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Two new Welsh ponies have joined the National Coal Mining Museum in West Yorkshire to highlight the plight of pit ponies.

Eric and Ernie, who are both three, will display the pit harnesses and protective headgear that ponies wore in the nineteenth century when pulling coal underground.

Eric and Ernie at the National Coal Mining Museum in West Yorkshire

Liz Orme, development officer at the museum, told H&H: “The aim is to educate our visitors about how pit ponies lived and worked, though Eric and Ernie will never actually go underground.”

She added: “They’re very popular with the children, though they’re still quite nervous. Ernie is a bit more outgoing than Eric at the moment but they’re both content with people patting them.”

Liz said that if Eric and Ernie had been employed as pit ponies two centuries ago they would have spent their entire working lives underground and would only have seen daylight during a long strike or an annual two-week holiday.

The 12hh matching bays have been adopted from the RSPCA who rescued them from a coalfield area in Wales where they had been abandoned.

The curatorial director at the museum Rosemary Preece said: “Retired pit ponies in Britain are growing old, and we did not wish to uproot them from their regional homes. Instead we looked for ponies who would benefit from a home with us, but might have also worked at the pit in earlier days.”

For more information on Eric and Ernie and the work of the museum, visit: www.ncm.org.uk/pit_ponies.asp