Wednesday, 1 March 2017

March Newsletter

Pony Centre manager, Linzi Green, has just returned from Durham where she visited the 10 ponies delivered to the Wild Life Trust for conservation grazing last month. They have all settled well and are happily grazing the Rainton Meadows Reserve. A real success story.

This is the time of year when we begin to look for homes for some of the ponies in our care and we have a lovely selection of ridden ponies, youngsters and companions of varying ages and abilities all looking for foster homes. Their photos and details are on our website. www.exmoorponycentre.org.uk/foster-a-pony.php A question we are often asked by visitors to the Centre is why can’t these foals remain on the moor?

Sadly, as man encroaches on to the moor the land available to the ponies becomes ever smaller and a certain area of moorland will only support a certain number of ponies if they are to remain fit and healthy.

So, if there isn’t room for them, why keep breeding? is often the next question.

The Exmoor Pony had a tough time of it during the 1940s. During the war years owners were absent, gates were left open and grazing areas were no longer safe for stock. Many ponies were stolen and transported to cities to provide people with meat during rationing. Troops used Exmoor for training and many practiced on live targets including the ponies. Consequently, by 1946 only about 50 Exmoor ponies and 4 stallions survived. When this was followed in 1947 by one of the worst winters on record, the Exmoor Pony reached the edge of extinction.

Since then, largely thanks to Mary Etherington and a few other dedicated breeders, cattle grids have replaced gates and the boundaries to the commons secured. The number of ponies has steadily increased to around 3,000 worldwide, though it is still classified as endangered by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, and the number of ponies living free on Exmoor remains around 400.

So continued, carefully controlled breeding is essential in order to rebuild the dangerously diminished gene pool and only by breeding ponies living free in their natural environment on Exmoor can the true qualities of this unique and hardy breed be perpetuated. Filly foals are retained for breeding but only a small number of stallions are required so, sadly, the colts have to be homed elsewhere or else slaughtered.

So that is why the Moorland Mousie Trust exists. To help these surplus ponies to find happy and useful homes away from the moor which in turn enables the herd owners to continue breeding quality ponies in a responsible and humane way. 
The Pony Centre is now open every day except Tuesdays and Saturday. Riding taster sessions are in full swing and trekking begins again at the end of March.Our April Activity Day will be on Sunday 9th April from 11am to 3pm and our full schedule for 2017 is on our website. We hope you can join us.

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