The Exmoor Pony Centre is facing closure this autumn unless it can raise enough money to plug a large hole in its finances.
The centre, near Dulverton on Exmoor, is operated by the charity Moorland Mousie Trust and helps preserve the breed by protecting unwanted moor-bred ponies who would be facing slaughter.
It opened in 2006 and since then has helped more than 300 moor-bred foals find homes as riding ponies or in conservation grazing herds.
It has also welcomed more than 50,000 visitors over the past 11 years.
Following several years of rising costs and decreasing income, the trustees have this week given the charity an ultimatum — unless £20,000 can be found, the centre will be unable to stay open beyond the end of the summer.
“This will also mean the closure of the popular riding, education and community outreach activities enjoyed by local visitors and tourists,” said centre manager Linzi Green (pictured).
“We are all terribly worried about the imminent threat of closure, our target of £20,000 means we would be able to continue for the rest of 2017 while we work to raise further funding which we hope will ensure our long-term survival.”
Vet Fiona Dickson, who cares for the ponies, said the trust and the centre’s work is an “integral part” of the Exmoor pony’s future in finding homes, as well as education and rescue of equines in difficulty.
“It will be a devastating loss and a massive backward step in the safeguarding of the breed if the Exmoor Pony Centre were to close,” she added.
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Sarah Bryan, chief executive of Exmoor National Park Authority said the Exmoor pony is an important part of the area’s heritage.
“Visitors and locals alike delight in seeing the free-living herds grazing the moor and we are sorry to learn that the centre’s future is uncertain,” she said.
“We have worked with them for many years and we hope that people across the country and indeed the world will feel able to help.”
Volunteer Gail Cheeseman launched a crowdfunder appeal on 21 April, which has already raised more than £8,000.
“I just couldn’t sit by and watch the centre close without us all having fought as hard as possible to raise the funds to stay open.” she said, “I have been supporting the charity for years and have seen first-hand the good work undertaken by trustees, staff and volunteers to improve the lives of these ponies.”
Activities will continue as normal throughout the summer.
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