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Kirsten Brunner has been breeding “Ponies that Bring Smiles” since 1982. At 19 years old, she bred her pony Beaverwood’s Freckles, a Welsh/ Arab cross to a Welsh stallion to produce Beaverwood’s Bear. In the 32 years between then and now, over 300 horses and ponies have been stamped with the Beaverwood prefix and gone on to have successful careers in both the carriage driving and hunter/jumper worlds and as great family pets.

Pony Club gave Kirsten her start, providing a solid foundation for everything from barn management to tradition. Eventing was her discipline before driving became her passion.

In the 1980s, Kirsten noticed that a lot of cross-breeding was taking place in England. Thoroughbreds, Welsh and Arabs were crossed to produce refined ponies but with size and substance. Welsh ponies alone were too small, so the addition of Thoroughbred and Arab blood made a more marketable pony. Kirsten made the decision to use Standardbreds in her driving breeding program, with Welsh as the foundation, because of their stamina at the trot.

Her first Standardbred mare came to her somewhat accidentally. In 1984 while participating in a racing program in college, Kirsten saw a 2-year-old mare. Since the mare wasn’t fast enough to race, she was headed for a home with the Mennonites. Instead, she found a home with Kirsten. This was Glencoe Bonnie, the 15-hand mare that gave Kirsten one of her favorite driving horses, Beaverwood’s Birchley. Glencoe Bonnie produced 13 foals at Beaverwood Farm. She stamped her foals with a relaxed, outstanding temperament.

“It’s all about a good work ethic,” Kirsten says. This is something that should be able to be passed on. Temperament is number one. A good pony should be willing to go the extra mile. “Mares will give you a little extra,” Kirsten believes. They then can retire and become broodmares. Ponies that have good temperaments won’t wear themselves out unnecessarily. Those who can’t relax, Kirsten has found, for example, won’t cool down as well in a combined driving event.

Kirsten likes to use Welsh Cob stallions crossed with Standardbred mares with only trotter bloodlines. The ground-covering trot that this cross produces has earned many championships for the Beaverwood name. All the Beaverwood foals are given names derived from nature: Birchley, Oakley, Tigerlily, Jasmine, Starling, to name a few.

While Freckles is the pony that put Kirsten Brunner on the map, the fact that in those days, World Championship combined driving competitions were only offered for horses, Kirsten added the Standardbred line to her breeding program that produced the horses she eventually took to two World Championships – Beaverwood’s Birchley and Beaverwood’s Oakley. Now, of course, World Championships are held for ponies every two years.

Kirsten likes ponies with good substance and bone, along with movement and good conformation. Her ponies are also successful on the hunter circuit, and as Kirsten has noticed that children are getting bigger, they need a pony with substance.

Although driving is what Kirsten personally competes at, hunter ponies have been the ‘bread and butter’ of her business. According to Kirsten, “People will spend upwards of $15,000 dollars for a hunter pony, but carriage ponies don’t bring that much.” She believes people will spend more on their harness and carriage than on the horse or pony.

Of course Kirsten no longer shows the ponies she trains as hunter prospects, but her 10-year-old daughter Kilby is having great fun and success on the ‘A’ circuit with the small pony hunters. In 2014 Kilby campaigned three finished ponies. One was Beaverwood’s Oriole, the last pony out of Freckles. After winning an over-fences class at the Royal Winter Fair last fall, Kirsten burst into tears watching “both my babies.”

While Kilby also loves to drive, the current rules are too restrictive. She has driven successfully at Walnut Hill (driving BarkwayTopaz – a 13.1 hand pony jumper) and some other shows, but the hunter shows are more plentiful and open to the youngsters.

Kirsten has been ‘in the business’ since she was a teenager, but officially started Beaverwood Farm, in Hillsburgh, Ontario in 1987. In 1988 she added to the barn and built an indoor arena. The 98-acre farm includes a training level cross-country course, dressage arena and stadium jumping course, heated tackroom and viewing lounge (for those cold winter months). The property was developed with carriage driving in mind.

The upper barn and indoor arena house 23 stalls. The original 1890s stone bank barn that once housed cattle, was gutted and redesigned to include 15 more stalls. Currently 57 animals live on the property. Fifteen are boarders, three are stallions for breeding, six yearlings are from last year’s crop, with three foals expected in the spring. Over 10 are broodmares that also serve as lesson ponies. Seven or eight are 3-5-year-olds for sale and in training. With that many animals to care for, one might assume a large number on staff at Beaverwood Farm. Kirsten is on duty 24/7, 365 days a year (except when away at a competition). She has help for a few hours in the morning for chores, and again for an hour in the afternoon. Two young ladies help with the training of the young stock, and to put miles on them. Starting at 5 p.m., Kirsten gives lessons – mostly riding. Her driving lessons tend to be in the morning as most of her driving students are retired.

Kirsten is also an active competitor. She enjoys both pleasure and combined driving competitions. She has competed at the Metamora Combined Driving Event all 30 years, sometimes with her Advanced level horses, and sometimes bringing along a young pony. “I grew up at Metamora,” she says, having been just 21 when she started showing there. Metamora has also been a family affair for Kirsten, as her mother Erica competed for several years at MCDE with a Fell pony mare. Her brother Kevin served as her navigator when she was driving her pair bound for World Championship competition (see sidebar on Beaverwood’s Birchley). Her father Simon sounds the coach horn. In recent years, Kirsten has brought her daughter to Metamora, and Kilby can’t wait until she is old enough to compete herself. Three generations will have competed at the Metamora CDE.

Walnut Hill is also a fixture on Kirsten’s calendar. She has only missed one – and that was because she was competing at the World Championships in Europe that happened to be on the same date. “Bill Remley never forgave me for that,” Kirsten said. Kirsten loves the camaraderie at Walnut Hill, and to keep up with the tradition of pleasure driving. “It is tradition to go there, it is our goal for the season in pleasure driving.” She is concerned that fewer and fewer judges have the knowledge of correct turnout and tradition.

“My deepest passion is cones,” Kirsten admits. Regardless of whether it is at a pleasure show or a combined driving event, she loves to go fast. “I was the only one competing with an 1890 antique runabout at the Advanced level!” She drove that runabout through her entire Advanced CDE career, including dressage, at competitions such as Gladstone and Fair Hill. “It was a rattley old girl,” with wooden wheels that wobbled around the turns.

Ponies from Beaverwood Farm are bred with a purpose – to bring smiles to their owners, riders and drivers.

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