ONE of the best-known breeders of Shetland ponies, Sheila Gibson from Claverdon, has died aged 89.
Mrs Gibson, who started the Coppice Stud in 1981, was a familiar face in the Shetland pony world both as a breeder and competitor with the Coppice ponies.
A countrywoman by nature, her family was her life, together with her dogs and ponies. She was never happier than when she was showing her ponies in hand, which she continued to do well into her seventies, winning her last championship with her beloved Coppice Dolly Diana at the age of 79.
Born in Birmingham, she married her childhood sweetheart, Bob Gibson, in 1950 and they moved to Solihull where they raised their four children. Bob was an engineer whose whole working life was spent with Rover and Land Rover in Lode Lane, Solihull, and later, in retirement, he took up gliding and became a well-known member of Stratford Gliding Club.
From a young age Sheila was a keen horsewoman – her parents were founding members of Solihull Riding Club – and she was determined to live in the countryside. She and Bob bought Coppice Farm, which was damp and run down but it had land. She was in her early fifties when she decided, having watched the Shetland Pony classes at the Royal Show, that she wanted to establish a stud to breed Shetlands.
Her daughter Julia, who continues to run the stud, recalled: “There were no carpets for the first year or so, but it was ours and we were in the country and the sunsets were amazing and you could see for miles.
“My mother was in her element around her ponies; she loved the new foals, she loved taking her ponies out and showing them and she was very proud of the ponies who later went on to success under saddle and in the showing world.”
Her aim was always to produce quality ponies for ridden and driven performance, showing and fun, with the emphasis on temperaments suitable for children’s ponies. From various bloodlines she produced a variety of colours – grey, black, broken coloured, chestnut and roan with the occasional piebald – ponies which have been competing successfully in hand and under saddle for many years.
At its peak the stud had about 50 ponies, comprising a substantial broodmare herd, stallions and young stock, together with a handful of old mares and stallions in well-earned retirement.
In addition to her passion for horses, she was also an accomplished piano accordionist and a talented artist. Particularly interested in watercolours, she also made animal sculptures – heavy horses, crouching lions, elegant tigers, playful kittens and jolly sea lions. She had an excellent eye for form, anatomy and character and, in her late teens, she studied at
Bournville College of Art.
She is survived by her four children, eight grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Her husband Bob died one day after their 50th wedding anniversary.
Her funeral takes place at Oakley Wood on Tuesday (November 22).