Friday, 28 August 2015

Dales ponies were bred to have great strength and endurance, so that they could be used as pack ponies.  The lead mining industry flourished in the Dales area from Roman times until the mid-nineteenth century.  An ‘ingot’ of lead known as a ‘pig’ weighed a hundredweight (112lb/8 stones/51kilos).  One of these ingots was slung from each side of wooden pack saddles in ‘pokes’ which were sacks made from strong sacking.  Wow, that's nearly two of me they used to carry!

You can see how strong and powerful they are from this photo...look at that big butt!

 Blue roan Dales pony

The pack ponies worked in gangs of up to 25 ponies, they were well trained and knew their names. They didn't wear a bridle, but they did wear muzzles to prevent them eating the grass at the edge of the lead roads.  This grass was contaminated by the fine powder which fell from the sacks of the lead ore.  If eaten it caused the ponies to become ‘bellond’ an incurable form of lead poisoning.  The ponies sometimes covered up to 200 miles a week.  

Dales ponies grooming

The pack pony men rode the pony at the back, and the front pony often wore a bell which could be heard for miles around when weather conditions were calm.  They had to sleep rough on route and carried onions, oatmeal and cheese to see them through until they reached the next Inn.  Sometimes the ponies were connected to each other by plaiting a loop into the tail for the halter of the pony behind to be tied.  The coming of the turnpike roads and the railways diminished the widespread use of pack ponies. Inn’s reverted to farms and the sound of the packhorse bell was to be heard no more.

 Bay roan Dales pony

This breeding has remained to this day though and they are well known for their strength and endurance.  This is what the Dales pony society says about the breed:

"Dales Ponies are renowned for the quality of their hard, well-shaped feet and legs, which should display beautiful dense, flat bone. Their action is straight, high and true. They are good movers, really using their knees and hocks for powerful drive. They have tremendous stamina, an iron constitution, high courage and great intelligence, combined with a calm temperament." 

Bay Dales pony

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Sunday, 2 August 2015

A beautiful baby boy

 Dales mare and foal

As I mentioned before, the Dales pony is sadly on the Rare breeds watch list as 'critical' (less than 300 registered breeding females in the UK) and are one of the two breeds of native pony most at risk of extinction - the other one is the Eriskay pony.

Thankfully their numbers are on the rise, and there are many breeders determined to bring back the numbers of foals born.

Roandale Dales pony stud are expecting quite a few foals this year, and their first one had just been born two weeks before I was there, so I was lucky enough to photograph him.

Dales pony foal

The foal is a beautiful bay roan colt.

He certainly wasn't shy to come and say hello, especially once his mum came up to see me...he even came right up and sniffed my hand.  Look at those amazing eyelashes!

Bay roan Dales colt

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Sunday, 19 July 2015

So I keep finding out things about the British native pony breeds that I didn't know before.  I thought that the Dales ponies were always black or dark brown. 

Black Dales pony

 But I was wrong - this is what the Dales pony society says about the Dales' colours - "colours are predominantly black, with some brown, bay, grey and rarely roan".

 Grey Dales pony

In fact it turns out that the blue roan and bay roan colouring in Dales is very, very rare!  It seems it was undesirable for a while and they were discouraged and nearly lost in the breed forever.  Thankfully they are gaining favour again, and the owners of the Roandale stud where I took these photos are actively breeding the roan colours.  They have a very handsome blue roan stallion (which I unfortunately didn't get a photo of as he was indoors at the time).  The Dales ponies come in bay roan and a blue roan, both very beautiful.

 Blue roan and bay roan Dales

Horse colours and how they are bred is a very interesting science - some genes are more dominant / recessive so many colours are harder to get.  Here is a very interesting chart on horse colours and how different genes effect the final colour colour chart

Bay Dales pony

I'm really enjoying this project, and all the fascinating things I am finding out about our lovely British native breeds.

**Please click on the images to see them larger.

Friday, 26 June 2015

A trip to the Dales (Teesdale)

So, after a bit of a break from photographing the British native ponies, I finally arranged a trip to the north of England to photograph some native Dales ponies. The Dales ponies are on the Rare breeds survival trust watch list as 'critical' which is at the very top of the endangered breeds.  This means there are very few breeding Dales ponies around, and they are in danger of going extinct, which is very sad as they are wonderful ponies. 

 Dales pony mare with her young foal

I had always thought that the Dales ponies were from the Yorkshire Dales, but they are actually from a much larger area.  The Dales Pony is a native of the upper dales of the eastern slopes of the Pennine range, from the High Peak in Derbyshire all the way to the Cheviot Hills near the Scottish Border, so that covers North Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland areas.  The favoured breeding areas have always been the upper dales of the rivers Tyne, Wear, Allen, Tees and Swale.

A Dales pony with a view of Teesdale behind

They were bred in this area, where the lead mining industry flourished from Roman times until the mid-nineteenth century, because they were excellent pack ponies.

Unfortunately, there are no wild or completely free roaming Dales ponies on the Dales anymore, so I found a Dales pony breeder that breeds ponies true to type, and has them out grazing on the Teesdale hills over looking the beautiful Dales area.

This is the website of the very kind people who let me photograph their lovely ponies:

 Roandale stud Dales ponies

As usual I found the ponies and hung out with them for quite a few hours (which went far too quick) to get some natural shots of the ponies doing their thing.

Dales pony

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