Behind the scenes of a Shetland pony stud on the edge of Dartmoor

  • In this week’s issue of H&H (out today, 8 April), we spend some time at the home of breeders Julian Walters and David Hodge, who run the Sharptor, Halstock and Blacketor prefixes from their stud in Okehampton on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon.

    Breeding Shetlands, Dartmoors and most recently Exmoors, Julian and David are on a mission to breed  “proper”, true-to-type natives for the ridden market. 

    Take a look around their set-up, placed slap bang in the middle of some of the country’s most glorious landscape:

    Breeders David Hodge (left) and Julian Walters with Blackthorn Poldark and Sharptor Trinity. David and Julian met in 1998. The pair were both involved in livestock showing and met through mutual friends. 

    Their current home is a 1,500 acre farm nestled in the Dartmoor National Park, near Yes Tor, the second highest point on Dartmoor. The yard stands at 1,400 feet. 

    Qualifying for the Cuddy in-hand final with a Shetland pony became an obsession for the breeders. In 2016, they made history when their Shetland mare Sharptor Trinity became the first of her breed in 30 years to contest the final after landing her ticket at Pembrokeshire county show. Trinity took the reserve spot in the pony section of the Cuddy in 2016 and 2017, having also finished second at HOYS under saddle as a lead-rein in 2013. 

    Exmoors are a relatively new venture for the stud. Their interest was sparked when David saw Blackthorn Poldark for sale as a foal on social media. Now five, Poldark will be out under saddle this season after a  successful in-hand career.

    While conformation and breed type is at the heart of their breeding, David and Julian want to ensure that the ponies appeal to the ridden market and can go on to have jobs elsewhere.

    Jessica Talbot (right) produces David and Julian’s ponies under saddle from her yard in Somerset. 

    David and Julian rough the ponies off in the winter so they can apply condition by recommencing feeding in the new year for a fresh topline. 

    “We are pretty old-school; we make our own mix from straights, too,” says Julian.

    The stud breeds around 45 foals a year. They are a combination of all three breeds, but the majority is made up of standard Shetlands. 

    Six-year-old Shetland stallion Sharptor Tricolore – by Sharptor Laser Red out of Sharptor Trinity — has already secured several wins with Jessica Talbot. 

     “Tricolore has the movement of his mother and he’s a very exciting prospect,” says Julian. 

    Don’t miss the full interview with David and Julian in this week’s Horse & Hound, out (8 April). 

    Horse & Hound is out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade to access our H&H Plus online service which brings you breaking news as it happens as well as other benefits.

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