One of the comments following the last post about Freddy, asked the following question:
Why are the babies separated from the mums so early on? Why can't they
be separated at a later age? And branded? :-( And what happens to the
mums after? Or the foals who don't end up in your rescue?
The Moor can only support a certain number of ponies. If it becomes overcrowded the ponies' health will suffer and the strength and purity of the Breed would be compromised. Therefore, many of the new arrivals must be removed each year. When the herds are rounded up in the Autumn the animals are given a health check and the foals are inspected to ensure they meet the standards of the breed. Then the main herd is released back onto the Moor.
Some of the filly foals may be allowed to remain with the herd as future breeding stock. However, there can only ever be one stallion in a herd and so, for the colt foals, the future is always uncertain and, until recently, they were quite likely to be shot and end up on a French dinner plate or in a tin of pet food.
Thankfully the ones that come to the Exmoor Pony Centre now have a much brighter future, either as riding ponies at the Centre, taking part in conservation grazing schemes across the country, or finding new homes with foster families.
Branding of some sort is essential in order to be able to identify the individuals and maintain an accurate record of the Breed. It shows the pony is a true Exmoor, identifies the herd it was born into and gives the pony's individual number within the herd. Hot branding is a hugely controversial subject and one on which, as a charity, the Moorland Mousie Trust does not express an opinion. There are many arguments both for and against, the alternatives being freeze-branding or micro-chipping.