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Dartmoor Hill Ponies, Devon


  • Located in Devon, South West England, England
  • About 850 Dartmoor Hill Ponies roam wild on Dartmoor. (Source: BBC article 'Dartmoor hill ponies numbers 'drop to 850'' dated 5 October 2012. We provide an external link)
  • We've photographed these remarkable animals in all seasons across the Park. They were used by miners in medieval times to carry heavy loads of tin from the mines across the moor. When the mines closed, some ponies were kept for farming but most of the ponies were turned out onto the moor
  • The ponies are gentle and relatively small, most between 11.1 and 12.2 hands
  • Today, Dartmoor Ponies are bred in Britain, Europe and North America and are often used as a basis for the Riding Pony
  • The following, more detailed, information was provided by Sorrel Penman as part of a research project into Dartmoor Hill Ponies. Many thanks
  • History. Ponies have lived wild on Dartmoor for centuries. Unlike the Exmoor Pony which has changed little, the Dartmoor Pony has been improved since Roman times. Arab and Welsh Mountain Pony blood have been used to make stronger and more beautiful ponies. Dartmoor Ponies have always been used for work because they are sturdy, clever and sure-footed. They were ridden by farmers to round up sheep and cattle and even by Dartmoor prison warders until the 1970s. They were also bred with Shetlands to make pit ponies that could work in the coal mines. The pure-bred Dartmoor Pony is bred by The Dartmoor Pony Society. It can’t be taller than 12.2 hands and must be black, bay, grey, brown, chestnut or roan with as few white markings as possible. They are mainly used as children’s riding ponies. Most of the cute, fluffy ponies you see on the moor will be Dartmoor Hill Ponies. The ponies are wild but all of them have an owner
  • Spring. The foals are born on Dartmoor after the new grass begins to grow in April. They are fluffy because their thick coat protects them from the cold weather. A new born foal has to stand up within half an hour of being born and then it can take its drink of milk from its mother. Sometimes you see them sleeping in the bracken but their mother is always close and very protective so don’t go too close!
  • Summer. In summer the foals lose their shaggy coats and look a bit scruffy for a while. There are no natural predators on Dartmoor but horses can be injured by cars, especially if tourists feed them as this makes them hang around near car parks and roads. The foals are much stronger and you can see them galloping about and playing
  • Autumn. In Autumn, the Drift takes place. All the ponies are rounded up in different locations. Farmers and helpers get together on horse back and ATVs (All Terrain Vehicles) to round them up into holding areas. The owners can identify which ponies are theirs by the brand and can label the new foals. The ponies probably don’t enjoy it but there is always an RSPCA monitor there. Some foals are kept for another year and some are taken to the local horse sales. There is one in Chagford. The beginning of the book ‘War Horse’ happens at a Dartmoor horse sale
  • Winter. The ponies grow thick, warm coats to protect them from the cold, icy wind and rain. They shelter under trees and behind rocks. They huddle close together and spend less time eating. The mothers teach the foals how to eat gorse by treading on it first. They also do a useful job of trampling down the dead bracken
  • The Future for Dartmoor Hill Ponies. There aren’t as many ponies on Dartmoor as there used to be. This is because farmers don’t get given money to breed them anymore and until recently they have not controlled their breeding. In 1988 the Dartmoor Moorland Scheme was set up. This was to encourage moorland farmers to start breeding ‘pure’ Dartmoors again using only the best ponies in areas of land called ‘newtakes’
  • Dartmoor Hill Ponies are not just a tourist attraction. They are part of the landscape of Dartmoor and their grazing is vital for many different kinds of birds and animals
  • Small herds of Dartmoors are now being used for ‘conservation grazing’ in other areas of the country
  • Visit the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust Education & Visitor Centre to learn more

External Links
www.dpht.co.uk
www.bbc.co.uk
Dartmoor Hill Ponies, Devon


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