Marjorie Martin, Wells Vijay and the Queen
The stud was established in 1901 by John P. Sleigh, who moved to St. John’s Wells that year and who also bred Clydesdales (and won many prizes with them, including the Cawdor Cup in 1905). His Shetlands were first registered in the stud book in 1915. The foundation ponies were the stallion Eldorado of Auchlochan and the filly Beeswing of Auchlochan. The stud was dispersed in 1929 but re-established in 1947 by his son Harry P. Sleigh (grandfather of the current Harry) who became one of the best known breeders in the UK and who was highly respected as a judge, having first judged at the age of seventeen. In running the stud, Harry P. was well supported by his daughter, Marjorie (Martin) and his son, Harry C; together they went on to build a strong stud which won many championships. Marjorie later established her own stud, Westpark. Now the ponies are brought out and shown by Stewart and Harry Sleigh.
The first important stallion was Wells Satisfaction, bought from a stud near Inverness, whose sire was a Harviestoun stallion and dam a Transy mare. Satisfaction was a big, powerful stallion who won many shows and sired Wells Trademark and Wells Superb, both of whom won several shows, including the Highland Show from 1959 to 1963; they appear in every pedigree of every Wells’ winners of the Highland and the Royal.
The most influential mare of the 1950s was Wells Saidee, dam of Wells Superb. Perhaps the most famous mare of all was Wells Vasha, by Joseph of Marshwood, out of Bonnyton Beauty II. Vasha was the start of the remarkable “V” line, and has the distinction of producing more Highland and Royal Show champions than any other animal. Her son, Wells Vijay, perhaps the best of all the Wells’ stallions, won the Highland three times and was champion at the Royal. Vasha has over 100 registered progeny.
Wells Vijay in 1969
Her daughter, Wells Vanity, was champion at the Royal Show in 1963 and was female champion at the Highland. Vanity’s sons were outstanding: Wells Superb won the Highland in 1961, Wells Vijay won the Highland three times and the Royal once; Wells Final Command won the Highland in 1983 and in 1990 a record price for a Shetland was established when he was sold to France for £12,000. Many Wells’ ponies were sold to overseas buyers, mainly to France, Denmark, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the USA and to Australia – to the Shady Glen, Koolangatha, Rainbow and Braeville Studs.
In 1988 Harry P’s son, Harry C, took over the stud from his father and Marjorie, ably assisted by his wife, Ann, and daughter, Susan. Together they continued to improve the Wells’ stud. Wells Rising Tide won the Highland in 1991, 1992 and 1993 and the following year Wells Paula not only won the Shetland championship, but was the first Shetland to win the overall heavy-horse championship.
Wells Prefect 1950s
Wells Highlight II, born in 1990, won a string of championships, between 1997 and his retirement
In 2005, including the Highland Show in 1997, 1998, 2000, 2004 and 2005. In 2004 Highlight was also overall heave horse champion.
Harry (the current Harry!) took over the stud in 2009 and benefited greatly from the guidance of his aunt, Marjorie, who helped him to take a fresh look at the ponies in the stud, and consider how best to use them to improve the stock, and how to show them at their best. In the following years, with the help of his sons, Harry and Stewie, and his groom Emma Jamieson, Harry has continued to improve the Wells’ stud, with importance being given to developing the strength, appearance and movement of the ponies. Visit the News page to see how we got on at the Royal Highland Showcase in 2021.