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Dartmoor ponies

June 26, 2012

in Devon landscapes

Dartmoor ponies are semi-wild and perfectly adapted to the harsh weather and tough grazing on the moors. They have been used for a variety of tasks in the past, most notably to haul loads from the tin mines, but they also make great children’s ponies because of their size and temperament. They are owned by Dartmoor Commoners, hill farmers with the rights to graze stock on the open moor, and are rounded up in autumn at traditional ‘drifts’ for overwintering the mares and selling on of the foals. It’s a tradition under threat, as the financial climate makes it harder for the Commoners to make enough at sale to sustain the care of the herd. And yet a loss of the ponies would threaten the moor’s ecology too – ponies graze on shrubs and rushes that cows and sheep cannot, and without them the open moorland would change in character.

These two are having a mutual grooming session. In the past I’ve seen ponies using the ancient standing stones of Scorhill stone circle as scratching posts. Behind them spread the rolling plains of Gidleigh Common, with shifting sunlight lighting up the golden grasses and the high hills receding in the summer haze.

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