Monday, 31 December 2012

Goodbye 2012

It's the last day of the year - and what a year it has been; dominated by the twin spectres of recession and weather.

As the country has tightened its belt, donations to the Trust have taken a tumble. Apart from our August open day, which was dry but bitterly cold, fund-raising events at the Centre have been hit by the seemingly never-ending rain and visitor numbers have suffered as a result.

So, with the Centre operating on a shoe-string, we were worried we would be unable to take all this year's unwanted foals. But, ironically, it was the the weather that came to our rescue.

With sodden fields, stranded livestock and water-logged crops, farmers had more immediate worries than rounding up ponies so many of the gatherings did not take place and foals were left to run with their herds on the moor for another year. Which meant that we have been able to accept all the foals from those herds that have been gathered.

Foal sponsorship day was another victim of the rains. Diana, along with the delicious lunch she had prepared for us, was cut off by floods and unable to get to us so Linzi was despatched to the local Co-op for emergency rations of soup and quiche. However, most of the sponsors did arrive safely and the day was a success despite the weather and the somewhat ad hoc catering arrangements.

For Linzi, the year ended in adventurous fashion. While checking on some of our fostered ponies at Challacombe, she became stranded by the floods and had to be rescued by the fire service!

On that note, on behalf of everyone here at the Pony Centre, I wish all our readers and supporters a very happy (and hopefully dryer!) New Year.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

PROFILE. Val - The Boss

I have  been fascinated by all things Exmoor since childhood: the landscape, the people, the wildlife – and the ponies.  Especially the fact that they had remained the same for thousands of years.

On a visit to Dunster in the summer of 1998, I picked up some literature about the ponies from the visitor centre and discovered that they were in fact a rare breed.  I spent some time that summer on the moor watching two foals, a colt and a filly from the Anchor herd, playing with each other.  I did my research on the ponies and decided that yes, I would like to own one.  

The autumn round up came and the foals were removed from the moor.  It was at this point that I learned that, despite their rare breed status, there was no market for the ponies and any that were not purchased would be shot. I had decided that I wanted to buy the little filly I had been watching during the summer and went to where she had been placed in the ‘disposal’ field.  Her brother was in the disposal field with her and when they tried to get the filly out for me, her brother followed.  I could not resist and said that I would have both.  I named them Abbi and Yorick.  

I also purchased two other foals from the National Park herd, which was the start of my association with using Exmoor ponies for conservation grazing.

I went back home to Cheshire and decided that what Exmoor ponies needed was better marketing and promotion of the breed so that people would understand how special and versatile they are.  If people were able to touch and feel the ponies they would understand them and it would enable them to connect with the ponies better.  What they needed was their own dedicated centre on Exmoor where people could come and not only see ponies, but touch them, talk to them and even ride them.  I was convinced that this was the way forward and from my kitchen table in Cheshire set up The Moorland Mousie Trust and began working to make The Exmoor Pony Centre a reality.

The breakthrough came in 2000 when The Daily Telegraph did an article on my activities with the Trust.  One of the readers was Captain Ronnie Wallace.  He pointed it out to Rosie his wife, who owned Ashwick on Exmoor and the Anchor herd.  They offered help with setting up a centre and I met up with Ronnie and Derek Sparks and together decided on the buildings and land on which to set up the centre.  Sadly, the Wallaces both died before the centre was established, but Derek Sparks continued to give support to the project until his recent death.

That of course was only the start of the story.  Much of the effort Mike and I put in to create the centre was pure physical slog as well as administrative – digging and shovelling to get the ground right; building fences and paths; building the offices, tack room and loos.   It is still developing and expanding with the help not only of Mike but a tiny dedicated staff and a small army of volunteers.


Thursday, 29 November 2012

Foal Sponsors Day

November 25th was Foal Sponsors Day and this year's sponsors gathered at the Centre to choose their foals although, sadly, the floods meant some of our sponsors were not able to be there.

In the morning, we had a demonstration by Linzi on the various stages of handling a foal.

After lunch, she chose one of the new foals, Bluebell, who had only been at the Centre for a couple of days and had never been handled. 


We had no idea how Bluebell would react to being in the pen with Linzi and were quite prepared for some excitement but, to our surprise, she was as good as gold and perfectly calm. Which just goes to show how effective these handling methods are.

Linzi began by using a feather duster to gently rub Bluebell's withers. Rachel stood watch as someone must always be outside the pen when someone is working inside in case there are problems.

When Bluebell was happy being rubbed with the duster, Linzi used her hands to massage her neck and face.

After about 45 minutes, Bluebell was left to relax and reflect on what had happened. She clearly enjoyed her experience and turned to watch as Linzi left the pen as if to say, 'Hey, I'd like some more of that!'

New Foals

Early in November we started to receive some of this year’s foals, born on the moor, coming to us for a new start in life.

We handle them using Intelligent Horsemanship techniques to socialise them and gain their trust before finding suitable foster homes for them where they can grow on and continue the learning process.

So far, we have fewer foals than in previous years due mainly to the fact that farmers have been unable to get on to the Moor to gather the herds because of the atrocious weather conditions.

The ones we have are settling down nicely and on December 1st we will be holding a Foals Day from 12 till 3 pm when the Centre will be open to the public and Linzi will be talking about the life of the foals, our handling methods and what the future holds for these beautiful rare-breed ponies.

And, of course, the foals will be there too.

Friday, 23 November 2012

PROFILE. Alison - Fosterer

My name is Alison Fisher and I moved to Exmoor 2 years ago. I had  ridden all my life until I had to have my beloved mare put down aged 27yrs. I was so upset and decided I wasn’t ready for another horse in the near future. 6 years later and still no horse. It was just by chance I saw an article in the North Devon Journal about fostering Exmoor ponies with the Moorland Mousie Trust. That was the beginning of my love for Exmoor ponies.

DK and Miller arrived on a sunny but cold February morning. Linzi had just driven away when Jack the old retired hunter we inherited with the property came galloping over in his bright purple rug and frightened DK and Miller to death. To our horror they went straight in the river and disappeared under the water, a second or so later they popped back out none the worse for their experience. Thankfully we did get them into the stable before night to dry off. Ever since then they have become water babies and can often be seen in the river cooling off in the summer.

With a surplus of grass in August Calvin and  Ernie arrived. Calvin was very small and timid and Ernie extremely friendly. They grazed solidly for a fortnight not even lifting their heads to say hello to DK and Miller in the next field. Since then they have blossomed and grown into strong 2 year-olds.

After my first ride on an Exmoor pony (Abbi) up at the Centre I knew I wanted a riding pony.

In November Cadbury arrived. Linzi had been working on Cadbury and had taken him to HOYS 3 times. Before he arrived I had been riding him out with Linzi to check that we were well suited; it was love at first sight! Since then Cadbury and I often ride out on the moor where he loves to say hello to the wild ponies grazing the moor. He is so sure footed, sensible and happy. You really couldn’t ask for a nicer pony to ride.

Fostering the ponies has been great fun and very rewarding. Seeing the ponies develop and grow in confidence is very satisfying. It’s lovely to know they have a promising future ahead of them.

If you have the time and space and a love for ponies then I would definitely recommend fostering Exmoor ponies.

Thanks to Val, Linzi and all the staff at Moorland Mousie Trust who do such a wonderful job with these ponies.


Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Horse of the Year Show 2012

As expected Almond was a huge hit at HOYS!

Read on to hear all about his adventure…….

Maria, Almond & Linzi

Almond was the perfect candidate for representing The Moorland Mousie Trust and the Exmoor pony in the Interactive Feature Area at the world's most famous horse show. He is so kind, gentle and very friendly.

After a month or so of preparation at Linzi’s house, the day arrived for his trip.

On Tuesday 2nd October, Linzi and Maria were busily packing the trailer while Almond relaxed peacefully in his field, little knowing that in only a few hours time he would be on his travels up the M5. Like a star, he loaded well and off we went in terrible heavy rain storms.

Almond quickly settled and we were soon entering the chaos of the NEC car parks and the Horse of the Year Show behind the scenes. After filling in the paperwork and a quick vet inspection, Almond was unloaded and settled into a stable. Easy life for him! Maria, Linzi and Juliet still had to set up the stand, and were in for a late night!

Early the next morning, Linzi and Maria were keen to check that Almond was still relaxed and coping with the show environment. Well, you couldn’t have wanted better – a happy pony, pleased to see Linzi and Maria looking over the door.

After a quick tidy up, and a short leg stretch for Almond, it was time to introduce him to the inside of the NEC and the wonders of thousands of people with lots of shopping bags!! But no need to worry. He walked into the feature area as if he knew where he was going and that was the start of five days of meeting the public and showing them how wonderful Exmoor ponies can be.

He took part in the 'Think Like a Pony' demonstration, showing the keen intelligence of Exmoor ponies. He also enjoyed meeting lots of Exmoor pony owners and enthusiasts throughout the week.

A big hit with Almond was his next stable neighbour, a 4 year old Irish draught called Louis. Louis was quite a character and escaped at night on more than one occasion, keeping the night time security on their toes!!  No doubt Almond was encouraging him all the time!

Before they knew it the weekend had arrived and Almond, Linzi and Maria were handing out stacks of leaflets and chatting to as many people as possible about the amazing, versatile qualities of Exmoor ponies.

By Sunday evening it was all over. The truck and trailer were packed and ready and everyone pleased to be heading home having had a fabulous time. Almond strolled into the trailer and back down the M5 they went.

Almond will no doubt be pleased to be home, but to have had that learning experience and to have made friends with so many people and ponies is something that will stay with him.

Will Almond be making an appearance at HOYS next year??? We will just have to wait and see!

Sunday, 14 October 2012

PROFILE. Lorna - Volunteer

I started being a volunteer at the Exmoor Pony Centre in summer 2011, rather by accident.

Whilst walking my dogs on Winsford Hill, I came across people on horseback and in 4 x 4's and wondered what they were up to, as it was not the hunting season. Being a nosey person I had to find out what they were doing and was told that they were assisting with the rounding up the ponies for a vet check.

After chatting about what they do, I went along to the Centre to investigate further. I liked the idea of helping the Exmoor ponies but had no experience with horses at all. There was some work needed doing in the office so that is where I started.
I have learnt a lot about the ponies and the Moor by listening to other staff and volunteers talking to visitors. It did make me realise that I knew very little. In fact, I knew nothing about the management of the herds. I had no idea that the Exmoor pony was an endangered species.

All the staff and volunteers have been very patient with me, especially when there has been the opportunity to handle the ponies. I can now put on a head collar and fill and hang a hay net (which to the uninitiated is not as easy as it sounds). I have even had a go at foal handling which was the most amazing experience. I was able to 'cuddle' a foal that had been running free on the Moor earlier in the year! Everyone should try this; it is very therapeutic.

Identifying the ponies at the Centre is really difficult for me because they all look very alike. Fortunately, they are all branded with an individual number which helps.

I thoroughly enjoy my days at the Centre, meeting visitors and talking to the ponies. I have even taken my Rotties to meet the ponies, nose to nose! Who knows what challenges may be thrown at me in the future!



Thursday, 4 October 2012

Foal Handling

The Centre will soon be welcoming this year's new foals, following the Autumn Gathering.

If you would like to watch the foals being handled, or have a go at handling yourself, the event will take place between 9th and 20th November from 9.30 am until 4.00 pm.

The day will begin with an introduction to the work of The Moorland Mousie Trust and the Exmoor Pony Centre, followed by a briefing on what to expect of the day. Then you will be introduced to the foals you will be handling. This will take place in small groups using skills and techniques that can be drawn on in many areas of equestrianism.

Spaces are limited so if you are keen to have a hands-on experience with young Exmoor pony foal, be sure to book early. The cost is £50 per participant and includes lunch.

Please note that participants should have a basic knowledge of equine behaviour and the minimum age limit is 16 years old.

However, we welcome spectators and there is no charge to come and watch the foal handling taking place.

 For more information please email or call us (01398 323093) for a leaflet.


Thursday, 20 September 2012

Horse of the Year Show

It's almost time for HOYS again.

The Moorland Mousie Trust has been attending the interactive feature at HOYS since 2007 as a joint effort by both the Exmoor MMT and the Northern MMT based in Northumberland.

We take an Exmoor pony up to the NEC in Birmingham the night before the first day of the show and, for the last three years, we have taken Cadbury who did a fantastic job.
At the show, the pony is stabled outside each night and then enters the indoor stabling area during the day where the public can meet him and learn more about the Exmoor breed and the work of the Charity.

The pony is supervised by volunteers and staff who chat to the public at a stand opposite the stable. It is a great environment - very busy but lots of fun - and getting to see the odd equestrian celeb helps keep the motivation going! We always come back with grand aspirations of teaching the ponies new tricks or training them to jump puisance!

This year the pony we are taking is Almond.

Almond is a five year old gelding and one of the friendliest ponies you could ever meet.  He was purchased by the trust in 2007 when he was a weanling colt at Brendon Sale.  He has always been a softie and was straightforward to train thanks to the positive and trusting methods used by Linzi and the rest of our staff. He is now enjoying life as a riding pony at the Exmoor Pony Centre.

However, for the next few weeks, during the run-up to HOYS, he will be living with Linzi in Barnstaple so that he can get in a little bit more exercise and (hopefully!) arrive at the Show fit and slim. Fingers crossed! 

 Next month we'll have an update and let you know how he got on.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Kerrie - Part-time Centre Assistant

This is the second of our 'People Profiles' and this time it's the turn of Kerrie, one of our seasonal helpers.

I have been riding for almost 22 years so horses have always been a big part of my life.

I first started at the Exmoor Pony Centre as a volunteer in March 2011. Having recently moved to West Somerset I thought it would be a good way to meet like-minded people and get to know the area better. I started as a seasonal helper in the summer and have been here ever since!

The role as a centre assistant is very varied. In the busy summer season I spend lots of time talking to visitors about the work we do, and delivering taster sessions and taking treks out on the moor. We are very lucky to cross a couple of fields and get straight out onto Winsford Hill with no road work. The moor is very beautiful in all weathers, even in the pouring rain - which we seem to experience rather a lot of! I love the fact that you see so much more wildlife from the back of a pony.

The ridden ponies we work with are all lovely; they each have their own personality and seem to know who needs looking after. It’s difficult to have a favourite but I do have a soft spot for Dylan who is always a very trusty trek leader!

During last winter I was lucky enough to learn about handling foals from my colleagues and I am looking forward to improving my technique over the coming winter. There is always so much to learn but luckily the ponies are very good teachers!


Saturday, 1 September 2012

Adopt-a-Pony Day

Sunday, 9th September is our annual Adopt-a-Pony Day.

The Centre will be open from 11am till 3pm and all the ponies available for adoption will be here to meet you.

If you think you might like to adopt a pony, or would just like to know more about how it all works, then please come along. We would love to see you.

There's more information about the Adopt-a-Pony Scheme here on our website.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Amanda - Volunteer-Co-ordinator

We thought it would be a nice idea to introduce some of our hard-working staff and volunteers and let them tell you a bit about what they do here at the Pony Centre and why they do it.

So this is the first 'People Profile' in what, I hope, will become a regular monthly feature.

Amanda, our Volunteer Co-ordinator, has valiantly agreed to be the first to put herself in the limelight.

I cannot remember how I heard about the Moorland Mousie Trust but my first recollection is standing in a field with several Exmoor ponies and meeting one called Robbie. Val told me he would be the ideal candidate for our first foster pony and arranged to deliver him to us the following day. Since he is now nine years old and was then just a yearling, it must have been eight years ago. 

Michael and I fostered various ponies until we sold our business and moved off the moor so now to get my pony fix I spend a day at the Exmoor Pony Centre each week helping out with more or less anything.

Last year I offered to try to co-ordinate volunteers to try to ensure that we did not all turn up on the same day and leave the staff with no help on other days. This has been difficult as every volunteer has their own life timetable but in the last 18 months I have met many wonderful people and the one thing we all have in common is that we all love the Exmoor Ponies.

I have ridden ponies from the Centre in the Golden Horseshoe Pleasure Ride as a sponsored event three times and this year I decided to have my hair cut short to raise funds instead.

Who knows what next year will bring.


Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Ian Liddell-Grainger visits Pony Centre

Our Local MP, Ian Liddell-Grainger, visited The Moorland Mousie Trust at the Exmoor Pony
Centre this week to lend his support to fund-raising activities and discuss issues relating
to local tourism.

‘Many people travel to this area specifically to visit the Exmoor Pony Centre and its
ponies,' he said. ' In turn these visitors boost other local tourism ventures such as accommodation providers and catering outlets. It is vitally important that this small charity, with its band of dedicated staff and volunteers, receives all the support it needs.’

During his visit, Mr Liddell-Grainger met Valerie Sherwin, Founder of The Moorland Mousie Trust; Juliet Rogers, Chairman of the Board of Trustees; staff and volunteers and, of course, the ponies.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Tom Visits Minehead Care Home

Last week, Tom and Linzi visited the residents at Eastleigh Care Home in Minehead. 

Tom has been adopted by the residents and goes to see them every year, thoroughly enjoying having intimate chats with everyone as you can see! He is a lovely, willing pony and revels in all the attention he gets; and it is great for the residents, too, who get a chance to touch and stroke him and really benefit from the experience.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Booking Taster Sessions & Rides

We are now taking bookings for our popular Taster Sessions and Exmoor Experience Rides.

If you want to arrange either of these during the school holidays, please ring well in advance to make sure of getting in.

There is lots more information on Taster Sessions on our website here.

For Trekking and rides, see here. 

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Still Looking for Foster Homes

We still have youngsters looking for foster homes or to be useful as companion ponies or for grazing inaccessible areas.

In the main these are yearling and two-year-old geldings.

If you would like to discuss possibilities please call Linzi on 01398 323093.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Sponsored Events

The Sponsored riders in the Golden Horsehoe Pleasure Ride, 

together with Amanda’s sponsored haircut, have so far raised a great total of £841.

If you would like to contribute to either of these, you can still do so through the Donations section of the website at 

A very big Thank You to all those who have already done so.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Film Stars!

We have just been visited by a film crew from Germany.

The crew were on Exmoor to make a film about the tourist activities in the area; what to see and where to go. It will be shown as part of a series on steam railways, though whether we shall be able to see it over here, we don't yet know.

Val took them out to film the ponies on the Moor and then did a piece to camera back at the Centre.

Ponies, Bertie, Robbie and Fleeter were stars for the day. They behaved themselves beautifully and weren't at all bothered by the crew or their equipment.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Conservation Grazing at Leasowes Park, Dudley

Three ponies arrived at Leasowes Park in Dudley on May 14th 2012. They traveled well and as soon as they were unloaded from the trailer began happily munching the grass.

Leasowes Park is a nature site run by Dudley Council where the ponies will graze alongside cattle and help to maintain the vegetation. They will enjoy the diverse range of grasses and plants and it is hoped they will break through the scrub areas and eat back the brambles. They certainly won't be bothered by the thorns as, on Exmoor, they happily eat gorse.

They are all geldings and lovely boys. Asprey and Ralph are two years old and Dixon is a yearling.

Ralph has a gurgle in his throat which the vets are  not worried about - but it does make him sound as if he is snoring!

These Exmoor ponies are very special and we hope you will enjoy seeing them, but please ensure that anyone going to visit them does not approach or feed them. They are onsite to graze and must not become friendly with the public. This is very important. Please also ensure that gates are closed. Thank you.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Mad Hats & Sunshine

The sun shone, the rain held off and we had a wonderful turnout for
The Mad Hatter's Tea party.
Many of the visitors had entered into the spirit of the event
and had evidently spent a lot of time and effort on making their hats.

Amanda- volunteer co-ordinator

Stephanie and Deborah served cream teas in the Green Room.
The delicious cakes were baked by willing volunteers.

Volunteer carpark attendant Barry with Ian Liddel-Grainger

As always, ponies rides were a popular attraction
and the ponies were kept busy all afternoon.

The Boss (Val Sherwin) had the difficult task of judging the hats.

These are just a few of the many wonderful creations and in the end a small prize was given to all the entrants.

But the WINNER was Phillippa with her clever hat based on a fish tank.

And, to finish with, here we all are, staff and volunteers, lined up at the end of the day.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Mad Hatter's Tea Party


Thursday 12th April, 1pm to 4pm

Put on your silliest, maddest hat and come along to the  Mad Hatter's Tea Party.

There will be teas and cakes in the Green Room and a prize for the maddest hat.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Barney Goes Back to School

Barney, the tiny terror who has been resident at the Centre for most of his 6 years, has temporarily moved home.

He is affectionately known as the ASBO pony after he well and truly blotted his copybook when he spat out the polo mint  given him by HRH the Duchess of Cornwall when she visited the Centre last year.

Barney has gone to live with Linzi where he will undergo some intensive training in an effort to improve his behaviour.

We hope he will then be able to go and live with a family who can keep him busy and interested with lots of different activities. He has been involved in so much since the Centre opened its doors to him that he gets bored if left to his own devices - and then he gets up to mischief.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Conservation Grazing on the Quantocks

Meet Conker, Connor, Tiddles, Jim Bowie, Blackfoot and Cody.

Many of our ponies are used for conservation grazing. For several years these ponies have been living on Lydeard Hill, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the Quantocks, doing a fabulous job keeping the scrub down. They trample the bracken and gorse which is threatening to over-run the moor, and they eat the rough vegetation including gorse and heather shoots.

Tiddles has a damaged eye and only limited vision but, despite that, he is happy and healthy and, along with Conker, the oldest, is probably the most friendly of this bunch.

Both Tiddles and Connor spent some time with a local fosterer who still keeps an eye on them all.

Jim, Blackfoot and Cody all arrived at the pony Pony Centre in 2009 and are from the year when all the ponies were named with a cowboys and Indians theme. Jim and Blackfoot are well handled and we thought they would set a good example for Cody who was much more nervous.

They all enjoy watching the many public users of Lydeard Hill, especially those walking their dogs or taking in the beautiful views. They are not afraid of people but it is important they are not approached and vital they are not fed treats.

We hope that Exmoor ponies will remain on this site. Not only is it good for environmental reasons but it also helps to ensure the well-being of our ponies by providing an area for them to graze where they are safe and secure.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Foals Urgently Need Temporary Homes

More foals have turned up over the last few weeks and are undergoing their training to fit them for a life away from the moor.

Unfortunately there are still more being bred on the moor than can be found homes for and up to now, they have been fortunate to be given a future through the Trust.
The Exmoor pony is still a rare breed and it’s such a pity that it does not have a higher profile. However, the Trust has very limited facilities, and it is possible that important decisions will have to be made in the future in order to make sure that youngsters are not bred purely to be sold off to the meat trade.

Meanwhile the Exmoor Pony Centre continues to do its best for all the foals that come our way and we are currently trying to find foster homes or suitable grazing sites for the 18 that remain.

Do you have a horse or pony that would like a companion? Or do you perhaps have some land that needs grazing – Exmoor ponies are notorious for eating down the most difficult areas. 

If you can help,please call us on 01398 323093
to talk it through with Linzi,our pony co-ordinator.