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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