Dedicated to the wild ponies on Bodmin, Dartmoor and Exmoor
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The huge scale of overbreeding in the South West means that each year there are wild ponies unwanted by breeders and unwanted by the horse owning public. There are far too many to be saved by local charities. Most will be colts (young male ponies). This is what we know happens to the unwanted...

The Unidentified

During the annual roundups on Dartmoor, ponies gathered from off the moor are sorted. Those ponies whose owners cannot be identified are culled:

"The autumn pony drift of 2009 resulted in 52 unmarked and unclaimed ponies being impounded by the Commoners' Council. A further three drifts later in the year across the South Quarter removed another 40 unclaimed ponies, all at great cost to the Council. Haytor and Islington Association on the other hand collected 120 ponies and culled 76 of them". Source: Dartmoor Commoners' Council Secretary's Report from meeting of 4th August 2010.

The Dartmoor Commoners' Council (at their meeting on the 6th October 2010) discovered that "a great swathe of moor from Hexworthy down to the top of Ugborough Moor was never drifted nor were the commons of Buckfastleigh and Brent Moor where there are no pony keepers". It was agreed that: "Unmarked ponies should be gathered by the association and that association should make arrangement for their disposal".


Live Export to Europe

These ponies were photographed at the October sale at Maurs, in the south of France, by the charity Equine Rescue France. They are described as Dartmoor Hill Ponies and had been brought to the market by a Dutch dealer. The UK is supposed to have laws in place to prevent the live export of horses for meat. In order to travel to Europe, you must prove that a pony is worth £220 if it is under 12.2hh, or £145 if it is up to 10.2hh. The only country outside the UK, which is exempt from this rule is Ireland.

These ponies arrived in very poor condition at this meat market and were described as "dead on their feet". Italy is described as the "final destination" for three quarters of the 1250 entries at Maurs market. Most horses are bought for meat but these small ponies were probably bought for their skins.

Shooting and Slaughtering

Each year, there are plenty of reports of farmers on Dartmoor shooting unwanted ponies. It is something that we know happens, but people have felt too frightened to speak out about it.

On Friday December 3rd 2010, the Western Morning News front page highlighted that at least 700 ponies on Dartmoor have been culled in 2010. The article states that "Unwanted Dartmoor Hill Ponies have been shot on the farms this year, with their carcasses being sent to zoos to feed the animals"..."Knackerman Andrew Goatman told the WMN that 700 ponies, ranging from foals to four year olds have been shot this year. For those that can't be sold it's kinder to shoot them rather than risk them being dumped or end up in someone's back garden as a welfare case".

Shooting and slaughtering of ponies is something that's been going on for some time. In a BBC article from 1998, a Dartmoor breeder was quoted as saying "People with a lot of ponies are just shooting them or giving them the big hit. There's literally nothing else we can do with the Dartmoor ponies. There's only a certain limit to the amount we can sell to people for riding ponies, the rest we have to have a meat trade for and if there's no meat trade I'm afraid there'll be no Dartmoor ponies on Dartmoor any more."

In an article from autumn 2010, in a quote to a national newspaper, a breeder said "We’ve already had to slaughter half our mares and if this plan comes in the rest will go".

The indiscriminate breeding on Dartmoor continues - it has been a known problem for many years and is still not under control.

In 2009 and 2010, charities were being contacted by people pleading with them to take ponies, otherwise the ponies would be shot by the farmers. These are some of the examples of appeals...These were stories of the lucky ponies who did get rehomed:

- Rescue centre takes in 4 of 42 Dartmoor ponies."Had they not been rescued, they would have been shot and used for pet food or meat for zoo animals".

- Appeal from spring 2010 for homes for 9 Dartmoor ponies due to be shot. Just as these 9 were rehomed, the appeal had to be widened for a further 30 ponies


Exmoor ponies

Exmoor ponies, though fewer in number, do also get shot or sent to the hunt kennels. Those particularly at risk of this fate are the ponies who don't make the grade to be classified as "registered" Exmoor ponies. A few white hairs or a white hoof will be enough to exclude them from registration. In media articles and publications about what happens to Exmoor ponies after the gatherings, there is no mention of what happens to the unregistered - the focus is always on the ponies that are sold to new homes, or are returned to the moor.

There is now an organisation on Exmoor that takes in the unwanted registered colt foals and offers them a future. Their intake of unwanted foals for the autumn of 2008 was 48, and an extra 2 ponies came the following year, rescued on their way to a local abbatoir. Breeders are paid for their unwanted stock and some breeders have expressed that it is OK to continue breeding as many ponies as they wish, because they know there is somewhere to take their unwanted ponies.


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