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Exmoor Ponies, a brief History
These ponies are originally native to the British Isles and some still roam free as semi-feral livestock on Exmoor and Dartmoor large moorlands(National Parks), in Southwest England.
They are a member of the Mountain and Moorland Pony breeds, and were first mentioned in Exmoor in 1086. However the breed society was not formed officially until 1921.
In 1818, Sir Richard Acland the Exmoor Royal Forests last warden took 400 of the ponies from Exmoor to Winsford Hill. They became known as the Anchor Breed,and to this day there are still a number of living descendants still at Winsford Hill.
The Exmoor Pony, is strong, dense boned, hardy and has great endurance. It is also known to be resistant to horse related diseases. The jaw structure on these ponies is different to all other horse breed insomuch that it has signs of development of a 7Th molar.
They have large heads in proportion to their bodies, small ears and what is called a "toad-eye", a very fleshy eyelid which helps to provide good insulation and deflect water. They grow a double-layer winter coat the under-layer being woolly and the top coat being long and oily, again this helps to keep them dry and warm during harsh winters on the open moorland where they come from.Their manes and tails are thick and long and have a layer of coarse white hairs(snow-chutes) which again help to deflect water.
Their colouring is variations of dark bay(brown) with Pangané (mealy) markings around the eyes, muzzle(nose and mouth), under the belly and the flanks.Pangané is considered to be a primitive trait and it is true that this breed is at least 1000 years old.
In height the stallions and gelding should be only up to 12.3hh(130cms) at the wither, this the point at the bottom of the neck above the shoulders. The mares should be around 12.2 hh.
Although when domesticated they are use in all equine activities, including long-distance riding, driving, showing, showjumping, cross-country, in fact are a great all-rounder, they are also a great part of nature conservation. Their grazing habits in the wild help to conserve old heathland and chalk grasslands as well as the conservation of the open moorlands were a small number still live.
The Exmoor Pony saw a sharp decline in its numbers during WWII when the open moorland became a training ground for soldiers who unfortunatley, and wrongly used the ponies for target practise. They were also stolen off the moors and sold for meat. Consequently their numbers decreased to just 50 ponies and they were recognized as almost extinct.
However, in 1981 a small group of breeders made the numbers of this native and rare breed public and a campaign and efforts were then started to raise the number. This included exporting animals to North America and then from there at a later date into Canada. Today there are still small herds being successfully maintained.
By 1990 small herds had been established in various locations in the UK and to this day are used to maintain vegetation on nature reserves.
Every purebred Exmoor Pony is branded with a 4 point start , although this practise is highly criticised and considered unkind.
Despite all the good people's efforts the breed is still at considered at Critical status by the Equus Survival Trust and at the present time there are known to be only 100-300 breeding mares in existence and only 800 ponies worldwide.