Introducing Our Native Ponies.
Ponies have roamed wild in Great Britain for thousands of years. Today, there are still herds running wild on our hills, although nowadays these ponies are owned and managed. They have become what are now known as Mountain & Moorland ponies, or, more affectionately, ‘the hairies’. Nature has ensured that these ponies are well equipped to withstand the coldest of winters and survive on a meagre diet! To find out more about each breed, follow the blue hyperlinks.
Furthest north, on the Shetland Islands, Shetland ponies, the smallest of our native breeds, run out on the ‘scattold’ or heather hill, in the summer.
In Scotland, Highland ponies are no longer kept in such numbers, but still spend most of the year grazing the marginal grasses of the mountains and glens.
Small herds of Fell ponies and Dales are native to the hills of the north of England, where they run with their foals, only coming down to the lower ground when foals are weaned.
New Forest ponies, in the south of England, live in the New Forest all the year round. Although one thinks of a forest as a place of trees, there is much open heath land, which is carefully managed to preserve the habitats of a number of rare species of plants, insects and reptiles. Many ponies spend their entire lives in the New Forest. Each autumn, the ponies are rounded up to wean the foals before the older stock is released back for the winter.
The south west of England can boast 2 distinct breeds of pony. The Exmoor ponies run in small herds on the heathery hills of Exmoor, while the Dartmoor ponies, used once as pack ponies, roam the wide expanses of Dartmoor all the year round.
Wales has 4 different types of pony. The smallest is the Welsh Mountain or Section A pony, which is still scattered in herds throughout the hills of Wales. The next size up is the Welsh Pony, or Section B, which is a more refined type. There are 2 sizes of Welsh Cob – the Welsh Pony Cob, or Section C, and the splendid Welsh Cob, or Section D.
The Connemara pony comes from across the sea - from the south west of Ireland.
All these special breeds have their enthusiastic followers outside of their native heath, so the British native pony breeds are now produced all over the world. Some have been very successfully crossed with Arabs or Thoroughbreds to produce top class performance horses and ponies, such as Dundrum, the International show jumper who was a Connemara cross. Most of our best show ponies have native blood in them. These versatile ponies have proved able to adapt to any climate and fill every purpose.
Those who have a love of our Mountain & Moorland ponies, will undoubtedly enjoy the dedicated magazine, 'The Native Pony'. Available by subscription only, it offers informative, illustrated articles, breed profiles and news.