The Dartmoor pony is a native of Devon in the south west of England. It is said that these ponies have been living on the vast rugged moors of Dartmoor for 3,500 years.
By the end of the 19th century, the breed had evolved into the modern-type of Dartmoor pony that we know today; renowned for its hardiness, good looks and gentle disposition.
The Dartmoor pony can be seen in show rings across Ireland and the UK, as well as further afield, from local shows to the RDS and HOYS.
Breeders have long realised the Dartmoor’s potential as a children’s ponies, with the ability to make wonderful companions. The breed is suited to most equestrian disciplines, including driving, given their muscular conformation.
Despite the popularity of the Dartmoor pony, numbers are worryingly low. The true-to-type Dartmoor pony with known breeding is recognised as a rare breed by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust and is categorised as “endangered”.
In 1950, there were more than 30,000 ponies reported on the moors. Today only 1,000 ponies remain, of which only a small proportion are true pedigree Dartmoor ponies.
The Dartmoor Pony Society has approximately 600 members and is the sole representative of the pedigree Dartmoor pony on Dartmoor. The society maintains the stud book which holds records tracing back the pedigrees of registered Dartmoor ponies for over 100 years.
The Dartmoor Pony Society describes the breed as “a very good-looking riding pony, sturdily built yet with quality, like a scaled-down middleweight hunter”.
The Dartmoor should not exceed 127cm (12.2hh) in height.
Its coat ranges in colours, from bay, brown, black to grey, chestnut and roan. However, piebalds and skewbalds are not allowed. Excessive white markings, such as a blaze, stripe or any stockings, are also not acceptable.
Good shoulders are key to the Dartmoor pony; they should be well laid back and sloping. Its head is small and bloodlike, with small alert ears and large bright eyes.
“The general impression given by a Dartmoor is of a well-made, quality pony with ample bone which stands over plenty of ground,” states the society.
More information about the breed can be found on the Dartmoor Pony Society website.
Photo credit: Dartmoor Pony Society