Maryland is well known for Thoroughbred racing but what many people don’t know about this small state is that it is also exceedingly well known for its show ponies.
In Maryland, there are certain farms and families who have dedicated their lives to the breeding, finding, buying and making of this pony royalty. One such family is comprised of Kris Morris and her two children, Harrison and Jacqueline, working from their Fat Chance Farm in the Bel Air area. Morris is a lifelong horsewoman and her two children were raised in this business of breeding, training and picking pony champions. To be successful in any family business it is necessary to stay close to where your heart is and to keep a certain sense of humor and the three members of the Morris family have maintained both of these.
Both of the kids are adults now and are still firmly in the business of show ponies but, in the case of Harrison who has attained a height of six feet, branching out into the horse business as well.
Harrison is currently grooming for International Level competitive driver Paul Maye, owner of Harmony Sport Horses who drives four in hands and pairs in Combined Driving. They will shortly be leaving for Kentucky to compete there. Harrison also works for Dover Saddlery and is a volunteer whip for the Elkridge Harford Hunt in season. He is known not only for his ability to ride some truly difficult horses but also for his humorously apt remarks when things go wrong in the attempt. He has a knack for creating exquisite drawings that so far is only a pastime but should be nurtured into a serious part of his life. During show season, though, several fancy ponies will be found in his barn being fitted for him to lead into the top show rings of the nation.
Both Harrison and Jacque have been handling some of the better ponies in the nation for rather a long time and are old hands at showing in hand in the rings at Upperville, Culpepper and Devon as well as having been invited to handle the ponies that enter the ring at the prestigious Pony Finals Sale at Lexington, KY.
In 2015 at Upperville Harrison was awarded the Best Turned Out (i.e. fitted and groomed) Pony Award, for which he willingly shared the credit with his sister who put the final touches of mane and tail braiding on the pony he had been fitting for several months.
Jacque herself is now on the road much of the time braiding manes and tails at the major shows. She has a group of at least nine ponies at almost every major show; a braider works at night, quite often ALL night, when the rest of the show world is at rest. They are to be found at all of the major English horse and pony shows, with their charges cross tied in the barn aisles putting the tiny painstaking braids down the necks of their client’s equines, large and small. Then they go round to the back of the animal and put in the braids down their tails that complete the business of creating an exquisite turnout for the judges’ eye the next day.
Jacque, at 22, is still light enough to get on the two-year-old ponies to start them. Sometimes her work consists of making believers out of fractious ponies that have forgotten their manners and need a refresher course in them.
All of this started with Morris, of course. Kris Morris was the one whose dad put her on a horse before she could walk and whose first pony was a small black four-year-old Shetland stallion. She moved on from that beginning to galloping Thoroughbreds at age 16 and then never really looked back.
Although they have become a force to be reckoned with in the pony show world, fielding such winning ponies as Wynnbrook Arctic Fox, AKA Hotshot, a pony that was the Lexington Ch. Medium Green pony and that has gone on to win at the Hamptons, it isn’t just a job.
The Morris family is just as proud of the ponies who have become ‘packers’ in the schools and riding rings of MD as they are of the ponies who have gone on to more obvious glory. All of the ponies are started the same way. Manners, driving lines cross country, being taught to pony other horses and ponies, seeing how many different things you can do with each pony so that they are virtually bomb-proof when they go out into the world.
And it is not all about money either. Morris tells of the sad little pony foal that they bought for $75 at a stable and took home into an oncoming ice storm that night. The pony had pneumonia and needed not only antibiotics but also bottles of milk every two hours around the clock, which the kids, Jacque at 11, Harrison at 13 and Morris took turn and turn about that night in the icy weather. When Morris got up at 5 a.m. for her turn she realized that not only was the bottle not on the counter but also that Jacque wasn’t in her bed either. Just as she reached the door, in came a very bedraggled Jacque.
“Mom,” she said, “I heated the bottle at 3 a.m. and went out. It was so icy out there that when I crossed the yard I fell down and just shot down over the lawn, across the driveway, under both of the fences and down into the woods! It’s taken me until now to crawl back up to the barn and give the baby its milk.”
When you have put in time like that, a little glory seems a fitting result.