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Dartmoors from Australia, New Zealand and US compete with British-bred ponies in online ‘extravaganza’

Two Dartmoor enthusiasts who organised an online showing “extravaganza” were astonished to attract competitors from as far afield as Australia, New Zealand and America.

The show’s organisers were among many to turn to virtual classes while events have been suspended owing to the coronavirus but were still surprised to receive more than 100 entries.

As well as giving amateur and professional producers from all over the world the chance to share images of their ponies, the show also raised money for organisations supporting the Dartmoor breed.

One of the organisers, Debbie Roberts-Jones, said she had seen that virtual showing had been embraced by the Exmoor and Dales pony societies and wanted to do something similar for the Dartmoors.

“Lisa Howarth-Podesta already had a platform for online showing with her Giddy Up Online Showing Facebook group and together we tested the water with a Dartmoor only online show, in aid of the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust. We raised over £600 for them during the first coronavirus lockdown in the spring,” Debbie said.

“This autumn we decided to run another online show and to donate profits to the Dartmoor Pony Society, as shows were abandoned and any income from events completely wiped out. We expect to donate more than £500.”

Debbie, who works part-time in Morrisons, added that they were keen to encourage amateur competitors, and she had won the two- and three-year-old colt class herself with her home-produced Sam, who was also reserve youngstock champion.

“I live in north Shropshire, so having the opportunity, even if it is just via a photograph, of a Dartmoor Pony Society panel judge assessing him and placing him highly, gave me the faith to continue,” she said

She added that it was “fantastic” that ponies from Australia were able to compete against ponies from the Britain.

“Each entrant was given a number and photos were cropped to remove handlers to ensure anonymity if possible,” she said.

“Whilst it is not ideal and nothing like the real thing, at least we seemed to achieve some of the excitement and joy that a live competition gives and it felt like we had at least got our ponies seen.

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“The camaraderie among everyone involved really warmed us over this bleak time and certainly gave us a sense of achievement that we had brought Dartmoor pony enthusiasts together when we couldn’t be together physically.”

Dartmoor Pony Society chairman Sue Martin said 12 months ago she would have been hesitant about the popularity of online showing and “never imagined” so many people would take it up.

“We’re so grateful for the support and say a big thank you to Debbie and Lisa, the judges and competitors,” she added.

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