Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Different types of ponies on Dartmoor

I have had a lot to learn about the ponies living on Dartmoor - I thought, probably like many people that there was just one type living feral there, but there are actually several different types.  Here is an overview:

 A coloured Dartmoor hill pony

Dartmoor was designated a National Park in 1951, but there have been ponies there a lot longer.   Ponies help to give Dartmoor its unique character and are one of the attractions for visitors to the area. They are an integral part of the moorland landscape and are a part of the area’s cultural heritage. Ponies are also important for conservation grazing particularly on certain habitats such as wet permanent pasture.

There are many ponies living feral on the moors, but there are several different types - it's quite confusing !

Firstly, there is the pedigree Dartmoor pony - this is the true to type Dartmoor Pony with known breeding and is recognised as a vulnerable breed by the Rare breeds society .  These are the Dartmoor pony breed that you will see being shown at pony shows.  They are represented by the Dartmoor pony society, have a strict breed standard, and are bred selectively, so that they have become more refined !  You will not see many of these running free on the moors.

Dartmoor hill ponies

Secondly, are the ones you will see most often - these are known as Dartmoor hill ponies.  Only a pony that has been bred on the commons of Dartmoor, by a registered Commoner, and whose sire and dam run on the Commons, is a Dartmoor Hill Pony.

There are many variations of colour and type of Dartmoor hill pony, but they are all hardy and can survive on the moors all year round.  There are some that are Small and round like Shetland types, there is the coloured type, spotty type and the classic Dartmoor type.
Classic Dartmoor type hill pony

Third, there is the Heritage Dartmoor pony.  This is where certain unregistered, but true to type Hill Ponies are given Heritage Trust List (HTL) status.  HTL status was granted several years ago to The Dartmoor Heritage Trust, a charity not connected with the Dartmoor Pony Society, to allow farmers on Dartmoor to obtain payments to assist them to retain their unregistered but true to type herds on the Moor.

They remain unregistered, but can if approved and they meet certain criteria enter the Dartmoor Pony Society/Duchy of Cornwall Upgrading Scheme.  This is where several generations of Heritage pony are bred with a pure bred stallion, and if they pass inspection they can become registered as a pedigree Dartmoor !

After scrabbling through lots of gorse and bracken I found these two young ponies, along with a mare and foal - they belong to Lowertown farm.  The one on the right is a pedigree Dartmoor, and the one on the left is a pedigree X heritage pony.

More to come about the lovely Dartmoor and Hill ponies in the next few blogs, so be sure to check back.

Please click on the photos to see them larger.