The Royal Agricultural College takes delivery of 24 Dartmoor hill foals to be studied as part of a project to help address the breed’s “bad press”

The Friends of Dartmoor Hill Ponies are hoping that a new scientific study of 24 of its foals at the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester, Glos, will help encourage more people to buy and keep the breed.

There have been problems selling the ponies, with many going for as little as the price of a pint of milk or having to be shot.

Secretary of the Friends, Charlotte Faulkner, says the ponies have had a “bad press”.

“This is the first time there’s been a scientific study to find out what the ponies should be fed, how they should be kept and how much it costs to keep them,” she said.

“Often people overfeed, not realising that on the moor that have to walk to find food. But they are incredible ponies – very hardy, genuine and with nice temperaments.”

The college will keep detailed accounts of the costs of rearing the 12 colts and 12 fillies, with three different winter diets used to illustrate the range of fodder available. Their grazing behaviour will be assessed so that palatability of the grasses and herbs can be assessed.

Senior lecturer at the college, Dr Helen Moreton, said: “The study should provide an opportunity to show the true potential of the herds of ponies on Dartmoor and to evaluate the financial implications of methods of husbandry to suit them.”

The breeders of the 24 foals will have an option to buy the ponies back at three years old when there is a better market for riding ponies.

The Friends of Dartmoor Hill Ponies has its own sale in the summer and ponies for sale are featured on their website www.dartmoorhillpony.com

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