The Exmoor - Our Iconic Pony.


The Exmoor is one of a number of native British ponies. They are a common sight on the moorlands of the National Park where a number of managed herds graze the rough pasture.

It it is only wild in the sense that the herds roam freely on the moor, for all the ponies belong to someone. A few years ago people were afraid that the pony might become extinct so the National Park Authority bought young stock and now owns two herds. There are currently eleven other privately owned herds that run on the different commons within the Exmoor National Park.  As many of the commons have common boundaries, it is essential that those visiting the moor remember to close the gates that link the commons.

The Exmoor pony always breeds true to its type. Its colouring ranges from dun (a smokey-brown) to bay (red-brown) or brown (dark brown). Underparts and the area around the eyes and nose are a mealy buff colour while the mane, tail and points are dark brown or black. The summer coat is fine and glossy but in winter the ponies grow a thick, two-layered protective coat. Average height is about 12 hands. The true Exmoor is a sturdy pony, well-proportioned and sure footed. It has a large, well-shaped head with 'toad' eyes, large and dark, with fleshy ridges above and below channel rain away from the eyes.

Foals are born in the spring and early summer and spend the summer running with their dams and building up a store of fat to take them through the hard winter ahead. In the autumn the herds are driven down to the farms; foals are weaned and all the ponies are inspected and branded and micro-chipped before being returned to the moor for the winter.


Exmoor Pony Action Plan Update

"The Free living ponies within the Exmoor National : their status, welfare and future",
Peter Green MRCVS

In the autumn of 2013, the Exmoor Pony Society, the Heart of Exmoor project and Exmoor National Park Authority jointly commissioned a report on free living Exmoor ponies. The study was carried out in order to help guide their management and breeding.  It was led by Peter Green MRCVS and aimed to answer the following questions;

  • "What is a sustainable number of ponies to be bred on the moor?
  •  Is there a need for a breeding plan and if so, what does it look like and how should it be implemented?
  •  Are there any "poorly represented bloodlines" that should be bred from as a priority?
  •  Are there particular stallions or mares that are considered important and should be bred from?
  •  Are there individuals, particularly stallions, which have already passed their genes on to a high proportion of the next generation?
  • There are some bloodlines that are no longer present within the free-living Exmoor pony herds. Should they be re-introduced?
  • How beneficial is DNA recording? Could the process be improved?
  • Is there potential to improve the market for these ponies and if so, how could this be achieved?
  • How should the National Park Authority, the Exmoor Pony Society (EPS) and the Moorland Mousie Trust (MMT) support the pony breed and the moorland pony owners?"

In December 2013 Peter Green completed his report and presented it at a number of events on Exmoor, including a briefing to Members of Exmoor National Park Authority, a meeting of the Exmoor Pony Society and at an evening event for moorland breeders.

The report was made public in January 2014 and is available here - New Report on Exmoor Ponies.

Comments were invited on the report's recommendations throughout January. Responses were received from 24 individuals and organisations, including the Exmoor Pony Society, the Moorland Mousie Trust, individual moorland breeders, the Moorland Exmoor Pony Breeders Group, as well as Exmoor Pony experts such as Sue Baker and Emma Wallace.  The full list of respondents is available here.

If you would like to see the responses to the Peter Green report, please contact Ellie Woodcock on 01398 322231 or email pony@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk giving your name, address and stating which of the responses you would like to see. We will send them by 2nd Class post.

Please note that these responses and comments are from the individuals and organisations concerned and do not necessarily reflect the views of Exmoor National Park Authority.  

The responses were analysed by Peter Green and a steering group was set up to respond to the report and develop an Exmoor Pony Action Plan.  The steering group is made up of representatives of the Exmoor National Park Authority, Exmoor Pony Society, Moorland Mousie Trust, Moorland Exmoor Pony Breeders Group, the Exmoor Pony Club, as well as individual experts and moorland breeders. It is chaired by Robin Milton.

If you would like any further information on the work of the group please contact Sarah Bryan, Head of Conservation and Access on 01398 322281 or email sebryan@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk.