Frances Taylor is the author of the ‘My Shetland’ blog detailing her love of Shetland ponies and other animals.  I managed to catch up with Frances as part and ask her some questions about her life in Shetland and the famous shetland ponies in cardigans advert.
Shetland Ponies in Cardigans - Lerwick

Shetland Ponies in Cardigans – Lerwick

1. How long have you lived on Shetland for and how did you become interested in Shetland ponies?

I have lived in Shetland since 1996.  My husband, 2 infant daughters and 3 cats moved up from South London because we wanted a better place to bring up our children.

Since early childhood, I have always wanted my own pony and was never allowed.  I did, however, learn to ride.  When we finally found a house to buy in Shetland, after renting for a few months, it had 5 acres so I started to rescue old ponies that needed a retirement home.

2. What inspired you to start a blog and what is the main focus of the blog?

I predominantly wrote the blog for my two daughters, who were away at school, then university, on mainland UK so they could see what was going on at home and not feel left out. The main focus of the blog is my daily life, my thoughts/feelings and my animals.

3. Do you look after any other animals apart from Shetland ponies?

Obviously, there are the 6 Minions (my rescue Shetland ponies).  I also have a small Icelandic horse stud – we breed, ride, train and compete.  There are then 4 rescue Shetland sheep – The Boyzenberries.  They are very tame, like dogs, come when they are called and are very entertaining. 2 dogs and 1 cat plus 9 chickens!

4. How did you get involved with Visit Scotland’s Year of Natural Scotland campaign featuring the “Shetland Ponies in Cardigans”?

We had a phone call from Visit Scotland requesting if we had any ponies that could wear a Fair Isle sweater.  We are used to weird requests!  At the time we had about 30 breeding and riding Shetland ponies so we looked around and wondered who would be most amenable to this job.

The obvious choice was Fivla, a small grey mare who belonged to my youngest daughter.  Fivla had been with us since she was 6 months old and now older, was probably the easiest pony ever to work with.  She could live in your house.  She has perfect manners and the kindest temperament.
Fivla’s best friend is Vitamin, a larger black breeding mare who, although never ridden, would follow Fivla’s lead and do anything that was asked, without malice or unhelpfulness.
We were asked to measure the ponies and duly did.  The cardigans arrived and looked very odd until we tried them on their respective new owners.  They fitted perfectly and suddenly it all made perfect sense!

Visit Scotland sent up a photographer and we drove him round our area showing him a variety of potential locations, talking about the best lighting for the shots.  We did a few evening shots, worked out what helpers we would need and the next day, bright and early, we set off to create an internet sensation!


Shetland Ponies in Cardigans

Shetland Ponies in Cardigans

5. What is your favourite place on Shetland and why?

My favourite place in Shetland is a croft a few miles down the road.  Situated in a glaciated valley, this is sheltered winter accommodation for my Icelandic mares and their foals in one field full of grass as well as the Shetlnd ponies who have a larger hill field.  There is evidence of possibly a substantial Neolithic settlement and I walk my dogs, with my little ponies following, trying to imagine how folk lived in those ancient times.  It is a very good place to think, to chat with the ponies and to put the world back into perspective.

6. What are the best and worst things about living on a remote island?

The best thing about living here is the remoteness. I love that.  I love not being part of the rat-race and not being dragged along the materialistic route of life.  I didn’t want my daughters brought up like that either.

The worst thing about living here – postal charges by couriers.  It’s a rip off especially when the thing could go in an envelope with a first class stamp!

7. What are the main problems that Shetland faces, both now and in the future?

Shetland’s problems are mostly that that out-lying islands do not receive the support and funding like the main island.  Everything is in Lerwick, our capital, and outwith, you are just another forgotten annoying statistic.

Unless Shetland embraces the 21st century technology with support from those that already have this luxury, they will be left behind.  Also, our broadband is not great!
8. Have you visited any other islands around Shetland.  If so, which is your favourite and why?

Yes, I have visited some.  There are still others on my list.  My favourite one, so far, is Unst, though each one has its own merits.  Unst has some breathtaking scenery.

Shetland Ponies in Cardigans - Hermaness on Unst

Shetland Ponies in Cardigans – Hermaness on Unst

9. Do you think there has been an increase in tourism after the recent programmes about scottish islands?

Yes, I do.  It is a good thing.  Shetland is a very well kept secret and, apart from folk thinking that there are murders every week, I think our visitors are surprised at just how amazing Shetland is.

10. How do you see life for yourself in the next 5-10 years and do you foresee any major changes on Shetland?

I don’t see myself moving from Shetland. I really cannot imagine myself living anywhere else, to be honest.  There is a magic and I feel it every time I return from south.  When the little plane lands on the runway into the sea, I am so happy to be home.  Everything feels right again.

11. Where can I find out more information about your blog and is it possible to visit you?

My blog is called My Shetland.  My contact details are there.  If you want to visit, give me a shout. I always enjoy introducing folk to my animal family.

Shetland Ponies in Cardigans - Frances Taylor

Shetland Ponies in Cardigans – Frances Taylor

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