Dedicated to the wild ponies on Bodmin, Dartmoor and Exmoor
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The scale of overbreeding of wild ponies is huge, and in some areas it is out of control. Far more ponies are bred than there is an available market for. Smaller breeds are no longer popular as children's riding ponies. There is a definite need for ponies on our areas of moorland - of course, we want to preserve our wild pony breeds, and they do an important job as conservation grazers for the moorland areas.

It should be remembered that there is no such thing as a truly "wild" pony in the UK. Ponies on areas of moorland are owned by breeders who are responsible for ensuring their health and welfare.


It appears that there has been no regard for controlling the numbers of foals being bred on Dartmoor. Breeders continue to produce large numbers of foals and have not planned for, or responded to market conditions.

One breeder appeared on BBC Countryfile in 2009 and discussed the fact that he had taken foals to market and they hadn't even met the reserve price of £10. He concluded that it isn't economically viable to breed ponies. This year, the same farmer entered 40 foals at a market.

For some time now, there have been discussions about a proposed abbatoir and incinerator to help deal with the unwanted foals on Dartmoor. This will not solve the problem of overbreeding. It is unlikely that tourists would be happy to know that the foals they see out on the moor are being born only to be killed once the tourist season is finished.

A plan to remove stallions from the moor has been proposed to reduce the level of overbreeding and to increase the long-term value of the ponies. In the New Forest, a similar scheme has helped to reduce the number of foals being produced. Dartmoor farmers have opposed this plan. They say "it would force them to kill their stock" and that the pony "herds are likely to break up and lose the habit of the lear". They say that stallions will evade a round up and that colts would serve the mares. They also expressed concern that stallions kept off the moor would eat the grazing of their cows and sheep.

Breeders had previously discussed the possibility of using drugs to sterilise mares but this would involve using drugs that are untested in the UK.

The issue of overbreeding was brought up at the Dartmoor Commoners' Council in 2010:
"Uncut colts have been brought in with the unmarked ponies contributing to inbreeding among the herds....Commoners are being urged to reconsider their options for the breeding mares so that the glut of worthless foals in the autumn is reduced otherwise the issue of unwanted ponies turned out on the commons will continue to worsen rather than improve. The irresponsible attitude of some commoners will have a damaging effect on the reputation for good animal husbandry and has the potential to attract adverse media interest and publicity". Source: Dartmoor Commoners' Council Secretary's Report from meeting of 4th August 2010.

A recent meeting of parties with interests in the Dartmoor ponies agreed that there are too many ponies for the market but too few for conservation grazing. There must have been enough foals at this year's markets to meet any surplus of conservation grazers. Could a project be put in place to establish the number of ponies needed to sustainably manage the moor, and then responsibly breed to maintain the number of ponies needed for conservation grazing?


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