DEFRA, the Dartmoor National Park Authority, the Dartmoor Pony Society, English Nature and representatives of pony keepers have joined forces to introduce the Dartmoor Hill Pony Conservation Grazing Fund and the Unregistered Dartmoor Pony Preservation Scheme.
The initiatives will operate independently, but will both ensure the future of the ponies.
The current pony population on the commons stands at around 1,400, consisting of unregistered Dartmoors and various crossbreeds, such as coloureds and Shetlands.
The unregistered Dartmoor breed – an “ancestor” of the pedigree Dartmoor pony – are considered vulnerable by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.
Previous management plans for the commons did not consider the ponies as part of the moor’s grazing regime, but the Dartmoor Hill Pony Conservation Grazing Fund hopes to ensure recognition for the ponies under the Environmentally Sensitive Area Scheme, which governs 90% of Dartmoor’s common land.
The Unregistered Dartmoor Pony Preservation Scheme aims to maintain bloodlines by continued use of approved stallions and the retention of filly offspring in the herds.
A mobile handling unit has also been set up on the commons to assist owners with welfare management.
Dartmoor Hill Ponies are known for their agility, hardiness and strength, and about 600 are sold each year at auction.
Charlotte Faulkner, from the Friends of the Dartmoor Hill Ponies, says: “It costs around £380 a year to keep a pony on the moor and it became apparent they were all going to disappear if something wasn’t done.
“They are important to the management of the land. Dartmoor would be a very different place without them.”
The next auction, of around 300 ponies, will be held today at Chagford. For details, contact Rendells (tel: 01647 432277).