Following concern about the possibility of native ponies being culled as part of the foot and mouth precautions, MAFF have confirmed that this will not be the case.

A MAFF spokesman said: “Horses are not susceptible to foot and mouth, so there would be no point and there are no plans for a cull. “

The whole of the Dartmoor National Park lies within the current Devon affected area and there is a total legal ban on public recreational use of all moorland areas.

The Dartmoor NationalParks authority has issued an urgent plea, saying: “We must have no horse riding anywhere off peoples own land. Do not take your horse out, even along the lanes. “

On Exmoor, much of the moor is an ESA (environmentally sensitive area) and no stock other than registered Exmoor ponies is allowed to run out in winter.

Experts say that should the emergency continue beyond April, the non-movement restriction would still apply, so no stock could be turned out anyway. The ponies are thus unaffected.

In the New Forest agisters have been given permission from MAFF to remove sick or injured ponies from the Forest.

The commoners cattle are now being removed from the Forest under licence, thus reducing the number of free-ranging susceptible animals.

As on Exmoor, people are asked to keep off the Forest, whether riding exercising dogs or walking.