The Exmoor Pony is a pure ancient bloodline that is unlike any other breed of horse or pony and is extremely tough and hardy. Native to the British Isles, they still roam semi-feral on the harsh moorland of Exmoor.
Unique features for survival:
Their guts are stronger than most horses for the digestion of rough vegetation like gorse, and they have large nasal passages to allow cold air to be heated before it passes through the lungs. In winter they grow a double-layered coat which is insulated and waterproof, and also produce a “snow chute,” a group of short, coarse hairs at the top of the tail, designed to channel rain and snow away from the body, which they shed in summer. A thick, upper brow protects their eyes from water, and their jaw structure is distinctively different to other horses, with the development of a seventh molar.
Robust and versatile"
Despite only standing between 11.1 to 12.3 hands (114 to 130cm), the Exmoor pony is exceptionally strong and can carry up to 12 stone (168 pounds) in weight for long periods. Before technology took over, they were used on hill farms for tasks like ploughing and harrowing, as pit ponies in coal mines and were even used for post rounds and as a mount for the Home Guard during World War Two.
They are always bayish in color with pale hair around the eyes, muzzle and the underside of the body with no white markings. Alert, intelligent and kind, they make ideal children’s ponies. They received a popularity boost during the 1930s due to the much-loved book, Moorland Mousie, the autobiographical story of an Exmoor pony by Golden Gorse.
Remarkably sure-footed to go over any terrain, they excel at Trec, as well as general riding, dressage, jumping, long-distance, showing and agility. Because of their strength and calm nature, they are often used for physically challenged adults and children for riding and driving.
Numbers dropped to fifty (including just four stallions) during the Second World War, as soldiers used the ponies for target practice as well as thieves stealing them for meat due to rationing. After the war, a small group of dedicated breeders worked to save the breed and some were exported to North America.
Every October on Exmoor, the herds are rounded up and the foals checked and registered, before being branded with a four-point star on the left shoulder. Ponies that are considered not too wild are taken away for training.
Because of their hardiness, the breed plays a vital role in conservation grazing, making a significant contribution to the natural habitat of the wildlife and plants that occupy Exmoor.
The Exmoor Pony Society, which was formed in 1921, registers ponies on Exmoor, throughout the UK, Europe and North America, and are dedicated to preserving this unique breed of pony. Today, there are around 2700 Exmoor ponies worldwide, with 500 on Exmoor, and they remain on the Breed Survival Trust’s Watchlist in Category 2.
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