The Exmoor - Britain's Oldest Breed of Pony
The Exmoor is a unique breed of pony which has lived on the moor longer than people have. It is important because it is the nearest breed we have to the original wild horses of Europe. It has evolved in response to its environment, becoming hardy and resilient to the cold and wet.
These days 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 more 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.