Commoners sending foals through the New Forest’s Beaulieu Road sales this autumn will have their ponies microchipped for free.

European legislation brought in last year makes it compulsory for semi-feral ponies to be microchipped and passported before they are sold — which often costs more than their value.

New Forest verderer Colin Draper explained: “Foals usually sell for 30-150guineas, so if commoners had to pay £30 to chip each pony beforehand, plus a £10 entry [to the sale], it would not leave a lot of value in the ponies.”

Around £2,500 of a £1.6million-per-year Natural England 10-year grant made to the New Forest Verderers has been set aside for microchipping.

Most of the grant — made this March — will go to maintaining and restoring the forest as well as payments to commoners.

The £2,500 has been used to buy a mobile microchipping unit and foals will come out of the ring to a vet, be chipped and their paperwork finished before going to new owners at the sales on 23 September, 21 October and 25 November.

“It is specifically for this year’s foals — who will be between four and six months old,” added Mr Draper, who is expecting a considerably lower number of animals this year, between 50 to 100 foals, in each sale.

This was because due to the economic climate, only half the usual number of stallions were allowed to roam and the roam time was reduced to a month.

Commoner Jenny Tillyer will send a dozen foals to the sales and said free microchipping is an “excellent idea”.

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (12 August, ’10)