A pony breeder has exploited a loophole in the Minimum Value regulations governing the export of ponies from Britain to sell youngstock to France to be schooled as riding ponies.

Under the Animal Health Act, ponies exported from this country must reach a specified value – the minimum value at present for ponies up to 12hh (excluding Shetlands) is £220, and from 12hh to 14.2hh, £300.

The purpose of this is to ensure that the animals are above “meat” value, to prevent the export of live ponies for slaughter abroad.

However, breeder Charlotte Faulkner has successfully exported 10 “low value” Dartmoor Hill Ponies to France.

When challenged, Mrs Faulkner acknowledged that she was breaking the law, and said that she did it “becausethe ponies would have had a bullet if they’d stayed here. The French are keen to have young ponies and bring them on, while in Britain, the demand is only for ‘made’ ponies.”

Mrs Faulkner feels that DEFRA “must be able to come up with a legal wording that allows people who are honest and straight to export their ponies to where they would like them to go”.

Friends of the Dartmoor Hill Pony – a breed description which is not recognised by the Dartmoor Pony Society – was set up in 2001 to market the ponies which are bred on the moor, after a lack of demand saw youngsters failing to fetch even £1 at sales.

In 2002, the group received a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of almost £14,000 to develop a website, www.dartmoorhillpony.com promoting the ponies.

John Smales, chief executive of the International League for the Protection of Horses (ILPH) comments: “The ILPH was instrumental in the introduction of the Minimum Values legislation and it has been extremely effective in stopping low-value equines leaving this country for slaughter abroad.”

Read the full story in this week’s Horse & Hound (15 May), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week.