Hurrah for Exmoor ponies! Hairy, loyal, strong, versatile... And on the cover of this week's issue of Horse & Hound magazine. Here's why we're (just slightly) in love...

If you are someone who learnt to ride on an Exmoor pony you may well have squealed in delight at this week’s front cover of Horse & Hound magazine, featuring the mealy-nosed Exmoor Warrenmere Woodcock.

You are also likely to have grown a uniquely thick skin as a child — riding an Exmoor is not always plain sailing (let’s say they know their own mind…)

But however many times you were left stranded at the start of the bending poles, you will always have their back. Here’s why:

1. They (really) taught you to ride

You may now be riding a smart 16.2hh Irish Sport Horse, but it’s your Exmoor that you have to thank for really teaching you to ride. They were loyal and trustworthy — but also injected a healthy dose of determination into your nine-year-old self. They were no push-button…

2. They were never too cold

On, off, on, off, on… Oh the rug dilemmas you have now. Your Exmoor was never too cold. Or too hot. He just sorted himself out.

3. Size is… just a number?

They may be small (the majority are 12-12.2hh) but they certainly pack a punch, with a weight carrying ability far beyond their size. Which means you haven’t ruled them out as a ride for later in life…

4. They beat the odds

Respect is what this hardy West Country breed deserves. Now categorised as endangered by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (which means there are between 300-500 registered breeding females), after World War Two there were less than 40-odd breeding stock on the moor. During the war American garrisons were stationed on Exmoor and when meat was in short supply, a lot of the ponies were eaten.

5. They may be hairy…

…But boy are they beautiful. Their thick winter coat (which is grown in two layers and designed to withstand the harsh Exmoor weather) gives ways to a sparkling bright bay colour come the summer. Combine that with their mealy markings on the muzzle and around the eyes and they are picture perfect for all those West Country postcards.

6. Not a one trick pony

Once used as working ponies, the Exmoor now turns its hoof to almost anything — whether it’s being a lead rein pony, jumping superstar or being ridden side-saddle.

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7. And that nose…

However bad your day is, the very sight of an Exmoor’s mealy nose is enough to turn your mood around. Now can someone please pass over this week’s issue…

For more information about Exmoor ponies visit www.exmoorponysociety.org.uk or www.mepbg.co.uk

Don’t miss this week’s issue of Horse & Hound magazine where we celebrate the Exmoor pony, as well as other British breeds