Pony Exmoor between primal instinct and domestication

aOur search for this series of articles on the true nature of our horses led us to Het Burreken, a nature reserve that stretches in the Flemish Ardennes, from Brakel over Maarkedal to Horebeke and back. Exmoor ponies are part of the seasonal grazing there. This is immediately a reason to portray this rather pristine breed.

Moore means health

Two breeds of pony bear the word “moor” (= heather) in the name of their breed: the Exmoor pony and the Dartmoor pony. Both varieties will have the same health as their biological environment. The difference between the 2 is that the Dartmoor pony has been influenced by a number of breeds for centuries. This was not the case with the Exmoor pony. This makes the Exmoor foal the oldest British mountain horse and heather and the last wild ancestor of the domestic horse. Now don’t think that Exmoor’s pony can’t adapt to humans. Well trained and bred in a human environment, this pony has an average height of around four feet, making it an excellent amenable to innate sports.

The Exmoor pony has no white markings and is usually tan, tan or Isabelle with black legs, a dry head with a broad forehead and wide neck and a strong body with a deep and broad chest. His full posture indicates good and natural balance. For centuries, the beautiful Exmoor pony has inhabited the badlands of West Somerset and North Devon (southwest of the British Isles). The animals are very hardy and strong enough to support an adult rider, despite their relatively small height. Ponies still roam the swamps in wild herds, but are collected together every year for inspection. Strict inspections ensure the purity of the breed and the authenticity of the Exmoor Pony.

Abandon the primal instinct

The Exmoor pony has been described as the last European wild horse. Worldwide there are about 2,000 young horses and everything has been done to ensure the survival of this Western European pony. To this end, the Exmoorpony Partnership was established in 2007 in the Netherlands and Flanders.

Animals are increasingly used in nature reserves, including in the nature and quiet area of ​​Het Burreken in the Flemish Ardennes. There they completed a herding project with cattle (Min Anju). Their natural shyness is preserved and they will not approach visitors spontaneously. Visitors to the nature reserve are expressly asked not to lure ponies with all kinds of goodies. The latter is not only an epidemic in the nature reserve. Many walkers feel compelled to approach or even feed the horses in the meadow. So more and more horse owners are asking the fence not to do this across the board.

Transfer wild characteristics

About 95% of all Exmoor ponies in Flanders and the Netherlands are now registered in a genealogy book that works closely with the English Exmoor Pony Society† The intent is to spread genetic diversity as much as possible, as well as maintain the purity of the breed. Preserving the wild characteristics of an Exmoor pony as much as possible is critical in choosing a breeding breed. Ponies with poor hooves, animals with poor resistance, tamed animals or ponies with tail and crest eczema are excluded from breeding.

Since most Exmoor ponies work in nature reserves, natural selection is already underway. Therefore, veterinary assistance is not always possible. It is very important to know that individuals who bought a foal from Exmoor returned it after a year, because the foal was not really tamed. With great effort, Exmoor ponies bred in a nature reserve can be trained and ridden. However, you must always keep in mind that “brutality” has arisen and it is difficult to “take them out”!

Dream of “wild” horses

For those who wish to keep a group of Exmoor ponies, the Horse Book recommends breeding meadows for hunting where the animals can be placed in order to push them into a connected – possibly mobile – trap. It is best for anyone wishing to purchase an Exmoor horse to contact the Exmoor Pony Partnership. After all, there are also inborn offspring and rejected Exmoor ponies on the market that do not meet the required characteristics.

The Exmoorpony Partnership maintains the Flanders and Holland Book, provides inspections and information and prevents inbreeding and aberrations. (www.exmoorpony.nl) – info@faunaconsult.nl

Patricia Bourguignon

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