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Preserving the ponies on Dartmoor for Conservation and a valued part of our Heritage
If you wish to buy a pony for riding, driving, companion or conservation grazing please go to wildtowonderful.orgAlso see News/Events 2015 for latest News on the Contraception Programme.
You would not think it likely that there is a species of mammal in the UK that is endangered and unchampioned. But there is. Friends of the Dartmoor Hill Pony is battling to prevent extinction of these ponies.
The little ponies that live wild, on the commons of Dartmoor are perfectly adapted to surviving hard winters at heights of 1500ft and above. Long, shaggy winter coats, thick skin, strong feet and teeth (with which they grind the gorse for food) and an in- built knowledge of where to find water on the moor, even when temperatures drop below freezing. They live in natural herds: wild, no. The herds are owned by Dartmoor’s hill farmers and distantly managed. Anyone who has visited Dartmoor will know the joy of seeing these herds running free on open commons.
Why are they endangered? They are being undervalued, and squeezed from many directions. None of these impacts intend to endanger the pony herds, but collectively, they are. Today’s herds of
Dartmoor Hill Ponies are a valued part of our Heritage, probably direct descendents of the pony whose hoof-print was discovered during archaeological excavations on Dartmoor. This makes them
contemporary with a Bronze Age hut circle! They are a valued part of our heritage and are worth their weight in gold as a tool of Conservation keeping Dartmoor as we know and love it.
|For thousands of years Man has grazed Dartmoor with a mixture
of cattle, sheep and ponies. Each does its job to shape the Moor as we see it today. Now Natural England wish to see stocking levels reduced on the Moor and the pony, as the least obvious economically valuable animal, is in the firing line.
This unfortunate Natural England policy, though probably
unintended, has come at the same time as a down turn in the
market nationally for pony sales – a double whammy.
|All of us want to see our Hill Ponies surviving on Dartmoor but the numbers will have to shrink. To achieve this we need to reduce the number of unwanted foals, hence the “Pony Pill” project.
Having looked at many schemes we believe the contraception
scheme (Pony Pill) will work best. Other methods such as stallion removal or vasectomising stallions risk loss of valuable blood lines and is a threat to natural herd behaviour. In addition removing stallions has been proved to fail - stallions are very determined!
|With the support of Dartmoor’s remaining Pony Herders,
we now have a scheme that:
Should be at least 90% effective and is affordable.
Safe for already pregnant mares and has very few side effects.
Maintains the herd structures and does not interfere with social behaviour.
Is reversible and has no impact on other species.
|None of this work would have been possible without financial support and incredible help from our partners the Pony Herders, Dartmoor National Park Sustainability Fund, Dart Vale Vets, Pet Plan, Lord Clinton Charitable Trust, World Horse Welfare and the generous private donations from individuals, which has helped us to ensure over 100 mares will not have foals this year and give us the tools to roll out this ground breaking project across the whole Moor.
Come and see the Dartmoor Hill Pony Display Team at Widecombe Fair, Tuesday 8th September 2015.
Friends of the Dartmoor Hill Pony are dedicated to supporting all the ponies on Dartmoor. All the ponies have a value to the ecology of the moor, and are good enough even with a bit of white here of there. Shape or size is not important as long as they can do the job they have adapted to do; to graze and maintain the difficult moorland environment. Dartmoor Hill Ponies are the ones that still thrive on Dartmoor and are the inheritors of the harsh landscape that has shaped their genes. Unlike other organisations protecting the Dartmoor Ponies, we do not believe that a Dartmoor pony should fit a breed standard of certain colours and shapes, decided in 1925.
The hill ponies live on the moor and are bred for hardiness and temperament so they can survive and be managed and in turn, keep the moorland vegetation and habitats as they should be. For this reason, they are “true children’s friends,” and the basis of many future competition animals and the perfect tool for looking after Dartmoor.
We would be delighted for you to become a member of our voluntary organization, Friends of the Dartmoor Hill Pony. We are dedicated to the job of supporting and promoting these ponies to give them a future on the moor, and also ensure them a good home when they leave the moor. We want them to have an identity and therefore a real value.
We have spent the last few years putting a management plan in place to ensure the welfare of the Dartmoor Hill Pony and to secure their future on Dartmoor. Unfortunately, as with all such ventures, funding is required, together we want to ensure the future of ponies on Dartmoor and now we just need to find a way to fund it as Natural England are no longer in a position to do so. We need your help to turn this nightmare around. There are many issues surrounding their welfare and future survival. There is no one simple answer to a multitude of challenges which include management of foal production, disease control and of course finding them good homes when they leave the moor.
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