EU transportation regulations are being blamed for a drop in sales of Dartmoor ponies.

The number of ponies sold decreased for the second successive year in the October sales. In 2007, 100% of ponies presented changed hands — in 2009, only 66% sold.

Transport rules introduced two years ago permit no more than four semi-feral horses to a partitioned area in a box, and one to each partition on a ferry. Dartmoor pony experts argue their ponies travel happily together in larger numbers and say the legislation is deterring buyers.

“Irish buyers used to take 50 home for backing and schooling, now they will take only 25,” said Charlotte Faulkner of the Dartmoor Hill Pony Association. “Another buyer would always take eight and he can’t afford to drive here for just four. It doesn’t even pay for his fuel. My ponies are being shot at the doorstep — they have nowhere to go.”

Semi-feral pony associations are trying to find a solution with Defra for transporting these ponies economically.

A Defra spokesman said: “EU rules aim to improve welfare, especially for unbroken horses and ponies, during transport.”

The Society for the Welfare of Horses and Ponies (SWHP) in Monmouth is full, thanks to large numbers of unwanted ponies.

The SWHP’s Penny Compton said: “With EU regulations, the problem is worsening as there is no market for people to sell their horse on. The only answer is to stop indiscriminate breeding. The recession only sharpens welfare problems that exist regardless of economic climate.”

But Dartmoor pony experts are caught between two stools. Natural England wants more ponies as they improve the moorland, but when taken off the moor, they need to find a home.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (22 October, ’09)