An exhibition exploring the lives of pit ponies will open to the public this summer (22 June – 4 October).

Artwork and photography by John Bulmer will on be display at the National Coal Mining Museum in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, offering visitors an insight into the tough working conditions for equines in the mines.

pitpony2The exhibition also features equipment and tack used on the ponies.

“It tells the story of the pit pony — what they did, what conditions were like underground and what it was like when they came to the surface,” said Anne Bradley, curator of social and oral history at The National Coal Mining Museum.

Ponies have worked in the pits from the 1700s. However, in 1842 women and boys under the age of 10 were no longer allowed to work in the mines and the ponies took on the job.

“The last ponies came out of the pits in 1994 — but the majority were phased out long before then.

“The exhibition is also about the relationship between the ponies and the miners. Many started their mining career as pony drivers.”

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Visitors can also take part in an underground tour, which features stables like those within the mines, and visit the museum’s very own horses.

Humane pony killers will also be exhibited at the museum.

“These are quite gruesome but represented a key point in time for pit ponies,” added Ms Bradley.

“In 1911 laws were put into place to improve animal welfare, including the use of proper harnessing and humane methods to put animals down.”

pitpony4Eric and Ernie are Welsh ponies similar to those that would have been used in the pits, and live alongside Finn the Clydesdale.

The summer exhibition is free to visitors of the museum (donations are welcomed).

For more information visit: http://www.ncm.org.uk/