mr T, and a much cleverer bay mare called Ruby. She works near Penrith as an IT lecturer at Cumbria Campus, Newton Rigg, University of Central Lancashire and was recently awarded the degree of MSc in Multimedia Computing. Her web responsibilities include the Fell Pony and Countryside Museums at Dalemain; Cumbria in Bloom; Greenholme Fell Pony Stud; the North West Driving Club; the Fell Pony Society and Conservancy of the Americas; and the Equus Survival Trust.
'Hoofprints in Eden' very successfully captures the recollections and experiences of long-established Fell pony breeders, revealing much about the customs and practices of keeping ponies on the open fell and about the hill farmers and enthusiasts who worked tirelessly to save the breed from possible extinction. Their candid contributions, which form the basis of this book, make fascinating reading and represent an unique and valuable addition to the material already published on the breed. Thoroughly recommended.
Clive Richardson, Fell Pony historian and past secretary, Fell Pony Society.
Fell ponies are a familiar sight in Cumbria, roaming about the hills and moors in remote areas, working in farm fields and enlivening the rings at agricultural shows - but how much do you know about these tough, hardy, compact little animals?
Anybody who wants to learn more can do no better than buy a copy of 'Hoofprints in Eden: Nobbut Thirty Years', a book of stories and detail about the breed, which has just been published.
Fascination in a topic is essential to the writing of a successful book. And Sue Millard is clearly besotted by Fell ponies.
'Living at Greenholme, I am surrounded by fell commons, the Howgills, Roundthwaite, Birkbeck and Crosby,' she writes. 'I have been a user, admirer and owner of Fell ponies for over 30 years.'
She sees the 'Fell' as unique - a view clearly shared by many of the breeders, past and present, whose names crop up in the course of the 240-page book.
Jos Dargue, Sarge Noble, Frank Wales, Eddie Wilson, Jimmy Bell, Henry Harrison, Chris Thompson, Ted Benson, Bill Potter, Bert Morland, David Trotter, Thomas Capstick and Barry Mallinson, are some of the names of men whose ponies have run on the Cumbrian fells.
Ladies, too, have been associated with the furtherance of the breed, among them Mrs Ailie Newall, Corbridge, Fell Pony Society secretary Peggy Crossland, and Mrs Sylvia McCosh, a daughter of Major Edward W. Hasell, Dalemain, Penrith.
Many people admire the ponies at agricultural shows. They were exhibited at Orton as far back as 1860 and soon afterwards at Shap show, described as 'one of the best in the district'.
Temple Sowerby, Hesket-new-Market, Brough and Ireby were among other village shows with Fell pony sections, with Penrith prominent among town exhibitions.
There was a lively side to Fell ponies when they took part in endurance riding and trotting races, some of them at shepherds' meets and other farming gatherings.
The racing of trotting horses and ponies ranked alongside cock-fighting and wrestling as north-country spectator sports, with bookmakers always in attendance.
At the Newbiggin (Ravenstonedale) sports, the trotting races were both 'open' and 'confined to horses of the parish'. The Whartons of Sunbiggin and the Hullys of Bousfield are mentioned in the book as rival supporters of the sport.
Trotting races were also part of the fun at the Orton pot fair, in the early 1900s. A showground controversy of 1880 is recalled in the book by means of an extract from the 'Herald'.
First prize in the pony sweepstakes was won by a 'fine-actioned animal' belonging to Mr Davidson, Shepherd's Hill, Penrith. A Mr Hall, of Melmerby, whose 'rough-legged pony' was placed second, entered a protest, on the grounds that the winner was above the specified height of 14hh - but the animal was found to be in order, according to the rules.
The book is largely historical and reminiscent, with memories from enthusiasts like Sylvia McCosh, Bill Potter and Frank Wales and a picture of an old character, Joe Baxter, of Guardhouse, Threlkeld, who used to walk a stallion, 'Master John', around farms in the area.
What of the future? Fell ponies are given an 'endangered' status by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.
But Sue Millard is more optimistic and writes: 'I hope there will always be new people coming into the breed, who are willing to learn from the original breeders.
'Fresh minds, combining local knowledge with their own, may well find new avenues that the versatile and robust Fell pony might explore, and thus assure its future.' John Hurst writing in 'The Cumberland & Westmorland Herald', 5 November 2005
THE Duke of Edinburgh's office, at Buckingham Palace, has just ordered three copies of a new book published by Hayloft Publishing Ltd, Kirkby Stephen. Hoofprints in Eden, which was published in October, is written by Sue Millard, from Greenholme, near Tebay, and explores the history and present day situation of Fell ponies.
The Queen, who is patron of the Fell Pony Society, is a keen Fell pony breeder under the Balmoral prefix, while the Duke drives a team of Fell ponies in competition, including at the Lowther event.
The author, who works at the University of Central Lancashire's Carlisle campus, said: "I was very excited and the whole family were smiling about it when we heard the news. It really is lovely to think that the Royal household wants to read about Fell ponies.' Cumberland & Westmorland Herald, 12 November 2005
The Fell pony, rich in a history that is forever entwined with the unique uplands of the region, has slowly but surely attracted admirers around the globe.
Around 500 registered Fells live in Holland, with further examples of the breed to be found in America and parts of Europe and Scandinavia.
But no matter where Fell pony enthusiasts are based, they can now acquaint themselves with the tales, traditions and local practices surrounding the keeping of the breed on the county's hilltops through a South Lakeland author's latest book.
After spending some two years collecting information and stories from Fell pony breeders, Sue Millard was finally able to sit down and begin writing 'Hoofprints in Eden' - whish she hopes will go some way towards quenching a thirst for knowledge on the native breed from its many fans.
Having owned, kept and competed Fells for more than 30 years, the Greenholme-based enthusiast knows a thing or two about the hardy ponies said to have originated in Roman times.
But it was the old tales and methods known only to some of the oldest Fell families in the area that she wanted to safeguard for future owners within the pages of her book.
'I didn't want to produce another history of the Fell,' Mrs Millard explained. 'We've already got that in Clive Richardson's book and I didn't want to go over the same ground.
'I wanted to capture the way the ponies have always been kept on the fells so we can keep hold of that oral history before it disappears.'
Having already penned 'One Fell Swoop' and 'Against the Odds', Mrs Millard, who works full-time as an IT lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire's Newton Rigg campus, set about meeting and interviewing some of the most established Fell pony breeders in the area that produce the Peepings, Lownthwaite, Sleddale, Heltondale, Townend and Carrock, Waverhead, Linnel, Drybarrows, Dene, Adamthwaite, Greenholme, Lunesdale, Tebay, Murthwaite and Hardendale ponies.
'It took a long time arranging to meet people. A lot of the breeders are farmers, so I tried to choose the times of the year when they would be least busy.
'But there were a lot of important people to talk to, who told me stories and shared memories - the direct transcripts of which formed the real basis of the book. Some people would tell me stories, and others would be able to fill in the gaps.'
Her passion for Fell ponies began as a teenager during a holiday to Borrowdale from her home in Cheshire. And it took just one ride on a bay Fell pony called Wimpsey to get her hooked.
She currently owns two Fells; a black gelding called Mr T and a bay mare called Ruby.
'They are just so versatile,' said Mrs Millard. 'But I felt it was important to take down the stories and traditions before they die out. There are some young people coming through the ranks but not as many people keep them on the fells now.'
Herself a panel judge for the Fell Pony Society, Mrs Millard hopes 'Hoofprints in Eden' will help to answer the many questions put to her from overseas owners about the keeping of the breed.
'I think it has turned out even better than I anticipated, I would hope it will be a reference book. But, most importantly, I hope it will help inform owners of the tradition and background of the Fell pony for those that haven't actually got the fells nearby.' Westmorland Gazette, 21 October 2005
I received my copy of your book a couple of weeks ago. I am about one third through. I want to tell you how much I am enjoying the book. It was even a neat experience ordering the book from the UK and I even enjoyed the postmarks and postage information. I have read every word and all the glossary, I did not want to miss any part of the book.
It is like magic to me. I just recently bought a fell filly, she is now nine months old. She is the apple of my eye. Reading your book seems to
transport me to the fells where she originated from. Your book and words make it almost like being there. I feel like I know her so much better since I am reading your book. It is almost like she is talking to me through your book, sounds a little daffy.
We live in Ohio and right now are experiencing a bitter cold winter. Zero and holding. I still spend as much time with her as my toes and fingers will allow. Then I snuggle up by the wood burning stove with your book and transport myself to the fells. Thank you Sue for writing such a special book at such a special time in my life. December 2005
For more information see http://www.suemillard.f9.co.uk. Sue has recently published a volume of poems entitled Pearl Wedding.