New Forest ponies have been relocated to Sussex to work for the council, thanks to their munching skills.

A small herd of seven ponies has been drafted in to join sheep in helping to preserve the grasslands around Brighton and Hove.

This is the first time the council has used equine help to manage its green spaces.

Brighton ponies

The ponies arrived on 6 February and have wintered “very well”, according to Sam Baldock who is in charge of the scheme.

“So far I am really impressed with what they have done — I think the ponies and the sheep are a great combination,” Mr Baldock told H&H.

They are currently grazing 19 Acres — a stretch of chalk downland that runs along the west of Devil’s Dyke road, close to the A27 Brighton bypass.

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Mr Baldock explained he hopes the ponies will push through some of the gorse areas, which the sheep will not.

The council has been using targeted sheep grazing to help restore the ancient grasslands in the area in recent years.

Over the last century 97% of the flower-rich grasslands in the area have been lost and the remaining 3% is under threat from spreading scrub, such as nettles.

Mr Baldock added the ponies are “very popular” and hopes to expand the scheme, provided the council is happy.

Brighton’s sheep, also known as the “mad munchers”, have their own official Twitter account where social media users can keep up with their chomping progress across Brighton and Hove.

All the animals are checked daily by trained volunteers and the council has asked the public not to feed or pet them.

“I am sure the ponies will be a welcome sight on the downs and will play a useful role in helping conserve our natural heritage,” said Gill Mitchell, the council’s chair of the environment, transport and sustainability committee.

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