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An appeal has been launched to save Dartmoor hill ponies from going for slaughter.

Last year 700 ponies were culled on Dartmoor in an effort to control numbers, and around 900 foals are born annually.

Mary Tyrer set up a similar appeal last year, selling 42 ponies, and has at least 25 to sell this year.

“If I don’t find homes for them, they’ll be shot,” said Mrs Tyrer, a housewife.

Besides the ponies, which cost £30, the group has cob-crosses for sale (£150) and Arab-crosses (£300).

Mrs Tyrer says this reflects the amount the owners would get if they sold them for meat.

“All of them can be turned into riding ponies,” said Mrs Tyrer, who vets all prospective buyers. “It depends how they have been treated how long that takes.”

Teresa Mazurek bought a roan colt, Shadowfax, last year, and is delighted with her purchase.

“I hope to use Shadowfax for riding and driving,” said Teresa. “Within days he learned to trust me and is intelligent and patient.”

Opinions differ

There are varying views on whether creating a new market for these unwanted, and possibly poor quality, ponies is sensible.

Clare Stanton of the Dartmoor Heritage Pony Trust said that culling is a humane option in the short term.

“It’s admirable that Mary Tyrer is trying to solve this situation, but we don’t want any ponies going to homes which can’t cope,” she said.

“Crucially, we need to go a step further and prevent so many foals of poor quality being produced — which means removing stallions.”

But Charlotte Faulkner, secretary of the Dartmoor Hill Pony Association, welcomed the appeal.

“[Taking stallions off the moor] is not enough,” she said. “The bigger picture is securing habitats for rare species of flora and fauna on Dartmoor using the ponies as a tool of ecology.

“The ponies we take off are a by-product of that conservation and deserve a future.”

To get involved, go to the group’s Facebook page or email mary.tyrer@hotmail.com