What are the purposes of the Exmoor Pony Festival?

The purposes of the Exmoor Pony Festival are:
• to promote the free-living moorland herds of registered Exmoor Ponies which are part of the Exmoor National Park’s landscape and heritage
• to educate the public on the welfare and management of the herds and
• to foster an appreciation of the Exmoor Pony breed

We do hope that you will find this page informative and that we can encourage you to think Exmoor. It is essential for the breed which is on the RBST Watchlist Category 2 (Endangered) to breed from registered stock in order to maintain the genetic pool. Responsible breeding policies have been in place on the moor for a good number of years in line with the current thinking of all equine and welfare organisations.

When numbers were recorded at the end of the Second World War, it was thought that only 50 registered Exmoor ponies remained worldwide.

In 1947 Mary Etherington, a staunch supporter of the breed, rallied the moorland breeders and said, “The coming generations will have good reason to call us unfaithful stewards if when we are gone there are no more little horses on the Exmoor hills”.

Over the years numbers increased slowly but in 1993 when the Exmoor National Park was designated an Environmentally Sensitive Area, the ponies very existence was put into question. The authorities thinking was that the ponies should come off the moor during the winter threatening the long term survival of the breed. Thankfully the work of the Exmoor Pony Society ensured that the ESA document for Exmoor confirmed that the registered ponies had been made a special case and could remain on the moor year round.

Today, there are around 500 Exmoor ponies registered into the free-living herds running on Exmoor and a further 3500 worldwide.  Despite the increased numbers the small genetic pool and low number of breeding mares means that the ponies remain on the Rare Breed Survival Trust Watchlist Category 2, Endangered.


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